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Spider-Man 2 review: a jaw-dropping superhero gaming masterpiece

The closest you will get to playing a superhero movie...

Spider-Man 2 review: a jaw-dropping superhero gaming masterpiece
Marc Chacksfield
17 October 2023

The first Spider-Man game, launched in 2018, was a triumph. Its ultra-smooth web-slinging action meant that you could coast around New York City for hours, just agog at the graphics. When you did eventually dig into the story it was sprawling and did justice to the character.

Makers Insomniac hit Spidey gold again with Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which included a smaller more focused superhero tale that was just as exciting to play as the first game.

Now we have Spider-Man 2. Like all good sequels, it's bigger, brasher and, in places, better than the original(s). ShortList has been caught in its web for a few weeks now - here's 5 things to know about Spider-Man 2...

1. It's bigger in scope... much bigger!

Spider-Man 2 review
Image Credit: Sony

From the off, Spider-Man 2 feels way bigger than the two games before it. And these were big games which makes it impressive that the the plots of the first two games are distilled nicely, recapped in minutes at the start of Spider-Man 2. Once watched, you are pushed headfirst into a thrilling boss fight that surpasses anything that's come before.

The game uses this expanded scene to introduce the dual gameplay of Peter Parker's Spider-Man and Miles Morales' Spider-Man. Through seamless swaps, you play both - with each having their own special moves to nullify the threat. It's dizzying how well this works and brings you right into the action.

As for the city, New York opens up for you in Spider-Man 2. Boroughs such as Queens and Brooklyn are now part of the game. In total there are 14 different places to web sling around and it adds a depth that was missing in the first game.

So much that while there is fast travel available, you will want to explore the nooks and crannies of the boroughs you are, in before you get to your intended destination.

2. Two's company

Spider-Man 2 review
Image Credit: Sony

When you get into the game proper, you have the chance to flit between Peter and Miles. The result is a little like how GTA plays out, with both characters forging their own storylines but the end result complimenting the over arching story.

While playing as Morales is more fun - he's still learning the ropes/webs and his fighting style is stealthier than Parker's, with added electricity - the real fun starts when the Symbiote suit enters the scene. We won't go into this too much as it would veer into spoiler territory but once the Symbiote bonds with Parker, the gameplay becomes even more intense, with the ability to smash enemies into things via his inky tentacles never grows old.

3. Action is frenetic and fun

Spider-Man 2 review
Image Credit: Sony

Those who have played the previous games will be right at home with the button mashing used for the fight scenes. There's an array of special moves to try and learn but, depending on difficulty level, you are prompted the first few times to use the right button combination.

Once you get used to the combos, you start to feel like you are in control of the fights, weaving through the seemingly endless thugs in a balletic style. The fight sequences have always reminded us of The Batman Arkham series, though they never quite get to those highs - the main reason is accuracy. In Spider-Man you don't have the ability to hone in on any one enemy which makes fighting a little more scrappy.

Interestingly, Spider-Man 2 has freed the special moves from specific suits. This time around you can learn new moves, regardless of the suit (and there are 66 in total to wear!) you are wearing. Through the pause menu you can choose the special ability to adopt for a particular fight.

4. The graphics are jaw-dropping

Spider-Man 2 review

This is a Spider-Man game made for the PS5 and it shows. While we have had the Mike Morales and Remastered on the PS5, this one is built specifically for the graphical prowess of the machine and it's stunning.

From web-slinging through the streets to gliding down from heights, thanks to Spider-Man's new web wings, it's a visual delight. There's a smoothness to the fractious fight scenes and a beauty to the graphics in the more intimate moments of the game.

Insomniac has taken a similar approach to its previous game Ratchet and Clank and slathered Ray Tracing across all modes, making for beautiful reflections throughout the game.

I also love, when you have finished a Peter Parker story for instance, the swoosh of the camera to get to where Miles Morales is. Couple this with really fast load times - you are hardly waiting to play the game, even from the off - and it makes for a much more immersive experience throughout.

The detail given to every character is also exceptional - these pixels look like they live and breathe throughout the game.

5. The story is special but just the start

Spider-Man 2 review

If when you do complete the game and have just focused on the main mission (I wouldn't blame you doing so, and it's something we did at first), then there is a whole other game to play. The main mission is only about half of the actual game, with side missions throughout making up the rest of the game play.

These take the form of time trials, criminal gang busts and the like - very Spider-Man, in that respect - but there are also missions that feed into the world around the Spider-Men. There's music-focused one, a wonderful graffiti tagging mission and many more that delve into the culture of the two main characters and weave around the storyline threads of previous games.

As for the main mission, there feels like a real reason for the rogues gallery of baddies that are coming to New York - the plot revolves around Kraven The Hunter using New York as his new hunting ground - and while the main boss battles are a mix of Quicktime and button combos, there's nothing quick about them. You really feel like you have won the battle when the section is completed.

Spider-Man 2: Final Verdict

Spider-Man 2 review

Spider-Man 2 is a stunning accomplishment. It's a game that unlocks the power of the PS5 that we all knew was there but hadn't been seen to its full effect.

From the gorgeous graphics to the epic gameplay, this is a game that will stay with you beyond the 20-something hours that you will sink into it. The two protagonists combine to create something really special - our Spidey senses were tingling throughout!

Pre-order Spider-Man 2 on the Sony PlayStation 5 now.