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HomeReviewMarvel's Spider-Man 2 (PS5) review: Insomniac Games' best yet

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 (PS5) review: Insomniac Games' best yet

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 (PS5) review: Insomniac Games' best yet

There are few releases that come as high-profile as Insomniac Games' Marvel's Spider-Man 2, the much-anticipated sequel to the 2018 blockbuster that turned heads and set a new standard for superhero games. On paper, this sequel promises to take all the elements that made the original a hit – gripping narrative, compelling characters, and immersive gameplay – and elevate them to new heights. But does it manage to swing beyond the shadow of its predecessor, or does it merely swing in circles? Let's find out.

Early into the gameplay, there's a sense of deja vu that's hard to shake. For those who have been following Spider-Man's gaming journey, especially with the 2018 title and its Miles Morales spin-off, you might initially question the need for another round in a very similar New York City playground. Even the story, at first, seems a tad repetitive, introducing Kraven the Hunter as another supervillain in a city that's no stranger to them. Kraven's hunt for the ultimate prey turns towards our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Men after a few dramatic sequences, but his inclusion in the narrative initially feels like a placeholder. You can't help but think, "Where’s Venom?", especially since Insomniac was far from coy about Venom’s presence in pre-release teasers.

Your patience is tested, yes, but it does pay off. As the game progresses, Peter Parker gets entangled (literally) with symbiote powers, marking a tonal and gameplay shift that's nothing short of exhilarating. And when Venom finally makes his grand entrance, the narrative gains an unstoppable momentum that culminates in a third act that’s gripping and deeply rewarding. One could argue that the pacing issues in the early stages are a serious drawback, but they also make the explosive climax that much more impactful.

But there are areas where Spider-Man 2 struggles to justify its design choices. The open-world mechanics, which are often the selling point of such games, feel bloated this time around. The map is bigger, spanning more boroughs like Brooklyn, but size doesn't necessarily equate to meaningful gameplay opportunities. The cityscape often blends into an indistinct backdrop, despite its impressive rendering, as you make use of new “spider wings” to get around more quickly than before. While this addition somewhat diminishes the joy of web-swinging, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker.

The sequel doubles down on “points of interest” and minigames, ranging from gene-splicing puzzles to bee drone shooting missions. While some might find these as an entertaining detour, they often feel more like filler content. The game's real shining star is its combat system, which remains as fluid and dynamic as ever, allowing you to interchange between Miles and Peter seamlessly. However, despite the narrative requirement to include both characters, the gameplay differences between them are rather minimal. Sure, Peter gets new symbiote powers and Miles has his electro-shock abilities, but the overlap in their arsenals means the choice between them isn't as strategic as one would hope.

Particularly noteworthy is the characterization of Miles Morales, who shines brightly in his role as the community-centric Spider-Man. His side missions stand out as some of the game's most engaging content, imbued with a touch of human connection that makes the superhero experience more relatable. The voicework across the board is stellar, though some character models do raise eyebrows with their peculiarly youthful appearances.

Perhaps where the game most succeeds is in its later depiction of Peter Parker's struggle with the symbiote, offering what might be one of the best renditions of this well-trodden storyline. When Venom enters the stage, the game turns into an adrenaline-fueled spectacle, easily overshadowing earlier segments that feature Kraven.

While Spider-Man 2 falters in some aspects, primarily its pacing and the superfluous nature of its expanded open world, its high points are exceptionally high. By the end of it, you're left with a sense of satisfaction, knowing you've experienced some of the most compelling Spider-Man storytelling to date, spanning any medium. It's an odyssey that takes a while to hit its stride, but once it does, it delivers a web-slinging adventure that’s both gripping and unforgettable. For fans of the franchise, this game should sit atop your 'must-play' list, Easter eggs and future possibilities included. And even with its imperfections, Marvel's Spider-Man 2 firmly establishes that when it comes to superhero gaming, Insomniac Games is still the one to beat.

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