Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 review — PS5 sequel makes PS4 games feel old

In this Marvel's Spider-Man 2 review, Lee praises the PS5 exclusive for recapturing what made the original PS4 game great — no small task at all.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 review — PS5 sequel makes PS4 games feel old
Lee Brady

Lee Brady


Given that those Marvel's Spider-Man 2 trophies were set to be the only truly major AAA offering from Sony this year, suffice it to say expectations were riding high going into this Marvel's Spider-Man 2 review. So, imagine my relief that I get to tell you, reader, that not only did this game meet those expectations — it kind of made me feel ridiculous for having such high expectations for this in the first place. Find out why Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is one of the best PS5 games so far down below!


Marvel's Spider-Man 2 review — predictable excellence

Here’s an experience I hope is somewhat universal: have you ever found your brain getting completely switched off after having your expectations met by something? Like, say you’ve been looking forward to a holiday for nearly a year, and you go on that holiday and live it up. Then, you get back home, someone asks you if you had a good time, and you have literally no details to share because it was all just a blur of pleasant vibes?
More often, I think this kind of expectation ruin games. Certainly in my case I know I can get too in my own head and wind up still thinking about the thing even as I'm supposed to be enjoying it. Who hasn't had a game (or holiday) ruined by this kind of hype before? It takes something truly special to pull you out of this kind of downward hype spiral and just let you enjoy it.

Yet, here I am — delighted to say that Marvel's Spider-Man 2 pulled it off. After 40 hours with the game, I have not a single thought in my head. I mean, what is there to even talk about, frankly? At the end of the day, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was exactly what I expected it would be and almost certainly what most of you expected it to be as well. It's just an exceptional video game that's exceptionally fun.

Spider-Man 2 reviewSee? We're having fun here.

For new players — how Marvel's Spider-Man 2 gets you

Of course, it’s possible that you have zero expectations of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. It's perfectly reasonable to not be completely sold on the idea of a game about Spider-Man being all that exceptional — especially if you haven't played the first game or its Miles Morales spin-off. To have high expectations of this, I think first you need to be exposed to the series' two biggest selling points: its story and its gameplay.

When it comes to story, what I find fascinating about the Spider-Man games is that they somehow manage to tell genuinely good tales that also happen to be absolute nonsense. For example: Spider-Man 2's plot sees Miles Morales and Mary Jane Watson teaming up to snap Peter Parker back to his senses after a mind-altering alien gets him addicted to the gym bro lifestyle. The alien happened to be keeping his best friend alive and fit, but once Peter gets his hands on it, he refuses to give it back. Also, there's a suicidal buff guy running around town with a giant bell trying to bully the alien into murdering him.

Spider-Man 2 review"Wait until you see my giant bell, Spider-Man."

That synopsis sounds genuinely terrible, yet Marvel's Spider-Man players might still expect the story here to be good purely because the series has pulled off goofy stories before. And, shockingly, they'd be right to look forward to it, because the story is good in Marvel's Spider-Man 2. The writers of these Spider-Man games keep finding ways to make the ridiculous palatable. Last time, they got us emotionally invested in a story about a man using reverse-cancer to ruin the wicked town mayor. This time, they make us care about two gym bros who get torn apart by aliens. I'm not even really kidding.

How do they get away with it? Well, having recently had my brain joyfully switched off by the sequel, I've concluded that it must be something to do with the effortlessness of the gameplay. There's something about how easily Marvel's Spider-Man 2 gets you to embody its super-powered lead character and how dramatic everything feels as you speed your way through a gloriously rendered New York City that convinces your brain that everything here is really good — no matter how absurd.
I mean, this game has a segment where one of your two interchangeable protagonists (a neat feature for the sequel) reveals that their suit has pre-installed "Web Wings" — a new feature that basically turns their spider costume into a wingsuit. I think if this scene happened in a film or even a comic book, your brain might just reject everything at that very moment. Your Spider-Man can now fly — it's just one step too far into the ridiculous.

Yet, as you keep playing, you quickly realize that the Web Wings feel amazing to use in gameplay and offer you a handy way to zip around this playground of a city you're in. There's nothing more fun than dropping from a great height, building up speed until the last minute, unfurling your Web Wings with a push of a button, and then riding a wind tunnel all the way out of the city. Suddenly, something that seemed initially ridiculous gives way to an overwhelming sensation of fun, and it's here where the game gets you.

Spider-Man 2 reviewI mean, this looks ridiculous.

Soon, Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is plying you with all sorts of new super moves tailored to your particular Spider-Man of choice, each one more ridiculous than the last. As Miles, you'll find yourself turning enemies into lightning rods that fire out bolts of electricity at other enemies every time you punch them in the face. As Peter, you'll get disgusting alien tendrils that can pick up a room full of dudes at the push of the button and cartoonishly bash them against the ground.

With each new absurd addition to the gameplay, you can almost hear Marvel's Spider-Man 2 whispering in your ear "stop thinking — you're having fun, right?" It doesn't try to convince you that everything makes sense. In fact, it does the opposite. It plies your brain with more and more absurd details until fighting these details with logic and objective criticism feels absurd in itself, and eventually you just give in, switch off, and chill out.

Spider-Man 2 review#1 pic. #1 game.

Somewhere in my playthrough, I tried to check in on my expectations. I tried to figure out whether Marvel's Spider-Man 2 was living up to the long list of hopes I had conjured ahead of launch. However, glancing over it in the haze of the good time I was having, my list of wants all seemed so mundane. After 40 hours of ridiculous gameplay feats and story twists later, I found my brain empty and my face grinning. Who could want more than that?

For returning players — Spider-Man 2 is your best new bike

Well, I can think of one section of readers who might want to hear a little more than that — those who have played Marvel's Spider-Man on PS4, didn't exactly have a great time, but remain hopeful that the sequel might be better. What can I say about Marvel's Spider-Man 2 that might convince you things are somehow better this time around? Well, if this is you, honestly I think there's nothing I can say to convince you.

Spider-Man 2 reviewSorry, folks.

I just don't think there's any way Marvel's Spider-Man 2 can convince returning players who didn't love the original to love the sequel. For all intents and purposes, this game feels just like Marvel's Spider-Man all over again. While there have been a few changes to the overall experience, nothing big has shifted enough to fundamentally alter the series in any meaningful way.

There are changes that help streamline the experience. For example, Marvel's Spider-Man 2 makes the brilliant decision to get rid of the fiddly little ring menu used to select gadgets. In the new game, you just press a shoulder button in combination with a face button and bam — you're immediately doing cool stuff. The rough edges of combat have been sanded down in many similarly small ways. New unlockable moves offer players way more control over the flow of each fight, meaning you no longer spend five minutes breakdancing from foe-to-foe before someone finally keels over.
Rarer are the more dramatic changes to gameplay, like the Web Wings or the new parry move — both of which change movement and combat in bigger ways. At first blush, these feel like they might be game changers, but to be honest if you really didn't like either of them, you could probably find a way to bash through the game without ever really using them. That, in itself, should be an indicator that not much has really changed here — the gameplay has just been refreshed.

Trophic Tactics — Marvel's Spider-Man 2

Has there ever been a game easier to get the platinum trophy of than Marvel's Spider-Man 2? With no missable trophies, no difficulty-related trophies, and without even having to play the game twice through New Game+, this platinum trophy practically unlocks itself. All you have to do is show up, pick your preferred speed, and let the game take you for a ride.

You'll still need to complete all of Marvel's Spider-Man 2's side missions to earn this, but if you're playing the game right, you'll likely be dipping into these between story missions pretty naturally as you go. Just know that some side missions won't let you finish them all off until after the main story concludes, so just take it easy, keep the narrative moving, and have a good time with this one.
All of these additions worked for me, but then as someone who loved the first Marvel's Spider-Man, I was clearly who the developers had in mind here. Insomniac Games ultimately spend very little time attempting to convince players who didn't like the original to get on board here. Instead, efforts were put into convincing returning players that this new game feels exactly the way you remember the first game feeling. That might sound like a step backward for the series, but I promise you — this was no simple feat.

Spider-Man 2 reviewDeceptively familiar.

Evoking a sense of deep familiarity in someone from something new is its own art form — one that doesn't get nearly as much credit as it deserves. This is especially true in 2023, where games like Sonic Superstars, Assassin's Creed Mirage, and Resident Evil 4 have all tried so hard to evoke familiarity, and have left me a little dead-eyed and cold for all the unnecessary changes they've brought to their established series formulae. Marvel's Spider-Man 2 makes it look easy, but a cursory glance at its peers makes it clear that it's really not.

For a returning player, playing Marvel's Spider-Man 2 feels like riding a bike after years of not having touched one. Your brain will think the experience is exactly the same as it always was, but that's a trick we play on ourselves. Bikes keep changing — the people who make these things aren't sitting around content from having made "the perfect bike" or something. In small ways, these things just keep changing, and largely for the better.

Spider-Man 2 reviewFairly certain we've done this before.

This new bike might feel like the old one — it might even look like it — but it's really not. If you don't believe me, boot up Marvel's Spider-Man after playing the sequel and tell me you don't pine for those Web Wings and simple face buttons. Subtle as those new additions are, they all add up. By changing the bike in small ways, Insomniac have somehow managed to make a five-year-old PS4 game feel old. That's a maddening feat of design right there. (Also it's just a maddening sentence to read, and I'm sorry.)

Spider-Man 2 nitpicks feel like background noise

It's not that I don't have complaints about Marvel's Spider-Man 2, it's just that they all feel so petty in the face of the good time it offered me. Sure, maybe I would have liked to play as Venom a little longer. Perhaps on reflection those Uncharted 4-esque lingering scenes where Peter hangs out with his friends at Coney Island were a bit excessive for the point they were trying to make.

Spider-Man 2 reviewI mean, as good a time as you're allowed to have.

Maybe if I hadn't encountered the Marvel's Spider-Man 2 Miles Morales bug before it got fixed, I wouldn't have been frustrated for two whole minutes. And maybe I am a little disappointed with certain story elements. Who wouldn't want to spend more time with one of the story's best characters before they unceremoniously bow out?

I could nitpick narrative and design choices like a pedant all day long if I really wanted to, but what would be the point? I know perfectly well that this isn't a flawless video game — I don't think any truly great game would be "flawless." It's just hard to get upset about the little design queries when your expectations have been melted away in a wave of good-time brine.

Spider-Man 2 reviewThis one glitch was pretty funny.

I hadn't expected this game to let me switch my brain off and just have a fun time swinging around — especially after I found myself unable to get back into the spirit of things while writing my Marvel's Spider-Man Miles Morales review. Sure, I expected the game to have huge set-pieces and boss fights that, when played on hard mode, would take a little bit of effort to get through. I expected a checklist of collectibles and activities that would let me just hang around virtual New York City and enjoy being somewhere beautiful for a while.

I expected the story to be loud and sentimental, the combat to be slippy but entertaining, and the web-swinging to offer some of the best movement mechanics across the entire video game medium. I expected to get more of the stuff I liked: Mysterio perfectly scratches the same itch that Taskmaster did in the first game. I just didn't expect all of these elements to gel together as effortlessly as they do, and thus allow me to zone out, turn off most of my critical faculties, and just have a good time with the series again.

Spider-Man 2 reviewWhy didn't Venom, the larger Spider-Man, not simply eat the smaller ones?

Maybe it was because the developers threw so much fun new stuff at me all the time, or maybe it's because they refined so much of the stuff I didn't like as much from past games, like those radial menus. I mean, you know they've done good work when even the MJ missions are pretty good in this one! (Although, I did get to them before the Marvel's Spider-Man 2 Mary Jane Watson difficulty patch came in and made them too easy.)

I feel like trying to really work out how the game got me to relax would undermine how good a job it did at achieving that, so I'm just not going to try. Sometimes, things can be great without being all that deep. Marvel's Spider-Man 2 let me have a good time without distraction. It didn't gesture at any desire to be considered high art; it's a blockbuster superhero movie in video game form and it wears that translation well. Most importantly, Marvel's Spider-Man 2 puts all the money in the world into making something that's simply fun to play. Who would expect more than that?

Spider-Man 2 reviewExactly what I wanted.


With a handful of thoughtful revisions and a dedication to bringing out the best in its characters and mechanics, Marvel's Spider-Man 2 does exactly what we expect of all the greatest video game sequels. It takes what we loved about the series before and makes you fall in love all over again as if it were the first time. While that might not convince those who disliked the original, it certainly worked wonders on a fan of the original like me.
10 / 10
* Lee played Marvel's Spider-Man 2 for 40 hours and beat the game on Spectacular difficulty, collecting the platinum trophy in the process. He also dipped his toes in the unlockable Ultimate difficulty and will definitely play that through when some New Game+ trophies get added. TrueTrophies was provided with a copy of Marvel's Spider-Man 2 for PS5 courtesy of Sony.
Written by Lee Brady
Staff Writer Lee keeps one eye on the future (Marvel's Spider-Man 2, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth), one eye on the past (PS Plus Premium, recent Sony news), and his secret third eye on the junk he really likes (Sonic Superstars, Final Fantasy 16). Then he uses his big mouth to blurt out long-winded opinions about video games.
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