Are your Spidey senses tingling? Peter Parker and Miles Morales are back for a new web-slinging adventure in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 from Insomniac Games, out exclusively on PlayStation 5 on Oct. 20. Ahead of the release, Variety played roughly three hours of content during a special preview event in L.A., taking on several story missions and exploring the vast recreation of New York City.
Spider-Man 2 on PS5
The game picks up nine months after the events of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Miles struggles to write his college essay as Peter adjusts to life after Aunt May’s death (including paying the mortgage on her home) and reconnects with his best friend Harry Osborn.
The preview begins with Peter, clad in his new, black symbiote suit, searching a seemingly empty church for a serum to help Dr. Connors, a.k.a. the monstrous Lizard. “I see a man, but I sense a beast,” new villain Kraven the Hunter snarls from the darkness as he stalks Spider-Man in the rafters. “Why don’t you set it free?”
After the cutscene, players are given free rein in the open world, which nearly doubles the size of the previous games’ New York City maps by expanding to Queens and Brooklyn. Of course, with so much more ground to cover, there are some notable improvements to the web-slinging system. Most impressive is Peter and Miles’ new web wings, which create a flying squirrel-like ability to ride the wind, gliding faster and longer than ever before.
“We knew really early on that we were going to be on PS5, and we’ve architected a lot of the experience around that, whether it’s how fast you can go through the city to increase the traversal speeds, and then adding elements like the Super Slingshot and the wind tunnels, letting you go really, really fast,” Insomniac’s senior creative director Bryan Intihar tells Variety.
It’s not hard to get distracted from the main story while zooming past skyscrapers, and Insomniac has upped the ante with a staggering level of detail in the streets of the city. When a pop-up indicates a photo opportunity for Miles, he can swing down to sit atop a lamppost and hear a full conversation between chess players in the park.
“I don’t know if you’ve been in New York, but if you’ve seen it in movies or TV shows, there’s a sense of hustle and bustle to it. We always lead with gameplay and the story, but there’s that sense of just swinging through New York City and feeling that level of immersion that we want to push more,” Intihar says. “As we make more of these, we’re continually finding ways that we can do that, whether it’s adding more vehicles and pedestrians, adding more vignettes of people doing things like yoga, or just people walking through Central Park together. We want to ensure that it feels believable.”
One character who adds to the fabric of East Harlem in Miles’ story is street artist Hailey Cooper, who returns in the new entry, possibly as a love interest for Miles.
“There’s definitely vibes that are going on between Hailey and Miles. There’s a definite attraction that’s going on. But I think what we talked about in the first game is that when Spider-Man wins, Peter Parker loses. Miles is now at this point in his life where he’s got a maybe connection with Hailey, he’s graduating high school, he’s got to go to college, there are things happening in his personal life. But now the man that killed his father, Martin Li, is back in town,” says Narrative Director Ben Arfmann. “He feels like the thing he has to do for the people he loves is be Spider-Man. But Hailey is this voice that says, ‘I need Miles. I don’t need Spider-Man.’”
Advanced Senior Writer Lauren Mee adds that Hailey is far more than just a love interest, though. “She has this drama with Miles, but she has a very full life outside of it. It’s something that we see throughout the game … She has all these other hobbies. She has art you’ll find around the city.” She adds, “She likes to be with Miles. She loves spending time with him. When she’s not with him, you know damn well that she is off busy doing something else, and she’ll let him know.”
Hailey isn’t the only thing on Miles’ mind – he’s concerned with Peter’s growing aggression as the symbiote takes over. A commanding performance from actor Yuri Lowenthal makes the shift in Peter’s personality abundantly clear, coupled with a new suite of abilities using the symbiote’s powerful black tentacles. When players activate these powers, it doesn’t feel like a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man knocking out bad guys anymore. Instead, he can slam enemies to the ground with staggering force, feeling more like Peter is aiming to kill (or at least seriously injure).
Personality-altering Venom issues aside, the symbiote suit looks really sleek, and it’s just one of many new looks for the heroes. The game will boast over 65 suits and an improved suit style system, which allows players to unlock new color variants, like a bright yellow Advanced Suit 2.0. Standouts from the preview styles include Miles’ Boricua suit, featuring a Puerto Rican flag emblazoned on his chest, and Peter’s Apunkalyptic suit, which bears a strong stylistic similarity to Spider-Punk.
Also new in the sequel is a stealth mechanic which allows your Spider-hero to create a web tightrope across surfaces, greatly expanding the creative possibilities of sneaky gameplay, which sometimes felt rinse-and-repeat through encounters in the preceding games.
The first gameplay of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 feels authentic to the previous entries, all while making notable improvements to graphics and combat. If the full game lives up to high bar set by the preview, it’s sure to be a serious contender for best game of the year.