Spider-Man 2 Doubles Down On The Spectacular

The Web Tightens

Spider-Man 2 Doubles Down On The Spectacular

Before Spider-Man 2 weaves a web of two spiders next month, we took a hands-on look at the teamwork and tribulations in store for Peter and Miles.

With great superheroes comes great expectations for video game adaptations. Insomniac Games made waves in 2017 with Marvel’s Spider-Man, perfectly encapsulating the Peter Parker experience in terms of both gameplay and narrative. They followed this up with Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales alongside the PlayStation 5’s launch, giving the rising new hero his own spotlight.

Now Insomniac is poised to raise the bar even higher, putting both webslingers in the starring role with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, due October 20. CGM got the chance to be among the first to play a slice of the PS5’s next big exclusive at an event in Los Angeles, and it was immediately clear that the celebrated studio is not resting on their laurels.

Spider-Man 2 Doubles Down On The Spectacular

As the tight-lipped promotional campaign thus far has alluded, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 features not only both Peter and Miles as playable characters but also puts its own unique stamp on the infamous, beloved black suit storyline. The demo we played showed Peter already in possession of his new threads, still blissfully unaware of the effect the symbiotic entity would surely have on him. His new move set feels both familiar from the original game yet potently different thanks to the suite of far-reaching symbiote moves at his disposal.

Miles’ Evolved Venom powers (not to be mistaken with the “other” Venom) have also been expanded. The heroes’ personalized abilities are mapped to the L1 button, as they were in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, while their shared web shooter tech still lives on the R1 side. Players are able to customize their loadouts, swapping which powers are mapped to each button combination and putting their own spin on the heroes.

“I think for us, it really comes down to wanting to make them feel like equals,” said Senor Programming Director at Insomniac Games, Doug Sheahan. “We had a lot of evolution [in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales] in terms of new abilities, new experiments, new things we could bring forward. And we wanted to continue to bring that momentum forward. And so the biggest differentiator in this game is going to be this lot of abilities.”

Peter’s abilities in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, for instance, lean into the symbiote suit’s growing influence over him, marrying narrative and gameplay. “When you use those powers, it feels like he’s unleashing a little bit,” Sheahan explained. “He’s not pulling his punches anymore, and you get this really over-the-top power element to it that was not necessarily there before when it’s just Peter, when he’s not trying to absolutely smash everybody.”

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Miles’ evolved venom skills are “a little more chaotic,” according to Sheahan. “You look at where Miles is and where he is mentally in the game with trying to figure out what he’s going to do with his life and everything. It’s not that he’s losing control of his powers, but there’s a certain raw element to it, of going out there and getting ranged attacks and all these things that really let you play with these crowds fighting in new, interesting ways and use them strategically.”

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2‘s new parry mechanic helps rebalance the familiar flow of battle and stresses the importance of strategic thinking. Certain enemy attacks will trigger a red warning in the heroes’ Spider-sense, indicating a move that can’t be dodged. Instead, these dangerous attacks must be parried, which is incredibly satisfying when paired with the symbiote suit’s powers. In a boss fight at the end of our demo, the game introduced moves that must be dodged as well, which maintained

Combat is just the tip of the iceberg, however, and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is leveraging the power of the PlayStation 5 to expand Insomniac’s signature exploratory gameplay. Peter and Miles both have access to an expanded suite of web-slinging and wall-crawling abilities, like the returning trick system and new web wings.

Once an overlooked detail in classic Spider-Man costumes, the web wings are a welcome tool in Peter and Miles’ kit. Players can press triangle while web-slinging to deploy them and coast along like a flying squirrel. My slight reservations about the mechanic trivializing the joy of swinging through the city were immediately dispelled. The wings are handy for traversing the nearly doubled playable space of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, especially when a wind tunnel offers a shortcut in the direction you want to go, yet they’ll take players a little adjustment to avoid nose-dives into the streets of New York.

Spider-Man 2 Doubles Down On The Spectacular

Mastery of this newly expanded bag of traversal tricks will be paramount for completionists who intend to scour Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 for the next batch of collectibles and trophies. “Lucky for us, we have traversal in the game that people really, really love,” said Seahan, who developed many of the core traversal elements in Insomniac’s franchise. “They love getting around the city, and collectibles give us an opportunity to really let people just explore.”

“After about two hours with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, it was clear that Insomniac hasn’t lost sight of the key to any amazing Spider-Man story: the heart of its heroes.”

Next-gen tech allows Insomniac’s team to keep players more immersed in the world while seeking these activities out. “The PS5 really gives us the ability to draw a lot of that stuff at longer range, which is really nice to make that city,” Sheahan explained. “We want you to look at [the city] and find the next thing to do and to say, ‘I want to go there.’ And then we let you go there really fast.”

“The ability to go around and explore the world, interact with the world, be immersed in it, and never really feel like you have to take yourself out of it for very long is a big part of levelling up the experience for us.”

Spider-Man 2 Doubles Down On The Spectacular

The treasure hunt will be complicated this time around, however, by an intriguing new system of escalators that “levels up” the random encounters and crimes that pop up while cruising Marvel’s Spider-Man 2‘s streets, according to Sheahan.

“For pretty much any crime you may encounter, there’s a whole set of things that could happen, and the system is set up to allow our design team to really have this just library of things that […] can just happen randomly. You can get chains of them. It really is an aspect of making it so that we can try and surprise the player a little bit into something that they didn’t quite expect and give them a little reward for the extra content.”

Spider-Man 2 Doubles Down On The Spectacular

During my hands-on time with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, I got to see this in effect. While swinging to my next objective as Miles, I detoured to stop a mugging in an alley, and everything was going smoothly—until a tank full of Kraven the Hunter’s mercenaries rolled up to make things worse. The experience felt like a natural extension of the previous games’ more prescribed crimes, and for the rest of the demo, I was skeptical of every scenario I passed.

After about two hours with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, it was clear that Insomniac hasn’t lost sight of the key to any amazing Spider-Man story: the heart of its heroes. As hinted in the trailers, Peter’s friend Harry Osborn returns from “Europe” but is not yet entirely cleared of his secret illness—a burden which Peter shoulders personally. It remains to be seen what effect this will have on his relationship with Miles and Mary Jane, especially with the symbiote suit in the mix.

“Insomniac will also be bringing in “Marvel villains not yet seen in this Spider-Man universe,” such as someone who looks an awful lot like Mysterio.”

The sequel’s rogues gallery will be sure to add to the heroes’ woes, as well. Our demo introduced both Kraven and the Lizard to haunting effect, and I’m eager to see the full scope of their involvement in the final game. Judging by the trailer released during yesterday’s State of Play presentation, Insomniac will also be bringing in “Marvel villains not yet seen in this Spider-Man universe,” such as someone who looks an awful lot like Mysterio.

Spider-Man 2 Doubles Down On The Spectacular

Everything I experienced in my time with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 filled me with confidence for this sequel to a game that I’d deemed insurmountable. All the things that I loved are back and better than ever in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, and the tangled narrative web—with Peter, Miles, and their loved ones surrounded by three iconic Spidey nemeses—promises to live up to the tragic tale of Doctor Octopus presented in the first game. I can’t wait for next month to explore Insomniac’s spectacular take on New York City in full and see what highs and lows await our heroes. (And, of course, to see the full range of the spider-suit selection.)

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 launches on October 20, exclusively on the PlayStation 5. Preorders are available now, as is a limited edition, symbiote-themed PS5 console featuring a branded DualSense controller, matching console covers, and a digital voucher for the full game.

Chris de Hoog
Chris de Hoog

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