Spider-Man 2 Wastes Its Biggest Narrative Swing

Spider-Man 2 starts as it means to go on, with a splashy set-piece, a major boss battle, and equal narrative weight given to Peter Parker and Miles Morales. The Sandman sequence that has circulated heavily around the internet in the past couple of days is the very first thing you do in the game, getting straight into the showdown with no preamble. But there’s one narrative flourish that Insomniac unfortunately disposes of once the opening scene is over.


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Peter’s story in the game is relatively simple, made more complex by the introduction of the Symbiote. He’s a poor guy struggling to get by, and instead of being able to lean on his Aunt May for help, he’s instead tasked with keeping up with the financial needs of her house while dealing with the emotional grief of clearing it out. MJ’s not ready to commit and move in when she needs to be in the city, and being Spider-Man makes it hard to hold down a job, so Peter’s life outside the suit is hanging on by a thread.

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For Miles, it’s a different story. He’s also more confident when he’s in the suit, but his street-clothes struggles involve him trying to get into college and working up the nerve to ask Hailey out. Insomniac finds a way to bring these together. When Miles walks into physics class in his very first scene, he’s greeted by his new teacher – Mr. Parker. This makes a lot of sense; Peter is extremely intelligent and good with people, so he can’t be a terrible teacher, right?

Spider-Man 2 Picture of Miles and Peter Hanging Out

Well, five minutes into the lesson the Spidey sense kicks in. Peter and Miles make awkward excuses to leave the room, they fight Sandman, and the game is up and running. Mr. Parker’s story is already over though – for abandoning his class during an emergency, he is fired on the spot. This feeds into his internal struggle of both never feeling good enough as Peter and feeling under-appreciated for the work he does as Spider-Man. But it sets up an interesting connection between the characters that it throws out the window before it can be developed.

My disappointment with this decision was the first thing I wrote down about the game. Playing it through to the end, I loved the experience and I, like pretty much everyone else, have its story as a high point. It may be that a ‘Mr. Parker’ arc was too restrictive for the ways either Peter or Miles needed to develop here, or provided a narrative roadblock to their growing distance. But it feels like seeing Peter in that environment is wasted potential.

Out of the suit, Peter Parker is a failure. He’s found someone to love, but his only other friends are a guy who’s been ill in a tank and some kid he just met who has the same superpowers as him. He has no job, and the only one he can manufacture involves faking pictures of himself. Even then, he’s regularly critiqued on his composition – he’s only good at that because he’s got the advantage of always knowing where Spider-Man will be.

He’s a nice guy and he means well, but without the suit he’s fairly useless. Peter B. Parker in Spider-Verse emphasises these flaws, but most versions of Peter have them. Insomniac’s is no exception, and putting him in a position where he could excel, and where the devs could build on Miles’ obvious admiration for his mentor, is a very smart move. Unfortunately, the Symbiote story proved too big to make room for it, and now we’ll probably never revisit it.

Sandman in the middle of the city causing a sandstorm and making a sharp spike with his left arm that Peter must counter.

I don’t know that Spider-Man 2 would be a better game if Peter was Miles’ teacher at Brooklyn Visions. Peter being unemployed yet again is a factor in the story, so I’d find it much easier to make the case that it might, in fact, be worse. But it feels as though the game teases one lesser-explored direction that connects our two stars in an inventive way, then throws that out after the first bout of gameplay. Even if what we eventually get is better, I can’t stop thinking of what could have been.

Future games probably won’t get the chance to touch on this either. With Miles on the precipice of college, there will be a different dynamic in any possible sequel, and the door to explore the Mr. Parker story has closed. That could open up a window to new heights, but it’s a shame Insomniac’s first move in the sequel is to take an idea away. Thankfully, what remains is well worth sticking around for.

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