Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has the best opening hour that you’ll play this year
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Featured Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
It’s been a monumental year for gaming, with the word ‘stacked’ being thrown around a lot. That’s exactly what 2023 has and continues to be though. While it’s a lovely situation for us, as gamers, to find ourselves in, it’s growing increasingly harder for games themselves to grab your attention. How do developers ensure players don’t give up a new title, only to move on to the next shiny new offering?
That’s a question that Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 answers in a brilliant display of excellency, with what is quite easily the best opening hour I have played this year. Insomniac Games has once again proven why it’s one of the best studios out there. I’ll admit that while I adore the prospect of starting a new game, I often dislike it in practice. Largely, games are getting bigger - becoming more complex. What should be an intriguing opening to a story, ends up becoming a bogged down four-hour tutorial.
Take a look at our preview of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 below.
This can even be the case with returning IPs, like last year’s God of War Ragnarök. Many games eventually find their footing and deliver breathtaking journeys, but they often get off to a clunky start - introducing you to a wide array of controls, the map, skill trees, the game’s UI, as well as the story itself. You may find yourself craving autonomy - several weapons at your disposal, a couple of new skills equipped, free reign over a small portion of the map … but first, you usually must endure several enforced tutorial-style missions which can quite quickly feel limiting.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 does that very rare thing: finding balance. You’re introduced to almost every key aspect of the game in a very short space of time, and yet I never felt overwhelmed with information - and yes. You’ll kick things off with a compulsory battle with Sandman but it’s a sequence that’s so intricately crafted that by the time you’re done a short while later, the stabilisers are ready to come off. You’ll be equipped with all the knowledge you need to start free roaming New York. This is the kind of pacing I dream about.
This game could so easily have had a bogged down opening. You’re dealing with two playable main characters here. Certainly, Miles and Peter share moves and skills but they also have plenty of their own abilities, and their own unique skill trees - and yet what could’ve been a long winded tutorial was handled with efficiency and ease. Utilising the power of the PlayStation 5, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 allows you to instantly switch between the two leads from the get go. One second I’d be webbing up Sandman, and the next I’d use Miles’ electrified Venom powers to deal a mighty portion of damage - quickly allowing me to get to grips with both Spideys.
Sandman is a big fella, so it’s a fight sequence that’ll take you across a sizable portion of New York. On your way to Sandman’s location, you’ll get to grips with the game’s traversal mechanics. Web swinging is, of course, back - and yes, it still feels utterly glorious - but you’ll also be able to quickly master web wings as well as the city’s wind tunnels and slingshots which amplify both traversal methods. Within just a few minutes of starting the game, I was grinning from ear to ear. This is the closest any of us will ever get to feeling like Spider-Man. Insomniac Games did more than just get the traversal tutorial out of the way. They filled me with the sense of childlike wonder that this series is so expert at capturing.
The face off with Sandman is the perfect way to get up to speed with where both Miles and Pete are in their Spidey journeys. It’s clear that this is still a mentor/mentee relationship, with Miles repeatedly looking to Pete for guidance. That being said, he’s come a long way since his 2020 solo outing, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. While the duo team up to take down Sandman, I’d dare say that it’s Miles that packs the final punch.
It’s a tease of what’s to come … We already know from just about every trailer and gameplay reveal that Pete will soon be utilising the dark powers of the symbiote suit. It’s exciting to see Miles really step up to the plate in the opening sequence, putting pay to any naysayers who thought that this adventure might favour or star one Spidey more so than the other.
With Sandman defeated, the map is yours to explore. While you can jump straight into the next mission, you can also hunt down crystallised fragments left around the city by Sandman prior to his capture, or photograph the residents of New York for your pal Robbie Roberton. Within that opening hour, I felt comfortably nestled into the game. I’d already utilised several skill points to unlock new abilities, upgraded my web shooters after earning a couple of handy tech parts, and had restored power on the Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man app. It may have been three years since our last Spidey instalment, but it was like no time had passed at all. I felt at home.
While every game opener is essentially a glorified tutorial, the very best games mask that - and all textbooks should henceforth point to Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 as a prime example. Beyond being the best opening hour you’ll play this year, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 boasts one of the most gripping openers I’ve ever played full stop.
The remainder of this year may be stacked with back-to-back major releases but if you give Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 one hour of your time, it'll hand you the full keys to the kingdom in return. One hour will turn into many more. Strap in, my friends. The Game of the Year may have just landed - we’re in for a wild web-slinging ride.