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What We Loved And Hated In Spider-Man 2 On PS5

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is one of the biggest games of 2023 and a few of us at Kotaku have been playing it quite a bit in recent weeks. After wrapping the main story, Kotaku writers Ethan Gach and Zack Zwiezen (along with a surprise cameo from Kotaku’s new Editor In Chief, Jen Glennon) came together to discuss everything we liked and didn’t like in Insomniac’s latest PS5 banger.

Spider-Man 2's New Web Wings Make It Feel Like A Proper Sequel

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Oh, and let’s be clear: There are big spoilers below!

Buy Marvel’s Spider-Man 2: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

Zack Zwiezen: Beware! Spider-Man 2 spoilers will be in here!

Ethan Gach: It all feels like a blur, Zack.

ZZ: That’s basically how I’ve felt about most things since about 2020ish.

EG: Where do we even start?

ZZ: After having time to sit with it, after doing everything, I think I like this game more than both the first one and Miles Morales. How do you feel?

EG: I definitely like it more overall than the first two games, although tons more stuff means lots more opportunities to be annoyed, disappointed, or bored as well.

One of the things that’s left me so torn on Spider-Man 2 is that very little of what I really loved had anything to do with the Venom arc at the center of it. The biggest, longest, most expensive parts of the game were just kind of…there.

Of all the versions of Spider-Man getting Venom, giving up Venom, and then destroying Venom that I’ve experienced over the years, this one did not leave much of an impression, even if there were individual moments and aspects of it that were fantastic.

ZZ: Yeah. I felt the same way. And I think it’s probably because this game spends a lot of plot time on Kraven, and he just sucks in this game and is barely around for most of it, never really interacting with our main cast.

And then he’s killed and the game has to do the “Venom suit corrupts Peter but he beats it and it finds a new host” arc in a very short amount of time and it feels rushed.

When Kraven is killed by Venom, in one of the coolest moments in the whole game (getting to play as Venom!) I remember feeling nothing but frustration that the game wasted so much time on this dork.

EG: I’ve never been particularly interested in Kraven, but he was such a blank slate here, with no particularly interesting motivations or tricks up his sleeve.

There’s a moment when he kills Scorpion, which is meant to be an “oh shit, this ain’t no ordinary villain” moment. It reminded me of the first time Bane shows up in Batman: The Animated Series. He quickly beats Killer Croc, signaling Batman’s about to get his ass kicked in a way we’re not used to. It’s a fun moment helped out by the fact that Bane’s special ability is getting super jacked, showing the limits of Batman’s reliance on physical prowess to overcome his opponents.

Here there’s no real sense of why Peter needs the Venom suit to beat Kraven. In fact, Spider-Man 2's rationale for Peter taking on the black suit is getting stabbed. None of it really comes together to make for a particularly exciting or memorable showdown.

ZZ: It’s also weird how the hunters he employs keep saying Miles isn’t a threat when I keep destroying them over and over and over. Same with Peter.

It all just feels a bit messy and doesn’t come together as well as the villain arc in the first Spider-Man on PS4 with Doctor Otto Octavius. Even Insomniac seems to understand this by teasing Doc Ock’s return in the post-credits scene. It felt like the studio signaling that the next game won’t whiff on the main bad guy as much.

Buy Marvel’s Spider-Man 2: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

PlayStation / Marvel

Jen Glennon, Kotaku’s Editor In Chief, enters the chat…

Jen Glennon: I found myself repeatedly asking how Kraven managed to get so many terrorists with jetskis into New York City. Like there was a bottomless well of these grunts. At least with the symbiote enemies the hordes made sense. But with Kraven, why are hundreds of people so supportive of this guy’s weird fetish?

EG: I have so many questions about the operations budget and logistics surrounding Kraven’s crew. I guess it’s all just Russian oligarch money.

ZZ: But while Kraven is disappointing (and a little confusing, where did he get all those jetskis), I want to shout out Tony Todd’s Venom performance. It was top tier. Easily my favorite Venom actor. He should have been the main villain, IMO.

JG: Maybe the comics explain all this better but it seems like a strange hill for these folks to die on. Even the “Carnage Fire Cult” had clearer motivations.

ZZ: That’s true. It also brings up something I appreciated about the side stories in Spider-Man 2: All of them had good, interesting payoffs.

JG: They really did. I enjoyed the Miles and the jazz museum stuff and the Fire Cult questlines a lot. Even the one-off missions, like Harold and his pigeons and the blind granny with the robot dog, were quite memorable.

ZZ: Yeah, when I reached the end of each one I was rewarded with a tease of some supervillain or possible DLC storyline. And many of them ended in a mission that felt bigger than just a cutscene, which I was surprised by as most side content in these kinds of open-world games fizzles out by the end.

EG: Loved every side mission except for a couple like the fireworks one and filming the school video.

JG: I did not like the Mysteriums, gotta say. Does that have a rewarding payoff?

EG: They felt underdeveloped. The combat challenges could have been a lot more interesting, even if some of the Arkham Scarecrow callbacks were kind of cool.

ZZ: They tease some Mysterio stuff, but it’s the weakest payoff.

EG: I secretly wish the next Spider-Man would just be a giant open-world side-quest fest. The Uncharted-like storytelling is the stuff that works for me the least, even though it’s most visually spectacular. Probably more so in Spider-Man 2 where I just did not care about Peter’s power trip in the suit and eventually getting forced out of it.

Miles’ personal and emotional journey was way more compelling, maybe in part because it’s not saddled with all these expectations of big blockbuster moments.

ZZ: For sure. I had that same thought.

When I was done with all the side stuff I found myself feeling sad as it was the best part of the game. I’d love to see a DLC pack for this game that just added like 40 new side missions and all of them were just their own thing, not tied into Venom or Kraven’s hunters. Just an expansion pack that lets me keep doing stuff as Spider-Man around NYC for a few more hours.

That would also give me an excuse to keep web-slinging and winging around the city for hours.

And again, like the first Spider-Man and Miles Morales, I wish other open-world games were half as fun to move around in as Spider-Man 2. I just spent hours hunting down collectibles because I love moving around in these games. And the wingsuit adds to the toolbox in a smart way.

EG: The wingsuit is incredible and made me wish there were more gameplay elements built around it beyond the drone chases.

There are lots of comparisons to the Batman: Arkham games for obvious reasons, but one reason I still think those games have an edge is how much more tightly integrated everything feels. Spider-Man 2 often still feels like a platformer collect-a-thon with a movie grafted onto it.

ZZ: Yeah, you feel like you are playing separate modules and not one big cohesive thing. And while the modules are fun, I do wish for more of that tightness

For example, one of the science puzzles in Spider-Man 2 involves tracking down a plant that was stolen, and when you go back to finish the puzzle you get ambushed mid-puzzle by some goons. It was a rare moment when the combat, puzzle solving, and open world all blended into one good, organic moment. I wanted more of that.

EG: Yes. The Man-Bat ambush in Arkham Knight, to use another example.

Spider-Man 2 is a lot of fun and a great technical showpiece but doesn’t take many risks to try and push the formula forward.

Can we talk about the Symbiote nests? The entire city getting Venomed was the most Avengers: Age of Ultron ending I’ve seen in a big game in a long time, and it sucked.

ZZ: It also felt like them redoing the worst part of the first game, when all the gangs take over at the end.

JG: I think they backed themselves into a corner a bit by opening with the Sandman fight that felt so massive. I would have appreciated a smaller-scale final conflict.

EG: I did appreciate that at least in Spider-Man on PS4 there was the attempt at making the world feel more hostile near the end with the Sable lockdown. Here it was just another reason to throw huge mobs of enemies at you. Why not just let us fight Venom at the old high school in a combination stealth/boss fight?

JG: Totally, I thought that’s where it was gonna end up!

ZZ: Boy howdy, the boss fights go on way too long, too. Almost every one of them. None of the fights are super challenging or annoying, but they just take twice as long as they should.

EG: Except for Miles’ fight against Mister Negative, which I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of. His giant monster avatar in the negative realm was kind of hokey, but mostly I loved every time they were on screen together. Miles going all Inception on Peter’s subconscious was brilliant. 15 more minutes of that please instead of a three-phase Lizard fight.

ZZ: Yes. That fight was the lone exception where I wanted more. It’s also hilarious to me that Mr Negative, the last game’s villain, has more of an impact on the story than Kraven by the end, with him helping to grant Peter the Anti-Venom suit and powers.

I also liked that Miles didn’t forgive Mr. Negative for killing his dad. He agrees to work together, to move on, and not let the hate control him. But he doesn’t give Mr. Negative forgiveness. It felt different from Peter who is sometimes, IMO, too quick to forgive and forget. Miles felt very human and relatable in that moment.

EG: One thing we can’t not talk about: MJ going full Commander Shepard. I love that Spider-Man 2 went there and also hated that sequence.

ZZ: I distinctly remember the first time the game made me play as MJ and I said out loud to myself, “I thought we were done with this shit.”

And by the end, when the game becomes a not-so-great third-person cover shooter starring MJ, I was both amused and relieved because it feels like Insomniac can’t push this any further. I can’t see them doing more of this in Spider-Man 3? Right?

EG: On the other hand, the MJ/Scream fight was incredible. I think it may be one of my favorite boss fights ever for the dialogue alone, which was almost too real at points.

ZZ: Yes. Hearing MJ go off about Peter being Spider-Man, her not feeling like she did anything to help people, and how she felt her life had stopped to support him was rough. It almost felt like I should leave the room and let them work this out privately.

It was just a bit disappointing that it mostly gets resolved right there and we don’t have like another scene or call post-credits when you are just whipping around the city where Peter and MJ discuss some of that stuff in depth. Because that seems like something that happened off-screen.

EG: It was definitely a bit overly tidy, though I enjoyed the way they sort of handle it in the moment which is that you kind of know they both kind of know that that shit will need to be dealt with, just not right this moment.

ZZ: I did like that too, the way they both were like, “Later.” I just wish we got the later scene.

EG: That happens a lot in Spider-Man 2, a game that throws so much at you it’s constantly rushing to get to the next beat.

One thing I hope is that we get a more direct expansion this time rather than an episodic set of small DLCs like the first game. As a whole they were nice, but breaking them up piecemeal diluted the impact. The best thing I can say about Spider-Man 2 is that for all the ups and downs and unevenness, I still want more.

ZZ: Same. When Spider-Man 2 works—and it does more often than it doesn’t—it’s one of the most compelling and fun AAA games of 2023. It’s just a bit uneven in ways that hopefully can be addressed in what is shaping up to likely be a big trilogy finale.

JG: [Realizing that this wasn’t just a chat about the game and was meant for the website.] Oh wait this was a blog?! I was just in here for a chat! You can cut me out.

[Welcome to Kotaku, Jen!]

Buy Marvel’s Spider-Man 2: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

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