Spider-Man 2's side-missions are the real heart of the game 1

With Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 out, you might be tempted to devour Insomniac’s new superhero adventure as fast as possible like a hungry Venom. I wouldn’t blame you. The sequel’s sprawling story is a complicated web of threads that beg to be untangled. It’s tempting to zoom from mission to mission, ignoring all other side activities until New York City has been properly saved from Kraven’s wrath.

If you find yourself in that boat, consider this a PSA: Don’t skip out on Spider-Man 2’s side missions. Though they aren’t as glitzy as the main campaign, the sequel’s best moments are consistently tucked away in quieter quests that emphasize compassion and community support over comic book violence. They’re the moments that best illustrate what it truly means to be a superhero.

Community support

Just like the previous two Spider-Man games, Insomniac’s open-world take on New York City is filled with optional storylines. Early on, Peter and Miles can stop to clean up a mess left by Sandman or take up jobs as local photographers. These aren’t just empty checklists to complete; even something as simple as collecting every Spider-bot in town leads to some kind of narrative payoff that’s usually worth seeing through to the end (especially since a 100% completion only takes around 35 hours).

The real meat of the adventure, though, comes in proper side missions. Peter and Miles get a handful of local requests through their FNSM app during the story that emphasize the “friendly neighborhood” part of Spider-Man’s job. Rather than dealing with evil supervillains, these are much gentler missions that have the duo connecting with their community on a more human level.

Two bodega cat spider-men mascots.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

Spider-Man 2’s best side quest comes when the heroes are asked to track down a missing grandpa. It’s a simple mission, as players just have to schlep around different spots in Brooklyn to try and find a wandering man. It doesn’t end in an exciting action set piece; instead, the payoff is Spider-Man sitting down with the old man in a park, who shares the story of how he and his wife met. It’s a tear-jerking scene and one that solidifies Spider-Man as not just a superhero, but a member of the community.

It’s a much-needed change of pace after the series’ first game, as the side missions there cast the webbed hero as a vigilante surveilling the city for the NYPD. Extra activities were more centered around breaking up drug deals and beating up low-level criminals. It’s an approach that earned the game some rightful criticism at the time, as it posited that a superhero is just a crime-fighting cop on a larger scale. Spider-Man 2 revises that thesis to underline the importance of being a helpful figure in the community.

Some Miles-specific side-missions push that further. One main quest unlocks a side story where Miles needs to track down some stolen instruments and return them to a museum. The missions themselves are standard superhero fare, as he swings through the streets chasing down runaway trucks. The conclusion of that quest is its real heart though, as it rewards players with a fully explorable museum celebrating Black musicians. The mission isn’t about pummeling crooks, sending them to jail, and calling it a day. Rather, it’s about giving something back to the community and honoring its history.

Street art of the Spider-Men in Marvel's Spider-Man 2.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

Spider-Man 2’s best missions consistently deal in compassion, with both heroes really taking the time to understand and love their city. And it wants players to feel the same way. One of the finest side-missions in the bunch lets players control Hailey Cooper, Miles’ deaf friend whom he communicates with through sign language. It’s a simple mission where she sets out to find a graffiti artist who tagged a flower shop, but all sound is muffled during it. For a brief moment, players get to experience New York City from her perspective as she carries out her own street-level heroism that’s as important as anything Spider-Man does.

Stories like this unlock Spider-Man 2’s more nuanced take on superheroism amid a massive comic book story with supernatural stakes. A hero isn’t just someone who can beat up a bank robber; sometimes, it’s someone who takes the time to help a blind woman find a service dog.

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

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