Marvel's Spider-Man 2 review: An ultimate superhero sequel

Insomniac Games raises the bar for superhero games and Spider-Man media with its latest web-slinging adventure.

PlayStation Studios

There’s something special about a video game sequel that improves just about every element of the first game, delivering a masterpiece of the genre. The second installations in Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, and Resident Evil all come to mind. With Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Insomniac Games has not only delivered one of the great modern video game sequels, but one of the greatest superhero games of all time.

The Spider-Men

Peter and Miles, costumed, swinging toward a building-sized Sandman

Source: PlayStation Studios

While Peter Parker and Miles Morales both previously served as main characters in their own Spider-Man games, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 ambitiously centers both characters as co-protagonists. With that comes a balancing act as we navigate the adult life of a veteran Peter Parker and the formative years of a youthfully exuberant Miles Morales. In true Spider-Man fashion, their personal lives and their superhero personas become complicatedly intertwined, constantly placing the web-slingers between a rock and a hard place.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 delivers an emotional story thanks to its focus on the relationship between Peter and MJ, which is challenged by the return of Harry Osborn, a childhood friend. For Miles, we see him not only grappling with the loss of his father in the 2018 Spider-Man game, but the events of his solo outing in 2020 as well. Themes of vengeance are present throughout the arcs of both protagonists, making for a much darker chapter in this Spider-Man universe.

Venom roaring with his sharp teeth and tongue exposed.

Source: PlayStation Studios

The emotional story is amplified by some standout voice performances from the franchise’s returning cast. Yuri Lowenthal, Nadji Jeter, and Laura Bailey all deliver some of their best work yet. I was also impressed by newcomer Graham Phillips, who carries a lot of weight on his shoulders as Harry Osborn.

Insomniac Games has continued its trend of bending and manipulating the Spider-Man mythos to create original, engaging stories that don’t alienate longtime fans of the character. The overall story of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 will feel familiar to those that have seen enough movies or read a comic book, but there are enough detours and surprises to keep it from feeling like a retread. Tony Todd’s Venom is expectedly excellent, and it was awesome getting to see Kraven, a lesser-used member of Spider-Man’s rogue gallery, get the spotlight.

Greater together

Miles Morales kicking an enemy in the face while flipping backwards.

Source: PlayStation Studios

It’s clear that with this being the third game in the franchise, Insomniac knew that it had to bring something new to the table to keep gameplay fresh and exciting. Enter a host of new skills and abilities for both Miles Morales and Peter Parker, making them even more formidable in combat. Their separate skill trees feature abilities that are unique to their powers, and the shared skill tree features more generic spider tactics that both of them could pull off. While some of the abilities learned in the first couple of games carry over, there are a handful that you have to re-learn through the skill tree, which feels silly.

There were times where I’d spend a couple of hours doing missions and fighting crime as Peter, only to switch to Miles and have to reacquaint myself with an entirely different set of abilities. It helped stave off the fatigue that would sometimes settle in after long sessions with the previous two games. There are so many new powers and abilities in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 that I almost felt overwhelmed during the game’s opening hours. However, it felt rewarding to get a feel for them and chain together devastating blows to enemies.

The increase in power for the Spider-Men is also matched by their foes. This game introduces parrying, an alternative way to avoid incoming damage when your Spider-Sense starts tingling. Some of the tougher enemies will now employ moves that can only be parried, or can only be dodged.

Mary Jane Watson holding an energy pistol.

Source: PlayStation Studios

Arguably the biggest gameplay evolution in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 are its boss battles. While the major showdowns in the previous games were essentially cinematic set pieces that required you to check a box three times and succeed in some quicktime events, Insomniac has completely reimagined boss battles. It’s much more soulslike in design, with each boss having a recognizable pattern of attacks and behavior, and a massive health bar (sometimes multiple health bars) for you to deplete. They’re entirely unscripted, outside of brief sequences between the stages of a battle. Bosses are far more challenging and make for some of the best moments in the entire game.

The improvements don’t stop at combat and bosses, either. It feels like the developer took every criticism of Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and made a concerted effort to improve them. There are still plenty of collectibles and minigames to solve around the city, none of which are as mind-numbingly annoying as the Screwball Challenges from the 2018 game. Even the Mary Jane Watson missions are greatly improved by equipping her with a weapon of her own and eliminating the auto-fail when detected by enemies. These sequences were undoubtedly the most criticized part of the first game, and I commend Insomniac for figuring out a way to make them work instead of just tossing them in the trash.

The city that never sleeps

Miles Morales soaring through the sky with his web wings.

Source: PlayStation Studios

Traversal is always a highlight in these Spider-Man games, and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 introduces the Web Wings as a new way to get around NYC. It feels thrilling to zip through a wind tunnel, achieving speeds even greater than what’s possible through traditional swinging.

The web wings also make it easier to traverse areas that don’t have a lot of tall structures to attach your webs too. This is especially helpful given the fact that this game expands its map with the addition of Brooklyn and Queens, the hometowns of our super-powered protagonists. These areas are a bit more suburban than Manhattan proper, offering a nice change of pace when moving from mission to mission.

I found a great deal of fun in just swinging around and exploring, testing out new traversal features and solving crimes as they pop up. One of the best new details in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is that when you go to address a miscellaneous crime, there’s a chance that the other Spider-Man might already be there. It doesn’t happen too frequently, but there were a handful of times where I arrived at an alley to handle some thugs, and either Miles or Peter were already there, kicking butt. We’d fight alongside each other, sharing quips and even doing dual finishers. When the fight was over, we’d shake hands, awkwardly hug, or do the infamous pointing Spider-Man meme at each other and then swing in our opposite directions. Details like this make Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 feel like the ultimate superhero simulator.

With great power...

Peter Parker wearing the black symbiote suit.

Source: PlayStation Studios

I went into Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 expecting it to be one of my favorite games this year and still walked away impressed by what the developer was able to pull off. Both story and gameplay have taken large steps forward, and I’m fully convinced that there is no studio that could make Spider-Man games better than Insomniac Games. It’s a massive win for the Insomniac, for PlayStation Studios, and for longtime fans of Spider-Man.

This review is based on a PS5 code provided by PlayStation Studios. Marvel's Spider-Man 2 releases on October 20, 2023, for the PS5.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

  • Vast improvements to combat through new abilities and mechanics
  • Makes a unique spin on the Spider-Man mythos
  • Full redesign of boss battles
  • Cleverly weaves together the narrative arcs of Peter and Miles
  • Traversal is bolstered by the addition of Web Wings and expansion of the map
  • Some abilities unlocked in the previous games have to be relearned
From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 16, 2023 7:00 AM

    Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Marvel's Spider-Man 2 review: An ultimate superhero sequel

    • reply
      October 16, 2023 7:51 AM

      Looking at accessibility review, it's very inaccessible for anyone with physically disabilities. Without spoiling anything, there are several puzzles in the game involving the special triggers. You can't skip them so the game can't be completed if that is an issue. Oh and most of the accessibility options aren't coming till several months after launch. Sony did announce (at the last minute) that beforehand, not a criticism. Don't know how well known that is.

      I hope that with the launch of the Access controller in December the trigger issue is address. The Access controller doesn't replicate the trigger functions of the Dual Sense.

      • reply
        October 16, 2023 9:06 AM

        I feel like the first game had a ton of options for accessibility but I could be wrong. Hopefully they address it quickly!

    • reply
      October 16, 2023 8:09 AM

      Also, who said it was shorter than 1? It's 15-20h, which is the same as the first game.

      • reply
        October 16, 2023 4:17 PM

        Perfect length IMO. I can’t be playing these BG3/Starfield 100hour games these days

        • reply
          October 16, 2023 4:33 PM

          I like playing through 2 or 3 "short" 15-20 hour games in between my epic 100+ hour games.

    • reply
      October 16, 2023 10:08 AM

      So If I didn't like any of the other Spiderman games, safe bet I won't like this one?

      • reply
        October 16, 2023 10:23 AM

        If you didn't like the first or Miles Morales you probably won't.

        It's a similar game with both of them jammed in and with the ability to swap between them.

      • reply
        October 16, 2023 3:27 PM

        Why you no like Spidey, Milleh?

      • reply
        October 16, 2023 3:34 PM

        You won't

      • reply
        October 16, 2023 4:15 PM


      • reply
        October 16, 2023 5:55 PM

        I bounced hard off the first one, but I came back a couple years later and it clicked hard. Maybe give it another shot and see if the same thing happens?

    • reply
      October 16, 2023 4:06 PM

      Max score of 10, haven’t been too many of those here. Just looked it up, it was RE4 Remake

      • reply
        October 16, 2023 4:07 PM

        Oops, meant to say the only other one was recently, and it was RE4 Remake

    • reply
      October 16, 2023 4:14 PM

      Bought. I’ve been into marvel snap so it’s fun to play these games now for me.

    • reply
      October 16, 2023 5:51 PM

      Anyone know if it’ll preload? Have it purchased

Hello, Meet Lola