Dual skill trees make you choose between Spider-Men
In 2018, Insomniac Games set the bar high with Spider-Man, letting us swing through a vividly recreated New York City as our favourite wall-crawler. Fast forward to 2020, the more intimate but equally exhilarating Miles Morales deepened our love for the Spider-Verse.
Now in 2023, Insomniac Games is back with Spider-Man 2, and it is amazing, superior even. However, there is a dark side to every Spider-Man story.
The first thing you’ll notice is how visually stunning the game is. New York is rendered with a level of detail that makes it feel like a living, breathing world. Swinging around the city feels incredibly lifelike and leaves you awestruck, feeling the true scale and splendour of NYC.
No game has captured the essence of Spider-Man’s web-swinging as Insomniac has. There is something just so pure and exhilarating that continues to capture fans of everyone’s favourite web-head.
The narrative is where Spider-Man 2 shines the brightest, exploring themes of friendship, loss, and conflict in a surprisingly mature fashion.
Fans of Spider-Man from the comics shouldn’t be surprised though – this is as comic-accurate a game/movie as fans deserve. Crave for even. Peter Parker manages to break free from the Sony-Marvel time loop that he’s stuck in that never really lets him mature.
Peter’s greatest story arcs are of him dealing with life as an adult. Holding his career, love life and sense of responsibility together is a feat even his webs aren’t strong enough to pull together. However, there seems to be this great need in Hollywood to keep Peter in school. Everyone who’s fallen in love with Peter Parker from the comics has moved on to other stages of their life – he should too.
Which is why having Miles around is perfect.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was the perfect example of how these two heroes can play together outside of the comics. Miles takes over the high-school hero mantle, while Peter faces his greatest nemesis – Adulting.
Spider-Man 2 picks up from the two games before and does this very well. You can switch between Peter Parker and Miles Morales as you navigate through your dual life as a superhero and a regular Joe.
This adds depth to the story. Peter is the older, more experienced Spider-Man, while Miles is the younger (and slightly taller) Spider-Man who’s still figuring out his powers. What on the surface looks like a mentor-mentee relationship is much deeper – both need each other and are probably the only ones who truly understand each other while still maintaining their unique identities.
However, narrative aside, being able to play as both Peter and Miles is a double-edged sword. Each has his unique abilities and skill tree, but with skill points being divided, you often feel like you’re robbing Peter to pay Miles, or vice versa. Instead of connecting with both of the Spider-Men, it made me choose between them.
I found myself investing in the combined tree first, so as not to shortchange either Spider-Man’s growth, and then I found myself swinging towards Peter’s tree just because he’s the Spider-Man that I grew up with even though Miles might have the flashier powers.
Spider-Man 2 builds upon its predecessors by refining what already works. The game adds new elements, collectables, mission types, and upgrades. Combat feels flashier and more fluid, keeping you on the edge of your seat.
Traversing through New York is literally a breeze with the wingsuit that lets you soar from district to district at breakneck speeds.
However, there is a downside to all this “new content” – whether you’re stopping robberies, taking photos for the Daily Bugle, or just swinging around, the open world feels full of opportunities, and then it starts to get a little overwhelming and distracting.
Aspects of the game feel bloated with the many, many missions, side quests, and distractions that serve to feed a completionist rather than actually add something significant to the narrative.
Or this could be Insomniac’s way of TRULY immersing us in the Spider-Man experience. There’s never an off-day or moment. If the world isn’t ending, or a cat isn’t stuck in a tree, you’re late for work, school or a date.
Much like the quests, boss fights are engaging but often fall into predictable patterns, diluting their impact. The game compensates for your enhanced abilities by throwing larger groups of enemies at you, sometimes making encounters feel unnecessarily long and drawn out.
While the graphics are fantastic, New York City isn’t meant to be enjoyed at the street level – well, it’s not as if Spidey takes a stroll. Up close, the streets and the shops seem flat and lacklustre. Take to the rooftops, that’s where the action is.
Spider-Man 2 is an incredibly enjoyable experience but stops short of being revolutionary like the first game was. What it does do is give players more of what they loved in the first two games without venturing far from the established formula.
The storyline is compelling – probably the best Spider-Man movie. The combat is enjoyable but can feel monotonous at times. But when you’re soaring through the skyscrapers of New York City, all these gripes seem to fade away.
Being Spider-Man feels as great as ever, and in many ways, even better. Spider-Man 2 might not be the perfect game, but it’s a ride I will willingly take again and again.