One of the most hotly anticipated PlayStation 5 (PS5) titles, Insomniac Games’ “Spider-Man 2,” has finally hit shelves, being the first of the studio’s “Spider-Man” games to be a true PS5 exclusive. With that, Insomniac took much, much bigger swings than previous installments to match the impressive hardware of the new generation. The result is some incredibly impressive hits, but also a handful of big misses and a third act that fails to come together emotionally the way its predecessors did.
Most of the misses come down to the story. “Spider-Man 2” centers around New York City’s Spider-Men, Peter Parker and Miles Morales, voiced by Yuri Lowenthal and Nadji Jeter respectively, facing down Kraven the Hunter and his villainous crew, all while Peter’s new symbiotic suit takes him down a much darker path.
And, let us face it: “Spider-Man 2” has a serious villain problem. Kraven’s storyline is adapted from the comic storyline “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” but since this game also serves as our introduction to this version of the character, it lacks the character development that made that story so resonant and iconic. Much of Venom’s storyline leaves a lot to be desired, as well. The game flirts with adapting the allegory of drug addiction, but fails to commit to the premise, leaving his storyline as well as Peter’s feeling overall unsatisfying.
The character who has the most genuinely well-rounded arc is none other than Miles, who is still reeling from the death of his father at the hands of Martin Li, also known as Mister Negative, who escapes from prison early on in this game. His story of grief, forgiveness, and forging his own identity as Spider-Man is the best thing this game has to offer, even if it culminates in spoiler alert- a pretty terrible new suit.
The problem is, there is not enough. Much of the game’s runtime is spent with Peter, and while his arc has some poignant bright spots as it follows his reunion with his ailing best friend Harry Osborn, putting Miles on the backburner hurts not only the story, but also the gameplay, because Miles is much more fun to play as.
Where the story falters is where the gameplay saves the day. “Spider-Man 2” is ridiculously fun. From the upgraded combat system with a whole host of abilities for Peter and Miles to use, to the new “web wings” that let the Spider-Men soar across the map at high speeds, “Spider-Man 2” has almost too much depth in its gameplay.
It can get a little tricky wrapping your head around all of the skill trees, gadgets and suits to upgrade and unlock, but once you get the hang of it, the game rewards you immensely. The increase in difficulty can be pretty drastic from level to level, but the upgrade system lets you discover your own style of playing and refine it until you become the ultimate Spider-Man. The only area where the gameplay falters is the open world, which can get pretty repetitive as you complete the same few tasks over and over to level up.
Spiders are not the only bugs you’ll encounter, though. “Spider-Man 2” has some pretty serious technical issues that crop up from time to time. They are rarely game-breaking and can usually be fixed by exiting the game and restarting, but when the price tag sits at a hefty $70 before tax, it’s a frustrating and annoyingly persistent issue throughout.
Graphically, “Spider-Man 2” is a tale of two cities. In fidelity mode, which runs at 30 frames-per-second (FPS) and renders at 4K resolution, the game is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Textures and lighting look almost photorealistic, the render distance is seemingly endless and the open world is vastly populated. In performance mode, which runs at 60 FPS and renders at a lower resolution of “up to 1440p,” the game is much less visually solid.
Despite how smooth the game runs at a higher frame rate, textures become muddy, aliasing is a major issue and overall the world is “thinned out” to give the hardware a bit less to work on when doubling the frame rate. Personally, I prefer fidelity mode either way, but this could be a major disappointment for those who prefer frame rate over resolution.
Overall, “Spider-Man 2” had a tough act to follow, as its predecessor is considered one of the greatest superhero video games of all time. It mostly rises to the challenge, delivering immersive gameplay and beautiful visuals, but the storytelling is a step-down. Still, this game is a must-have for any and all Spider-Man fans- but maybe wait for a few patches.