My favourite part of the first two Insomniac Spider-Man games is travelling across the city. The ability to swing from building to building, soaring through the air, all while taking in the sights and sounds of the city is just as enjoyable, if not more so, than anything else in the game. So, earlier this week, when I sat down to play a few hours of Spider-Man 2, I knew I would like that part. But I didn’t realize it could get even better.
That’s thanks to Web Wings, a new addition to the upcoming game which will be released for PlayStation 5 on October 20. The wings can be deployed at any point while in the air and Spider-Man—be it Peter Parker or Miles Morales—will blissfully glide through the air. It’s a serene upgrade to the already incredible traversal system, not to mention pretty handy in areas like rivers or parks that don’t have things to latch onto.
But now the city also has wind tunnels and, if you have the wings out and hit one of those tunnels, you get an exhilarating boost of speed. That’s where you no longer feel like Spider-Man, you feel like Superman. As the PlayStation 5’s impressive graphics seamlessly zip by as you twist and turn down the streets of New York in mid-air, you can’t help but be really, really happy this game exists, but also really hopeful a team like Insomniac can give this type of care and feel to other heroes too.
Note: What follows will discuss some of the action scenes and minor story beats in the game, but nothing major involving the story. That said, if you want to go in totally spoiler-free, best to avoid it.
io9 was one of several outlets that played about a three-hour chunk of Spider-Man 2 from an undetermined section somewhere in the middle of the game. [The players had about a level 20 of upgrades.] Peter Parker already has his symbiote suit and is hot on the heels of Dr. Connors, aka the Lizard, hoping to aid his friend Harry Osborn. The problem is, Kraven the Hunter is after the Lizard too. Meanwhile, Miles Morales is struggling to balance his normal and Spider-lives, as he uses his tech-savvy ways to aid a local museum. The stories then come together in an epic battle where you play as both Peter and Miles in a citywide battle with the Lizard.
The first thing you notice playing Spider-Man 2 is that it’s very much like the first two games but just with some really cool improvements. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? For example, each character now has not just gadgets they can use, but a whole extra set of slotted abilities. In the case of Peter’s symbiote, they make for four very different, very destructive, very gross, ways to dispose of your enemies. Set the angle just right and your symbiote suit won’t just engulf and mess up one baddie, it’ll mess up a bunch of them.
After protecting a lab from a huge group of Kraven’s goons as Peter, things flip over to Miles. His mission takes the Web Wings to a whole other level, as you have to chase one of Kraven’s drones through the city by riding its jetstream. It makes for super fast flying and just an incredibly exciting experience. That experience is then followed by a more intimate first-person section where Miles deploys one of his Spider-Bots to head through some vents and fix the wiring in a museum. You control the Spider-Bot and see through its eyes, evading bad guys, and solving puzzles.
There are lots of basic puzzles throughout, just as in the previous games, but here stealth missions also can become a type of puzzle. A new ability to shoot web lines across the ceilings of large buildings makes stealth attacks much easier, but also a higher risk as you’re much easier to spot now if you mess things up.
Another highlight of the demo was the gorgeously cinematic transition between Peter’s story and Miles’ story. The two are linked throughout, of course, often mentioning and communicating with each other, but when the main storyline needs to go between them, it happens in an epic long take where the camera flies through the city from one Spider-Man to the other. We were also told that, in non-story missions, players will have the ability to flip between Miles or Peter and play it with whomever they choose.
The final section we played led up to an epic boss battle with the Lizard, one that continues to escalate to almost comedically massive levels. First, you defeat him traditionally, with attacks and stuns and whatnot. That seems like it might be the end until Lizard escapes and you chase him across the city. That chase leads to the rivers where Miles basically has to ride behind him like he’s wearing a pair of water skiis and Peter defends from the sky, zipping between helicopters. (The game itself makes those transitions between characters.) Finally, the battle gets to a skyscraper where Lizard has no problem destroying each and every floor as he runs to the top, with Peter in tow. Seriously, I couldn’t help but laugh at how the battle went from wild, to wilder, to absolute madness. And just when it seemed as if the fight was done, it was over. The demo ended.
Members of the press were able to play the demo however they wanted and I chose to get as far through the story as possible to see if I could uncover any cool secrets. By choosing that, I was forced to ignore another whole aspect of the game which is its exploration. As fun as swinging and flying through New York is, it was almost painful to do so by going straight toward that one story-based checkpoint. All sorts of different lights, beacons, and missions popped up as I swung around. Plus, anytime I would mistakenly miss a swing and end up on the ground, I couldn’t help but be in awe at how badly I wanted to just walk around and explore every nook and cranny of the city. (Plus, as previously released, the map is twice the size of previous games with the addition of Brooklyn and Queens.)
One of the very few times I did end up interacting with one of those tangential missions, I acquired a Spider-Bot… one that looked mysteriously like the ones at Avengers Campus at Disneyland in California, now that I think of it. Or maybe I was seeing things.
As much as I loved every single second of playing Spider-Man 2 this week, the one problem with the demo was that dropping into the story in the middle removed most of the emotional weight of the characters. Sony and Insomniac obviously did that on purpose in order to keep things like how Peter acquires the symbiote, or what Venom’s involvement is, secret for now. So while it was cool to compete with Kraven in a hunt for the Lizard, and see how a game with two lead characters would work, I yearned to discover more of this story. Where does it start? Where does it go? The biggest clues are in the times Peter and Miles interact and Miles can tell that Peter is not himself while that mysterious black suit lives inside him.
Thankfully, having played the first two games, I know that’ll come when the full game is released on October 20. And now that I’ve played a few hours of it, I’m extremely confident that Spider-Man 2 is not just going to be the best of the three, it may be the best superhero video game ever.
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