Spider-Man 2: The Need For Speed

November 2, 2023

Written by Jamie Galea

In a month where there’s an honest to god new Sonic the Hedgehog game, what if I told you it’s not the fastest video game you’ll be playing all year? It’s a thought that’s been on my mind as I’ve been playing through Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, the third Spider-Man game from Insomniac. While I’m around halfway through the game (both as far as story and overall game completion), I don’t think there’s much I can say to add to the universal praise the game has been getting: it’s a good time, and one that I do recommend if you’ve got a PS5.

Yet the thing that’s been on my mind the most about Spider-Man 2 as I’m playing it, and the thing that’s really striking amidst all the games of its ilk, is how much it doesn’t want to waste your time. The cliche thing would be to say that the game runs on the philosophy of the New York minute, but it’s true. The game wants you to be fast and not bog you down, and that’s kind of refreshing.

If you’ve heard anything about Spider-Man 2, you’ve more than likely heard how the game handles fast travel, wherein instead of pointing to a predetermined spot on the map and instantly going to it, you can now target any point within any of the neighbourhoods, hold down a button and you’re there instantly. It’s genuinely one of the most stunning things I’ve seen in a game in quite a while, and the best argument yet about the power of these new consoles.

There’s a catch though: unlike the last two Spider-Man games, you actively have to do a bunch of the side content per neighbourhood to unlock fast travel for that area. It won’t take long though, as any side activity counts, from the more structured side missions to the individual activities to even the repeatable criminal encounters. It does mean we’re robbed of the incredible cutscenes of Spidey hanging out on a train to get to where he needs to go, but it’s a good way to show off what the console can do and makes getting around much easier.

Though if you’re like me, there’s still a great joy in just using Spidey’s tools to just get around New York, even more so than the frankly amazing fast travel system. Web swinging in this game is still the way to go, and there’s two massive improvements here that are worth the price of admission. The first is a series of what the game calls super slingshots, effectively specific points on the map where Spidey can just launch himself at speed. It solves a particular issue that really hampered getting around in the 2018 game, where moving between Manhatten and Queens/Brooklyn meant crossing the East River. To the surprise of nobody, it wasn’t a particularly great experience unless you were swinging alongside the Brooklyn & Manhatten Bridges, because there wasn’t anything in the water to help propel you.

You’d be pleased to know that many of the slingshots are dotted just on the either side of the East River, so if you need a quick and exhilarating way to fling yourself across the map, the super slingshots are a fantastic addition to the game. You won’t ever really need to worry about using webs to get across, because you’re going at that fast of a speed that Spidey can just bounce off the water and keep the momentum going!

But the best addition is that of a wing suit, known here as web wings. At any point you can hit the triangle button to change from swinging to gliding via the wingsuit, taking advantage of wind currents throughout the city, which’ll either make Spidey fly faster or give him more air, allowing for longer glide time. You can alternate between swinging and gliding really easily, with a nice flow between the two that works really well. If you’re after a more direct comparison, it really reminds me of how Avalanche handled a similar dynamic in Just Cause 3, and it’s just as satisfying here than it was in that game.

Throw in the ability to constantly upgrade all your forms of mobility and you have a game that makes the simple act of locomotion an utter joy. It sounds like something that shouldn’t need to be celebrated, but as someone who enjoys moving quickly and fantastic feeling platforming, every game that does a better than average job in this field needs celebrating.

Ultimately, this all benefits the side content where everything is now just snappier and far less grindy. Remember the High Speed chases from the last games? They’re now just a simple button press to effectively clear the encounter. Many of the other types have either been simplified or refocused into full blown mini-campaigns, and it’s better for it. It also helps there’s just far less of them, meaning there’s far less fat to chew through.

It’s a shame this doesn’t extend more to the main story content. These still have plenty of instances of the incredibly slow walk and talk story dispensing that has plagued gaming for over 15 years, plus some missions have maybe one or two more combat encounters than I’d personally like. Not that the combat is necessarily bad, it still feels it takes a bit too long to get through some of these encounters. Even if you’ve upgraded your combat skills to be much faster and more effective, it still doesn’t reduce the amount of encounters, but it does mean there’s just a bit more work you have to do.

I’ll leave with one more thought on this. Because of how much the game does not want to waste your time, it’s made me actively want to go out and try get the platinum trophy for this game. If you know me, you know this is maybe one of the highest compliments I can give a game. I almost never do this because it’s such a waste of time, particularly for open world games. Yet because Spider-Man 2 is a game that generally makes it fun to just move around, plus most of the side activities are pretty quick to get through in addition to the very fast fast travel, it’s been a joy to clear out the game. It also doesn’t hurt that the platinum is relatively simple and straight forward to obtain, naturally.

If you’re sick of open world games, I urge you to at least give Spider-Man 2 a try. You’d be surprised just how much better a game it is when things move fast, and there’s little fat on the bone.

 Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was provided by the publisher, for more pontifications on good feeling video games, follow Jamie over on Twitter (not X) at @jamiemgalea

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