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Marvel's Spider-Man 2 Preview: Bigger and better in every way

Ewan Moore

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Marvel's Spider-Man 2 Preview: Bigger and better in every way

Featured Image Credit: Sony

With great power must also come… well, you know. In 2018, Insomniac Games gave the world Marvel’s Spider-Man, a fantastic superhero game that let us live out our web-headed fantasies like never before. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so giddy about missing rent and chasing garbage trucks.

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The 2020 follow-up, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, cemented Insomniac’s universe as one of the definitive Spider-Man adaptations. Insomniac Games now holds great power over Spidey fans everywhere then - and I’m delighted to say it seems they have very responsibly delivered another absolute banger of an adventure for us to look forward to on 20 October.

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I was recently able to play through a few hours of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, and it’s absolutely everything you’d want it to be. It’s not a complete reinvention of the formula. It doesn’t need to be. It’s essentially what God Of War Ragnarök is to God Of War: a sequel that refines, builds on, and greatly expands out from an incredibly solid original foundation.

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Unlike God Of War Ragnarök, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has been built ground-up for the PlayStation 5 and will launch exclusively for the new-gen console. You can tell. New York looks absolutely stunning; a metropolis packed with detail, bustling crowds, and deep orange sunsets that creep through the gaps between buildings and bounce playfully along sky-high towers of glass and metal. Everything feels much more expansive, yet simultaneously denser and full of life.

Not that you ever really stop to take in the sights, mind you. Spidey moves through the city at a noticeably faster clip this time around, and has all the same traversal mechanics you remember from the first game. Muscle memory kicked in immediately, and it wasn’t long before I was ping-ponging between buildings, running along the face of skyscrapers and plummeting down to the street below before firing a last-minute web line and feeling the rush of New York City traffic blow past. It’s all just as exquisitely satisfying as it was in 2018, and somehow manages to feel even smoother than before.

A fun new addition to your movement through the city: web wings. Spidey can now deploy these wings with the press of a button and glide through the air. I was a little concerned after seeing trailers that this would detract from web-swinging, but it actually feeds into traversal in a richly rewarding fashion, keeping momentum going where previous games saw you land underwhelmingly on the street below.

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Marvel's Spider-Man 2 / Credit: Sony
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 / Credit: Sony

Now, you can leap off your web at the apex of a jump, bust out your wings, and soar over long gaps with no buildings or obvious areas to attach a web too. Among other things, this means you can cut straight across Central Park without getting a face full of tree. I fundamentally don’t understand anyone who chooses to fast travel in Marvel’s Spider-Man, and I think I will understand those people even less when Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 launches.

Getting around is an absolute blast, and there’s way more to do in the city this time around, from random crimes that need to be stopped, to photo opportunities, collectibles, and side missions that lead to much deeper stories than the last couple of games. Oh, and Peter has adopted Miles’ app when it comes to finding and helping civilians, so it looks like Spider-Cop is very wisely a relic of the past.

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We’re told with the addition of Queens and Brooklyn that this New York is roughly twice the size as previous games. It’s hard to really get a feel for that in a handful of hours, but it certainly feels more densely populated with things to do and see. Whether it can avoid feeling like an open-world checklist remains to be seen, but that never bothered me in either of the earlier games, since simply moving through the city between objectives and stopping off every now and again to kick a bad guy in the face was such a great time.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 picks up nine months after Miles Morales, and it’s clear both Spider-folk have their own baggage to deal with. Miles is beginning to struggle with juggling his dual lives, while Peter has picked up some fancy new alien threads that may or may not want to eat him. Spoiler: they do.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 / Credit: Sony
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 / Credit: Sony
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Yes, the symbiote makes its Insomniac debut. Its exact nature, and exactly how Peter comes to find it, weren’t made clear in the preview, but it looks very much like we’re going with mysterious black goo from a meteorite, which is always my favourite version of Venom.

My preview picks up a few hours into the game, during which Peter is getting nice and cozy with the symbiote and finds himself drawn into a deadly game of Kraven The Hunter’s design.

Kraven, it seems, has forced Doctor Curt Connors to turn into the Lizard just so he has something challenging to hunt. As an added wrinkle, Connors happens to be the only person with a chance at helping Harry Osborn, Peter’s childhood friend who has returned from an unexplained prolonged absence with a mysterious illness. It’s classic Spider-Man stakes, and even during the preview we can feel Peter losing himself to the symbiote as the situation grows more desperate. If it sticks the landing this could very well be the best version of the classic black suit saga outside of the comics. Sorry, Spider-Man 3.

As Peter threatens to tear the city apart on its own crusade, we find Miles continuing to help his community and track down Martin Li/Mister Negative, who you’ll no doubt remember killed Miles’ father in the first game. Miles and Peter really have been given equal billing in this new adventure, and that’s only fitting. The game’s cover features both of them, and both are referred to as ‘Spider-Man’ in the subtitles, with a little emoji denoting which Spidey is talking. A nice reminder to a certain subset of fans that Miles is, and always will be, Spider-Man.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 / Credit: Sony
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 / Credit: Sony

Crucially Miles isn’t simply a character that you’re made to play as during certain sections of the game, and you can switch between both Spider-Man at will for the vast majority of the adventure. There will of course be certain story missions and side activities that you can only do as Peter or Miles, but if you want to enjoy exploring the city as one specific Spidey then you absolutely can. You can even switch between the two near-instantly in a GTA V-style character swapping system.

In terms of combat, the basics are largely the same. Both Spider-Men can combine a series of web strikes, dodges, and standard attacks as they leap and flip around the battlefield. Having played the first two games to death I felt immediately at home stringing combos together, battering the crap out of bad guys before throwing them up in the air, bombarding them with a stream of webbing, and slamming them back down to Earth with a satisfying splat. Environments play a larger role in the new game, too. You can smash enemies through glass windows and stone pillars, and can use your webs to grab and throw a much larger range of objects at foes. It’s all just that little bit tighter, and a new parry ability really helps to pile up ridiculous combos and keep the momentum going.

Boss fights and chase sequences also feel largely improved without being completely different. Yes, there are still quick-time sequences to be found in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, but these scripted sequences feel so epic that it’s hard to complain. When you're being dragged by Lizard up the side of a building while robot drones shoot at you both, you’re as in the moment as you can possibly be. And seamlessly switching between Spider-Men for these showdowns just opens up way more opportunities for exciting moments. At one stage I was playing as Miles chasing down a fleet of speed boats before the action leapt over to Peter for a scrap with a gun-toting helicopter.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 / Credit: Sony
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 / Credit: Sony

I can’t say quite as much as far as bosses are concerned, as I was only privy to one quick scrap with Lizard. But based on that one experience, they’re infinitely bigger, better, and more challenging than they were in the previous two games.

This time around both heroes have their own unique attacks that operate on a cooldown system. Miles can use his venom powers to devastate foes, while Peter obviously makes use of the symbiote for some seriously brutal attacks. Watching Peter go absolutely ham on the lowliest goons by slamming them around like rag dolls or turning into a literal wrecking ball made of black goo is incredible, and I’m wondering how the game is going to deal with Peter’s abilities after we inevitably part ways with the suit later on in the story. I’m assuming we won’t just have these wonderful toys taken from us, but I’ll be interested to see what the story reason might be.

The best thing I can say about Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I played it last week. Our demo ended with an incredible cliffhanger, and all the pieces are in place for one of the most exciting and high-stakes Spider-Man stories of all time. In short, this is shaping up to be the perfect sequel: bigger, faster, and altogether more spidery than its predecessors.

Topics: Spider Man, Marvels Spider Man, Sony, PlayStation, PlayStation 5

Ewan Moore
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