Review of Spider-Man 2: Heroes Need Help Too

Review of Spider-Man 2: Heroes Need Help Too

My first encounter with Insomiac’s Spider-Man game in 2018 felt like the realization of a lifelong dream. As a decades-long fan of the web-slinging superhero, I eagerly anticipated any hint of action following Miles Morales. Despite my tempered expectations, recognizing the challenge of surpassing their prior achievements, Spider-Man 2 exceeded all anticipation. Over the course of 20 hours navigating New York City, I discovered a depth beyond the menacing Venom, catching me entirely off guard.

Thanks to Sony and my editor, I scored an early copy of Spider-Man 2 and played to my heart’s content over the last two weeks. What follows is an honest review of a game series decades in the making and its evolving excitement.

Note: The review below contains mild spoilers. Proceed with caution.

Enter, Pursued by Spider-Men

Insomniac excels in crafting stunning scenes, which immediately struck me as I traversed NYC in pursuit of the massive sand monster. As anticipated from the gameplay trailer, the battle featured impeccably executed cinematic cutscenes, quick time events, and navigating through buildings while contending with numerous mini Sandmen before confronting the main adversary. Although the initial phase of the fight lacked novelty, I was swiftly introduced to some innovative weaponry.

The new toys, Web Wings, ease city traversal for players. As the fight concludes and we incarcerate Sandman, he forewarns of impending doom and an imminent threat. Enter Kraven the Hunter, one of the game’s antagonists, marking the unfolding of the story.

A Darker Shade of Black

With Sandman locked away, Kraven the Hunter’s tale unfolds. Kraven, a forest-born predator, is relentless in his pursuits. He hunts the most dangerous prey, now targeting New York. As Kraven and his Hunters invade the city, our friendly neighborhood Spiderman duo intervenes to thwart them.

In this segment, a phase ensues where I engage in some ‘filler missions.’ Though still intriguing, the narrative’s tempo began to lag momentarily. However, everything shifted upon the introduction of Venom, a formidable black symbiote, into the antagonist ensemble of Spider-Man 2. Subsequent to Venom’s arrival, a gradual unfolding of events transpires, somewhat anticipated by me. As Black Cat exits NYC, the responsibility of managing these events falls upon our two arachnid allies.

Predictably Gratifying

Following a linear story path, I had begun to anticipate the unfolding events. Yet, this doesn’t diminish the quality of the writing or storytelling. Being a pop-culture enthusiast, I’ve immersed myself in Spider-Man movies for a solid decade. While my comic book knowledge isn’t exhaustive, it provided sufficient insight. Thus, I could predict the narrative trajectory. Nonetheless, Spider-Man 2 surprised me with its execution.

Insomniac has ingeniously approached a seemingly simple story, infusing it with creative liberties. As the game progresses, it takes multiple dark turns, prompting a reevaluation of my entire experience. It’s a departure from the expected pace and tone, delving into the darker facets of characters’ psyches.

However, the absence of further reference to Kraven the Hunter stands out. Did he vanish from NYC entirely? Not quite. Yet, to witness the full narrative unfold, one must engage firsthand.

My experience with Spider-Man 2’s story proved to be a heightened emotional journey compared to its predecessor. Initially filled with anticipation and elation, it later transitioned into moments of sorrow and apprehension. The game adeptly evokes a blend of empathy and aversion towards its characters, thereby manipulating player emotions.

The ending is bittersweet, leaving me with a memorable post-credits scene (more on this later this week). Spider-Man 2 transcends typical gaming experiences, resembling a cinematic or literary journey. Despite its game format, I immersed myself in the story and actively shaped its outcome.

Spider-Man 2: A Grandiose Evolution

Regarding adversaries, the game introduces numerous new foes. As I progressed, I encountered increasingly formidable forces, occasionally feeling overwhelmed. The boss fights follow suit, being cinematic, fast-paced, and action-packed, often eclipsing Dr. Ock’s final battle in the previous game.

Review of Spider-Man 2: Heroes Need Help Too

Concerning graphical realism, Spider-Man 2 resembles its predecessors. Insomniac appears to have stuck with a proven approach, enhancing it slightly. This is noticeable with scattered light effects. My gameplay mainly focused on the 60FPS Performance mode, which ran smoothly on our PS5. Nonetheless, the Fidelity mode displayed striking visuals. Worth noting is the improved reflections this time.

Amidst all this, a few bugs occasionally hamper the experience. Enemies and civilians float in the air, Spider-Man clips into buildings, and some levels crash the game. The final mission was bugged, requiring three attempts, even after Sony’s latest patch. However, this could be attributed to an early build, so it’s advisable to maintain ample save files to prevent corruption.

Gameplay: Classic Recipe with a Twist

In its traditional sense, Spider-Man 2 retains the beloved gameplay mechanics. You still rely on swinging through the city, now with enhanced flexibility and vividness. Zipping and point launches become second nature to veteran gamers.

Insomniac has injected new elements into an already successful formula, enhancing gameplay variety. The standout addition is the Web Wings, which allow effortless aerial navigation across the map. Simply gaining altitude and activating them enabled swift traversal, reminiscent of maneuvering as a miniature Superman.

Perhaps this explains why fast travel remains locked by default, requiring activation in each district. While this detail slightly irks me, it’s a deliberate design choice. Other new features, such as the Slingshot Launch showcased in trailers, prove helpful, but I found myself relying more on my own abilities for natural progression.

Speaking of NYC, Spider-Man 2’s map is twice as large as before. Previously locked boroughs are now accessible with new activities, including part collection, weapon stashes, public app requests, and Photo Ops. While there are fewer backpacks, there’s ample variety. The in-game map and UI are updated for better visuals and understanding.

Adjusting the Difficulty

This sequel brings a mix of pleasure and frustration. If you played the first one at medium difficulty, consider lowering it this time.

Forced me to think quickly, offering a blend of challenge and the satisfaction of victory. Occasionally intense, but manageable (given my experience as a Siege veteran). At its core, Spider-Man 2’s difficulty and AI present a compelling battle to protect New York from formidable foes.

Stealth takedowns in the game remain largely unaltered as Spiders traverse ceilings and walls in search of prey. If you’re already familiar, you’ll transition smoothly. The addition of Web Zip proved beneficial.

Insomniac offers a plethora of panache choices with Spider-Man 2’s Digital Deluxe Edition boasting 10 exclusive Spidey suits. Among these is the Apunkalyptic Suit, sporting a low-tech design, and the Tactical Suit, inspired by Japanese media, alongside several others crafted in collaboration with global artists. The Standard Edition isn’t lacking either, featuring 65 suits and introducing new Suit Styles unlocking alternate shaders. Mods make a return as “Suit Tech,” enabling enhancements such as increased damage health and additional focus bars.

Spider-Man 2’s gameplay and mechanics adhere to a simple principle: “Don’t fix what isn’t broken, but add some salt.” Insomniac deserves credit for this approach, as it pays off well. The game’s core remains unchanged, facilitating quick adaptation for both veterans and newcomers. However, it also introduces heightened difficulty, new skills, gadgets, and additional tricks, injecting appreciated variety. As a favorite game often emphasizes, “Variety is the spice of life.”

Spider-Man 2: Worth the Experience?

Gaming has been a long-standing passion of mine. With age, my trust in AAA Studios has waned, especially given the rocky launches of major titles in 2023. Yet, after investing over 20 hours swinging through New York as Spider-Man, I’m left with a whirlwind of emotions. Spider-Man 2, reminiscent of God of War (2018), transports me back to the awe-inspiring days of my youth. Initially doubting any sequel could match its predecessor’s intensity, I stand corrected.

Spider-Man 2 evokes similar sentiments. Having witnessed my beloved childhood superhero navigate countless comics, movies, and games over nearly two decades, Spider-Man 2018 left an indelible mark. Now, reflecting on this, Spider-Man 2 emerges as the Ragnarok of the gaming world, akin to the evolution from God of War.

From its brilliantly executed and gripping story (albeit with a few flaws, but what isn’t), the expansive New York City, the smooth swinging and combat, to numerous other aspects, meticulous planning shines through. This labor of love is what draws me back to select studios repeatedly, to immerse myself in these captivating narratives.

For these reasons and more, I wholeheartedly endorse Spider-Man 2 as your next purchase, fostering a sense of unity and empowerment.