Spider-Man 2 feels like the first true PlayStation 5 game 1

When Sony set out to highlight the power of the PS5 and its SSD, it did so with a modified version of Marvel’s Spider-Man. We were treated to a flythrough of the city from end to end at speeds greater than even our web-slinging hero could hope to match without a hiccup or drop in graphical quality. That makes it fitting that the first game that feels like it fully lives up to the promises the PS5 was sold on is none other than Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.

This generation has had a notably more drawn-out separation from the previous. Nearly all of Sony’s first-party releases, including God of War Ragnarok and Horizon Forbidden West, have seen dual releases on PS4 and PS5. Having played the technically astounding Spider-Man 2it now seems clear that developers had been holding back to get their games to run on older hardware. Even Insomniac’s own Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, a PS5 exclusive, now feels like an opening act that was warming us up for the headliner. Spider-Man 2 finally feels like the first game that could not exist on any console other than the PS5.

Tipping the scale

EMBARGOED FOR 9/15 8 AM PT Miles swings through New York in Marvel's Spider-Man 2.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

The opening moments of Spider-Man 2 are a clear example of Insomniac showing off exactly how talented its team is. You can expect most games to open with some sort of set piece or grand moment to make a strong first impression and hook you in, but Spider-Man 2 goes above and beyond. Its initial villain encounter shows off a sense of scale almost unheard of at this level of visual fidelity, but that alone isn’t unique. What makes this sequence such a punch to the gut is how seamlessly it transitions players from small to large-scale moments without missing a beat. One moment, I’m fighting goons in a close-quarters space, only to then be yanked into a fully rendered city as a massive villain shifts and moves through the open world.

Where the tech starts to get truly mind-blowing is in sequences where the camera rushes from one character to another, traveling through miles of busy city streets. When the camera finally lands on Miles or Peter, I’m given immediate control of them — no loading necessary. It’s a mind-boggling feat that would never have been possible until now.

Insomniac even builds on some of its impressive tech first introduced in Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. In one set-piece, a mind-bending chase scene in which players instantly jump from location to location in a silky smooth flow, sees the team flexing its mastery over the PS5’s lightning-fast SSD. That it’s so casually dropped in the middle of a story like it’s no big deal speaks to the power on display here.

Oh, and this is all happening at 60 frames per second with ray-tracing enabled.

Spider-Man 2 makes a great effort to use the DualSense’s haptics and adaptive triggers to its advantage, too. You get the more subtle feeling of tension while swinging, but more intense scenes ratchet up the resistance to emphasize dramatic moments. Every time the triggers tense, lock up, or relax, it’s in the service of immersion. While there are some puzzles that make more explicit use of the controller features, they blend in to become a part of the experience without drawing attention to themselves.

It’s all in the details

Peter and Miles perched next to each other in Marvel's Spider-Man 2.
Sony Interactive Entertainment / Sony Interactive Entertainment

Spider-Man 2‘s New York is a true open world that is stunning whether you’re dive-bombing with your wingsuit from the top of a skyscraper or walking through the streets and admiring the storefronts. Yet again, Insomniac didn’t stop there. Fast traveling is an astonishing feat that’ll make your draw drop the first time you try it. Click anywhere on the map and you’ll be loaded there in an instant. Seriously. You can even switch between the game’s two lead characters with barely two seconds of loading.

As impressive as the near-instant loading was in Ghost of Tsushima, the way Spider-Man 2 can not only bring you from one end of the world to the other in the blink of an eye but often does so without interrupting gameplay is the real innovation. It isn’t as easy to point to as graphics or performance, but this is really what makes the game “next-gen” in my eyes. We claimed loading screens were dead last generation, but were only hiding them (2018’s God of War was a masterclass in that). Here, Insomniac has finally dealt the true killing blow.

Every console generation has had diminishing returns in terms of how big a leap the technology is from the previous. For the first few years, it felt like the PS5 had very little going for it aside from slightly better graphics and more options to run at 60 FPS than the PS4. Now that Spider-Man 2 is here, the bar has been set. If you’ve been skeptical or holding out on buying a PS5 because no game seemed to really stand apart from last-gen, Spider-Man 2 is the game you’ve been waiting for.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is available now on PS5.

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