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Earlier this week, I was given the opportunity to play a preview of Spider-Man 2 from Sony and Insomniac games. I was put straight into the action, starting a few hours into the title set to debut for PS5 on October 20.
Bryan Intihar, senior creative director for Insomniac Games, made it clear that the sequel was going to double down on what fans loved about the original title and its Miles Morales expandalone. Spider-Man 2 will let players live out their web-slinging, crime-fighting fantasies with increased emphasis on combat, exploration and the dynamic duo of protagonists.
Combat is largely similar to Insomniac’s original title, but it adds special moves unique to both Peter Parker and Miles Morales. Through attacking and defending, players build up their focus meter. After completing a segment of this bar, players can unleash powerful special attacks to deal with waves of enemies or heal off damage.
When playing as Peter, the special moves are designed around the new symbiote suit. No doubt, this development is a key point in the story with Parker’s mental state already getting more aggressive in the demo. Meanwhile, Morales’ skill set leans into his bio-electricity powers.
To add further challenge to the combat, Insomniac added a new parry system to the game. Certain enemy abilities cannot be dodged, signify by a yellow-to-red aura. If players press the dodge button at just the right time, you can unleash devastating counter attacks on your foes.
With further customization options in the skill tree, both the super moves and parry system add more complexity to Spider-Man 2’s combat. There’s still a bit of a learning curve when it comes to locking onto targets — especially those darn snipers — but the title adds enough to keep the game feeling fresh. Additionally, giving both Miles and Peter unique play styles helps the Spider-Men feel distinct.
New York, New York
The first entry in the Spider-Man series truly excelled at putting you in the hero’s shoes. Web-swinging across Manhattan to explore felt exhilarating and helped the power fantasy come alive.
Insomniac is doubling down on exploration in Spider-Man 2 with new traversal options. Moreover, the map is now twice the siz thanks to the additions of Brooklyn, Queens and iconic locations like Coney Island to explore.
The biggest change to the traversal options are the web wings. Once you’ve gotten enough speed and altitude, players can glide through NYC using this new ability.
One new minigame added to the map is following Vulture’s … err … vultures to collect data. Following the flying bots was a nice way to unlock future missions and test players’ mastery of the new mechanic.
Moreover, the addition of Brooklyn and Queens helps the city feel even more grand in scale. The differences in architecture — trading in skyscrapers for sleepy neighborhoods — helps the game create a world that felt more alive than it already did. Given the lack of verticality, the web slinging did feel a bit less impactful in these new boroughs. However, Insomniac took care to give players just enough tall buildings to maintain momentum.
Spider-man 2’s dynamic duo
Both Peter and Miles play key roles throughout Spider-Man 2. Certain missions will have our protagonists team up or let either one can take on the challenge, while others are only available to a specific Spider-Man.
Insomniac emphasized that switching between the protagonists is almost seamless thanks to the PS5’s hardware. During the demo, I regularly switched between the two and noticed little to no lag during these transitions.
That being said, the game will abruptly switch you between Peter and Miles if you get too close to a main story mission meant for the other Spider-Man. This felt a bit jarring, especially because it happened without warning, and I was immediately thrown into a story mission I didn’t intend to start.
Each protagonist will face their own challenges throughout the course of the game, which picks up about nine months after the Miles Morales game. Peter is dealing with the loss of Aunt May, the return of Harry Osborne and, of course, his relationship with Mary Jane. Of course, the aforementioned symbiote won’t make things easy.
Meanwhile, Miles is figuring out his own identity. Peter is less available as a mentor, and he’s writing his dreaded college essay as the story kicks off. Similarly, Mr. Negative is back in town to stir up trouble for Miles.
Kraven the Hunter, the Lizard and Venom will also play key roles in the story.
The web of relationships between the characters and their increasingly intersecting lives adds a new dynamic to Spider-Man 2. In the demo, both protagonists got their chance to shine while also feeling distinct from each other.
More of the same or building on the foundation?
Like all sequels, Spider-Man 2 has to find the line between giving fans more of what they love while also pushing the series forward.
To me, the most successful sequels replicate the feeling and formula of the original, while also building upon that foundation.
There’s a lot left to see of Spider-Man 2. However, there’s no doubt that fans of the original will find a lot like about the sequel. The real question is whether or not Spider-Man 2 adds enough to feel innovative, rather than just giving fans more of the same.
The combat does feel fresh in some ways, but the super moves are given so much emphasis that certain enemies are impossible to take down without them. I found myself dealing with large groups of enemies I couldn’t handle because I hadn’t built my focus meter up enough or my super moves were on cooldown. Rather than combat leaning into a brawler/beat-‘em up style, it felt like an exercise in conserving my resources.
The additional exploration options gave me new ways and places to see in Marvel’s version of the Big Apple. It managed to capture the freedom and feeling of the original.
The game wasn’t without some glitches, though there is time until release to fix these. Most were minor clipping issues, but the insurmountable knee-high walls were somewhat immersion breaking.
However, the story and shared spotlight between Peter and Miles elevated the game to its highest heights. Peter’s a bit older and more seasoned while Miles keeps the youthful energy synonymous with the hero. This dynamic duo will be the core reason why Spider-Man 2 feels like an evolution than a safe sequel.
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