If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. When you’re a supervillain in the world of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, that goes double. The Big Apple is rife with opportunities for crooks, but in Insomniac Games‘ action game sequel, there’s not one but two web-slinging vigilantes to steer clear of. There’s also a certain headhunter in play, and he’s not picky about who he takes those heads from.
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Needless to say, a lot has changed since Insomniac Games’ first Spider-Man game. Though this sequel takes place just nine months after 2020’s Miles Morales expansion, it’s been hectic. Spider-Man protégé Miles is stressing over a looming college application, all while grappling with the death of his father. Meanwhile, legendary villain Kraven The Hunter wants a change of pace – but instead of hitting LinkedIn like the rest of us, he’s moved to New York City to kill worthy opponents and prove he’s the world’s greatest hunter.
As for Peter Parker, the original Spider-Man is keeping busy. Kraven is going after heroes and villains alike, and Parker’s best friend, Harry Osborne, is dying. There’s also the suit. The Symbiote parasite responsible for Peter Parker’s emo phase in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy has returned, granting Insomniac’s webslinger a dark new suit, powerful abilities, and a bad attitude.
These come in handy when Osborne’s research lab is attacked by Kraven’s mercenary outfit. A step up from New York City’s typical thugs, they’re still no match for Parker’s recent upgrades. Abilities from the first Marvel’s Spider-Man have carried over, so the crux of combat remains the same: hammer foes with webs, fists, and the occasional bin, all while paying attention to your tingling spidey senses to dodge incoming attacks. Yet the Symbiote suit gives Parker more options for going on the offensive. These abilities are incredibly satisfying to use and give you more to do in fights, though they’re nothing like the graceful attacks we’re used to seeing from Parker – one pummels enemies into walls with an elastic fist, another crumples crooks with a blast of Symbiote energy.
Besides these violent powers, the Symbiote has also made Parker distant to his friends, which is driving a wedge between him and Morales. The second spidey’s own combat prowess has been improved with his own set of electric-themed abilities. You can play as either vigilante outside of missions, and there’s virtually zero delay in swapping between them – even if they’re on opposite ends of NYC.
Speaking of which, we get a flying tour of the New York borough of Queens – an area that wasn’t in the first game – during Morales’ quest to save a kidnapped school mascot. While zipping across the city was one of the original Spider-Man‘s greatest strengths, it’s even more of a thrill here. In tandem with web-swinging, the sequel introduces web wings that let you soar over streets. This means you can get around the sequel’s larger map much quicker, which is fantastic as Insomniac has expanded the city’s side activities with more to do. In our time with the game we shut down arms deals, foiled robberies, and destroyed some of Kraven’s high-powered drones before they could track down their victim.
Then we chased a lizard. To help Osborne, Parker needs the help of scientific genius Dr. Connors, who was last seen investigating a cure in the Miles Morales expansion. The catch? Kraven has injected Connors with a serum that unleashes his scaly alter ego, The Lizard, which is now rampaging across NYC. This means Parker has to defend The Lizard from Kraven’s mercenaries while trying to avoid becoming a snack himself.
In a series of missions, Parker investigates Connors’ house to find clues to his whereabouts, followed by Morales tracking him through a fish factory. It culminates in the pair teaming up to chase The Lizard along the Hudson River, fending off an army of Kraven’s mercenaries who are hunting it with gunboats and attack choppers.
It’s a fantastic setpiece that plays like a Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster – you can check it out here – and although The Lizard gets away, we’re not far behind. Parker storms off in pursuit after blaming Morales for letting it escape, and their strained relationship suggests the Symbiote’s influence will be a major story point in the full game. After moping and swinging across NYC, Parker tracks down the Lizard in its hidden laboratory, where it’s time for a boss fight to beat some sense into Connors.
At first, it’s a deceptively easy battle. Parker’s new abilities deal massive damage, and while The Lizard hits incredibly hard, our spidey senses make staying out of harm’s way relatively simple. The goal is to inject a cure into Connors, but when The Lizard’s first health bar empties, the fight doesn’t end: instead it spills into the streets of NYC, where Kraven’s mercenaries get involved in a climactic battle on a skyscraper.
Our preview ends on a cliffhanger, as Spider-Man and The Lizard hurtle from a rooftop to the pavement below. We spent nearly four hours playing Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, but it feels like we barely scratched the surface of this sequel. Insomniac Games seems to have doubled down on a higher-stakes story and open-world exploration, while players will have a much larger playground in this expanded version of New York City. It remains to be seen how much depth there is to the game’s side activities, but after leaving the gig economy for supervillains in shambles, we left intrigued by everything we’ve seen so far.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 launches on October 20 for PS5.