Spider-Man 2 (2023)

Spider-Man 2 (2023)

While this is the second numbered game in the newer Spider-Man series, this is actually the third Spider-Man game. Miles Morales was the second and it came out in 2020 as a crossplay between PS4 and the new PS5 (that no one could actually get ahold of for 2+ years, thanks covid). But those times are long gone and now PS5’s can be had by all and we get another console exclusive. So I finally got to brush the dust off my PS5 after a year of inactivity since last year’s God Of War Ragnarok, and dive head first into some good ol’ Spidey action.

Just as the game presents itself as basically two games, I’m gonna write this review in two parts as well. Let’s start and get the bad stuff out of the way first. This game clearly has a few issues going on, one is the odd pacing, due in large fact to playing a balancing act between two protagonists. The real Spider-Man Peter Parker, and the “me too!” Miles Morales, who just so happened to *also* get bit by a radioactive spider and become Spider-Man. It was all addressed in the pointless stop-gap game Miles Morales, so it’s not really worth drudging up too much here. But spending time bouncing between these two characters really does drag the real story down. And just like with all trilogies (remember this is the third game) it suffers from the dreaded Spider-Man 3 issue, cramming way too much into a single game. You not only deal with Kraven The Hunter, and a few other villains, but you are dealing with the Black Suit symbiote and Venom as well. Luckily it’s a video game, so there is much more time to spend on these characters, but they are spread too far apart. The game seems to forget act structure and the open endedness of the game feels like certain plot points go missing for long periods of time. Some being “very important” get left hanging for hours if you decide to get to it right away or not.

My main real issue is the wokeness of the game. Sadly, we live in a time where racism is very prevalent, and wokeism is racism. If changing the color radically changes the interpretation of a movement, it’s racist. Plain and simple. White Lives Matter. The propaganda of singling out and focusing solely on leaving white people out of as many side stories as possible is just laughable at this point. And just let me rant for a moment here, but are you seriously telling me, Black Cat, the super sexy bodacious babe who lusts after Peter Parker every moment she is on screen, is now “suddenly” is a lesbian because she went to Paris? I thought it wasn’t a choice, right? So even though she was with Peter Parker, and tries to seduce him every chance she can.. That was all a lie and totally because she wasn’t actually into dudes? Come on.

Ok ok, I’m done, but you can see how silly it is. They know what they are doing and how ridiculous it is, and none of it makes sense to the story and they go out of the way to prop these insane out of nowhere things up as beacons of virtue in the game constantly.

The fact that they shoehorn in a whole sidequest where Miles (he’s not Spider-Man) spends time at his highschool to help some gay kid ask out another gay kid is just unbelievable how much they are forcing this crap into video games. Along with a whole side quest just to have “inclusivity” (read “Propaganda”), but I’ll get to that later. Wokeness doesn’t belong here or anywhere.

Let’s continue with the review. It’s interesting how Insomniac has split the storytelling up here, as Miles and his stories feel very different than those of Peter, after a couple of hours of gameplay, you almost feel that these were two separate games, developed by different teams, and then sandwiched together with some glue and duct tape. They feel like separate experiences and reasons for existing. I do love the freedom Insomniac has with taking well trodded character arcs, like the Osbornes, or The Black Suit/Symbiote and give different twists to it. It’s actually the first time I actually believe the Harry Osborne and Peter Parker friendship. While it still never been my favorite part, I finally see a few times that they are genuinely friends and care for each other, even when you think jealousy might show up, it doesn’t (till the end) They let the friendship breathe and seem natural. Genuine emotion and friendship seem front and center between the two and it makes for a much more interesting story.

Even Miles’ story, seems well crafted when it’s focusing on the relationships between real characters and not trying to shove propaganda in. The side story dealing with the fallout between his uncle Aaron aka The Prowler from his 1.5 game is actually really fun. It’s just a few fetch quests, letting Miles snatch up some unused nebulous “tech”, and comes down to learning to try and be a family again, and putting the past aside. Even the weirdly shoehorned deaf girl Hailey gameplay section, can have it’s brief moments of enjoyment. I see what they are going for, and while I personally don’t have an issue with trying something new to create a broader more interesting experience, people HATED the stealth MaryJane sections in the original, and it comes back again, but it actually moves the plot forward. The Hailey graffiti section is actually pointless, and exists to satisfy some sort of ESG requirement at Sony. She’s a deaf black girl, so they can check some big boxes there. ASL (American Sign Language, which I actually think is interesting and took in High School in 2002) is a very large part of this game because of this character’s inclusion and focus. It would be cool and interesting, if you didn’t see the insidious purpose behind the scenes. If it was included because the developer thought it would add to the art of the overall game…. I’m 100% ok with that, because that is what a video game is, art, and if the developer wants to make that, it’s ok in my book. Even if I didn’t agree with it. But to include it as a part of some “we have to shove this into people’s faces as a checkmark on some propaganda”... then I have a bigger issue with it.

One last thing about the inclusion of this stuff. Miles has a whole side quest getting back music instruments for a museum exhibit showcasing black musicians. If this was a storyline where Peter Parker saved a museum exhibit showcasing white musicians, it would be lamblasted as racist. Tell me, what’s the difference? .. again, I have no problem with the actual missions themselves, and the ending to the quest is cool, as it lets you walk around the exhibit and learn a bit of history of the birth of blues and jazz and the culture. But to single it out, and make it all about skin color and really nothing else, it stands out like a sore thumb in a Spider-Man game. Again, the Peter Parker side would NEVER be allowed to have something like this take place. And the less said about the weird bee propaganda, the better (Yeah remember that was a thing the media was pushing hard for a solid couple months until the next thing they didn’t want you to pay attention to came up, and they never mentioned the bees again?).

I’m of two minds about the game as a whole, as I’ve stated, those woke issues are a real big bother to me. I don’t like being told I need to care about this when it’s only an issue because people tell me it’s an issue won’t shut up about it. And two, the game itself now has introduced a bit of franchise fatigue. I’ve seen several people bemoan the “It’s just more of the same”. It wouldn’t be an issue if it was the second game, but it’s the third, and just like Batman Origins, Miles Morales didn’t need to exist, and only caused people to not care as much. If this was the follow up to the critically acclaimed 2018 Spider-Man game, one of the best reviewed PS4 exclusives… it would be a different story. But because everyone has kinda gotten their fill, and the game just kinda delivers more of the same, and even with more issues and bugs… it’s not as special.

The game also takes on a weird act structure, where Kraven is the main villain for the first half of the game, and the second half is the Symbiote taking over Peter’s personality and eventually bonding with someone else to become Venom is the second half. Oh yeah, and The Lizard is in the game for a chunk of time as well, and just kinda comes and goes. And that second half by far outshines the first. Kraven is a villain that is very interesting when written well, and the game gives him much more backstory and fills out his character and role much more than I was expecting. The dive into his family history and even connection to The Chameleon was actually a surprise. Kraven’s Last Hunt, the comic that really spends the most with Kraven was clearly an inspiration, but it doesn’t stick to it completely, which I’m glad about. I found Kraven’s storyline complete but could have done without a couple of the base clearing out missions, that throws so many enemies at Spider-Man that it borders on the ridiculous. Kraven’s band of loyal followers seems more like a small country’s army, especially given the technology at play.

Where the game really shines though is in the back half of the game, and it really feels like it should have been two games. The break points and the constant swapping could have easily been broken up better and since I had the compulsion to 100% the game from the outset (something I rarely ever do) I started to feel burnt out on the game’s combat and mechanics near this point. There were several sections where I’d rather just watch a cutscene play out than have to spend swinging across the New York Skyline once more. The Black Suit/Symbiote story isn’t anything new, we’ve seen in countless times in TV and even on the big screen, and frankly, I’m blown away by how well it’s done here. Peter’s turn into a rage-filled egotistical monster slowly seeps into the dialogue. With a quick brush off here, and a pompous quip there. You know it’s coming, but it’s done subtle enough to make it feel earned. And the very unexpected change from Eddie Brock (who isn’t in the game) to Harry Osborne becoming Venom was a nice diversion. Harry is a standout character in the game, that really shines as a great example of making Peter and Harry’s friendship believable. It’s never seemed very great in the movies, and Green Goblin has been done to death. You just can’t out-do Willem Defoe’s Green Goblin (as goofy as the costume was).

The Venom rampage through Oscorp was something I wasn’t expecting, and seeing Venom take shape into this hulking tank of a character was just unbelievable. The voice, the movement, and oozing tendrils of the symbiote… it all meshes together perfectly into a great and amazing section of the game that reinvigorated me. Seeing how far they push the violence of a Marvel game marketed to a very broad demographic is just joyful. The final confrontation with Kraven in the rain soaked street of Times Square is a genuine blockbuster set piece that held my attention the entire time. Even as the control gets put back into Spider-Man for the rest of the game, the Venom sequence stands out as a great section.

There is a sidequest with Yuri (the cop from the first game) who has become a vigilante and I forgot all about that relationship. It’s really good and interesting, but it also brought back the memories of the first game and how much better it felt. I started to really notice the differences between the first and the other two games. Cops barely exist in this game, and when they do, they aren’t given very good treatment (again, propaganda thanks to the summer riots of 2020). It really is a shame how much of this stuff seeps into the games edges, just creating an overall less interesting game, once you see “the wizard behind the curtain” (It’s a Wizard Of Oz reference).

All in all, Spider-Man 2 is both a good and bad game. I honestly felt worse and worse playing the game the more I saw the woke agenda being pushed harder and harder as the game went on. I also find people aren’t as hot on it as I would have expected too. They all seem to be hiding behind the “it’s more of the same”, but they’ll gladly praise Super Mario Wonder the same week (Which is WAYYYYY more of “it’s more of the same” than Spider-Man 2). I really think it has to do with people are done with the bombardment of wokeism in games. However they don’t want to say it, for fear of backlash and “Cancel Culture”. This woke propaganda is unwanted and really a turn off. It’s clearly isn’t wanted by most, as we are starting to see more turn their nose up to things with it being shoved into.

I would love to say Spider-Man 2 is a great game, I’d love to say it’d be in the top of my Top 10 this year… but it isn’t and won’t be, because the game is kinda just ok, it’s good in certain aspects, when the material is left alone and tells a nice Spider-Man story, but when it shoves it’s homosexual and racist ideas into it’s story, it becomes a very bad experience. If this game stuck to Peter Parker Spider-Man, and focused on Kraven and Venom, it would have been a really great solid 9 out of 10 type of game. But with the inclusion of some much garbage, and the forceful “The black highschooler is better than the white man” being Spider-Man push, it’s too much to recommend. It taints the game too much and man, looking back on the game, I regret spending money on it at all. I hope this series doesn’t come back, it doesn’t deserve to. Just let it die, and we’ll hopefully get another Spider-Man reboot in a few years without all the propaganda.