I’m back with one of the biggest games of the year this time around, and it is a doozy. It’s my Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 review.
Plot: The plot of Spider-Man 2 is pretty solid, and it doesn’t get too bogged down by predictable events even with my rather lackluster meta-knowledge of Marvel’s universe. I got a few surprises though even with my rather ridiculous ability to predict and read the flow of a story, and I was not expecting that last surprise. I won’t say more regarding Spider-Man 2’s plot due to spoilers, but there is one thing I am not happy about. It’s the fact that we didn’t get more story. Maybe we’ll get additional content in a future DLC, but I really can’t wait for the inevitable sequel we definitely need. Yes, that is a very minor nitpick. But honestly, the story was awesome, and I’m struggling to find any real faults with it.
Gameplay: This mostly plays a lot like Spider-Man: Miles Morales though there are some changes that are interesting and not all of them are for the better, in my view. The first biggest change to gameplay is the very new addition of the Web Wings which lets Miles and Peter glide like Batman does in the Arkham Games. It’s not exactly the same but it’s close, and it’s a very fun addition to the movement options for players. The ability to use natural wind tunnels (which for those who don’t live in big urban areas are totally real) to speed around the city is awesome, but it doesn’t detract too much from the web slinging that makes Spider-Man 2 truly make the player feel like they’re Spider-Man, so it’s not a complete replacement. It’s more for maneuvering in areas without taller buildings, which there is a lot more of in this sequel with the addition of the Queens and Brooklyn boroughs of New York City to the playable area.
The other big gameplay change is the way the focus bars, finishers, and abilities are handled, and this is a rather contentious change for me. The original Spider-Man (PS4) and Spider-Man: Miles Morales both allowed players to build up, and after upgrading skills to bank multiple finishers through the combo system, rewarded players for smart use of various abilities, gadgets, and combat moves to dispatch foes faster while avoiding damage. That is no longer the case, and I can’t say it’s for the better.
Instead, each finisher takes up at least a full focus bar for most enemies, though big ones or certain bosses will require two, and the various special powers each Spider-Man uses, including Spider-Arms for Peter and venom attacks for Miles, are now on a cooldown system. I don’t particularly enjoy the finisher change, and the fact players can no longer charge the focus bars out of combat with tricks performed while web-slinging through the city makes the out of combat flow be a bit more stuttered which isn’t for the best in my opinion as it punishes players who do take even a bit of damage in the next fight.
I understand why it was done since the focus bars in Miles Morales were what limited the use of Mile’s various special abilities, but given the chaotic nature of the combat with enemies now being much more capable of damaging a player who isn’t perfect at the combat, the loss of the ability to heal and perform finishers at the same time makes combat not as smooth in my opinion.
That’s my biggest problem with large changes in the gameplay. Pretty much everything else is great. The stealth is much more refined and thankfully modeled after the Miles Morales way of doing things. In the first title, it was something that was generally not able to be done to clear out entire bases of enemies if players were methodical and careful since enemies would just spawn in a new wave already alerted to your presence.
There are also MJ sections in missions that require players to complete a stealth section, but thankfully she’s kept her handy Sable sidearm she collected late in the first game to allow for stealth takedowns of enemies, so it’s not nearly as frustrating as those early missions in the first Spider-Man.
The smaller changes have more to do with the various side missions, collectables, and the UI. For the UI, the problem is the lack of a social feed in Spider-Man 2’s game menu. That was something in the previous Spider-Man titles which really helped the immersion factor for players in feeling like they were Spider-Man by giving voice to random citizens’ thoughts on a player’s actions. Additionally, the lack of ability to listen more than once to the various podcasts that occur throughout the game really is a bummer. I’m pretty sure I got cut off from one by accidentally running into crime while web-slinging my way through Manhattan, and I never got to hear the rest of it.
The general lack of collectables and the low number of side missions available is also a bit of a bummer. That’s not to say there aren’t any or very few, but I kind of expected a lot more given the much expanded size of the playable area. It’s not as much as the first game, but is greater than the amount in Miles Morales, barely. Those side missions we do get, however, were excellent, and they really brought out the feel of being in New York and experiencing its history through the eyes of Miles and Peter. I just wish there was more.
Art: The art of Spider-Man 2 is excellent, and the city feels truly alive in a way that so many other titles haven’t done properly yet on such a large scale. For example, the buildings you maneuver around and over now have various ray tracing and other such graphical additions to really make things pop, like the one to allow players to see inside lighted rooms in a building, with other buildings reflected in the dark windows. The former in particular is something that I really didn’t know I needed before Spider-Man 2, but it helps immersion out immensely. The rest of it is just as great, with all the various special effects to really bring out the various enemies or players’ abilities making it all quite a visual spectacle.
Music: The music is just as excellent as the artwork and really helps bring the mood of Spider-Man 2 across properly. I can’t say much more, as I’m not nearly as much of an expert in regard to the sounds as I am in other areas of game design.
Overall: Spider-Man 2 is a very good title, and well worth anyone playing, although you really ought to play the first two Spider-Man games to really appreciate all of the plotlines that come together in it. It’s not perfect but very few titles meet my standards on that, and Spider-Man 2 still comes very close.
For those who like: Spider-Man, Action, Adventure, Drama, Excellent Gameplay, Amazing Plot, Stupendous Characters, and Awesome Artwork and Music.
Not for those who don’t like: Any of the above, but how can you hate all that put together?