While playing Insomniac’s Spider-Man 2 and searching for a way to articulate my overall impressions, I kept returning to the phrase “more of the same” but in this instance it’s crucial to clarify that “more of the same” signifies more of one of the most accomplished, thrilling, and authentic superhero experiences of all time. It signifies more of a game that allows us to live out the fantasy of being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man better than any other medium. For my money, Insomniac’s games are the only place where longtime web-heads can contemplate that iconic phrase “with great power must come great responsibility,” feel the full weight of what it signifies, and have personal involvement in ensuring Spider-Man lives up to Uncle Ben’s guiding principle.
The weight of that responsibility has never been more apparent or felt as heavy as it does in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, which presents a much larger neighborhood for Spidey to do his friendly adventuring in. With the addition of Queens and Brooklyn, the sequel’s open-world is double the size of the original and, by utilizing the power of the PlayStation 5, Insonmanic is able to guarantee that players are always acutely aware of just how much of New York is relying on them.
Standing atop the Avengers Tower as Miles Morales, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the city stretching out far into the horizon. Expansive video game worlds aren’t exactly new and exciting these days, but there’s something different about the world of Insomniac’s Spider-Man titles. There’s a realistic familiarity to it, even more so now that the PS5 is able to render buildings as far as the eye can see and introduce small but subtle details that, while undoubtedly mundane, also make the world feel more alive: a plane passing overhead, boats cruising across the Hudson river, flocks of birds weaving between buildings, and people shuffling around the streets, to name just a few.
But for as overwhelming as it is, it makes that moment where you step out into it all the more exciting. And when it comes to moving through open-worlds, very few games make it as exciting as Marvel’s Spider-Man did, and its sequel does. That much became apparent the moment I stepped off the Avenger’s tower as Miles, falling at breakneck speed, the iconic silhouette of Spider-Man cutting through a golden blanket of sunlight as the final minutes of daylight tick away.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but in this moment I was so glad to have “more of the same.” As Miles plummeted towards street level, the wind rushing past his ears, the anticipation of firing a web that would latch onto a nearby anchor point built up until I hit the button as the thumping base and bouncing snare of a trap beat shattered the silence and and I was instantaneously swung back up into the sky, spinning wildly but still with the kind of controlled grace that only Spider-Man can have. It immediately put a smile on my face and, within seconds, the muscle memory of being Spider-Man in Insomniac’s last two games kicked in with exhilarating familiarity. Before I knew it I was catapulting myself across rooftops; falling low enough to the ground before firing off a web that Miles’s feet would graze the pavement on the upswing; zipping around and across buildings, arms brushing windows as I sprinted along windows and through fire escapes.