Insomniac's imminent superhero blockbuster, Spider-Man, has looked increasingly promising since its announcement all the way back at E3 2016. We've yet to try the game out for ourselves, but based on what the media has been saying after playing a demo at this year's LA show, it's sounding like this is going to be absolutely top drawer stuff. It could potentially become Spidey's best game yet.
But to do that, it'll have to dethrone the game widely accepted as the web slinger's greatest gaming adventure: Spider-Man 2, released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2. At the time, this game had a surprising amount of innovative features, such as a big, seamless open world, random emergent events, and exceedingly well-realised locomotion. All this from a licensed game based on the film of the same name. Games based on existing properties were never very good, especially going back a decade or so, but Treyarch's impressive action title would prove not only that movie tie-ins could be great, but that a Spider-Man game could be too.
The question is, has Spider-Man 2's famous web swinging, combat, and overall structure stood the test of time? We've been playing it again, partly because we're excited about the new Spidey game, and partly because we're genuinely curious to see if it's as good as we remember. After spending a good few hours swinging around Manhattan, beating up petty criminals, and retrieving balloons for wailing children, we're pleasantly surprised to say that it remains a fun Spider-Man sandbox.
Just getting around in Spider-Man 2 can still be a pure joy. The web swinging is what most people remember about this game, and it was a revolutionary take on Spidey's iconic mode of transport, because webs no longer inexplicably clung to thin air. By attaching to buildings and putting the emphasis squarely on player skill, the mechanic was an instant hit, and some say it's yet to be bettered. During our recent time with the game, we had fun aimlessly swooping through the city. It's a little clunky and inflexible by today's standards, killing your momentum if you catch a building at an awkward angle, but it's still pretty playable.
It's impressive that the web swinging generally holds up, but frankly, the rest of the game has aged less gracefully. The combat was never great, but it feels very rigid. The story is all over the place thanks to an expanded roster of villains embellishing the movie's plot, and appalling voice acting across the board doesn't help matters. As for the open world activities, they work well enough, but quickly become repetitive.
As we look ahead to Spider-Man on PS4, it's hard not to be optimistic. If the 14-year-old web slinging is still entertaining, we imagine that a modern take will make traversing the Big Apple a constant thrill. As for everything else, because Insomniac isn't shackled to a movie's story and has been given creative freedom, we don't see how the narrative, combat, and side content will be anything less than a huge improvement. Of course, there's still a little time left before we find out for sure. Spider-Man 2's traversal is still pretty good, but with everything else seriously showing its age, a new favourite could be swinging onto the scene.
Do you have fond memories of Spider-Man 2? Which Spidey game is your personal favourite, and do you think Insomniac's upcoming game will replace it? Deliver a pizza in the comments below.