early one hundred years after Langston Hughes wrote the seminal poem “The Weary Blues,” the words “He did a lazy sway. . . . He did a lazy sway. . . .” adorn my screen as I walk through a Harlem cultural center.
I’m exploring the virtual space as Miles Morales, co-star of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, whose presence elevates Insomniac’s latest title to a level of art worthy of Hughes’ poem. It’s a game about web-slinging and fistfights, sure, but it’s also about sacrifice and redemption, and every mile of its gorgeously textured New York teems with human stories that redefine what heroism means.
In the 2018 PlayStation 4 game, Peter Parker faced off against the members of the Sinister Six while balancing his relationship with Mary Jane. The story reaches its climax with the heartbreaking death of Aunt May at the hands of Otto Octavius. Meanwhile, Miles Morales experienced the loss of his father during the events of that game, and he later took the lead in a smaller follow-up title where he rescued the city from the corrupt tech giant, Roxxon Energy.
Now, in ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man 2,’ players can seamlessly switch between both heroes with a simple button press. Peter juggles his responsibilities as he takes on a new teaching job at Miles’ high school, while Miles grapples with college applications. The game allows players to witness their interconnected civilian lives while they join forces to protect the city.
The storyline is enriched with personal moments, especially in side-missions, such as one where Miles assists his mother, Rio Morales, in opening a Harlem community center dedicated to preserving the legacies of real-world writers, musicians, and artists. This particular mission is an intriguing blend of history lessons and a spectacular showcase.
Much like many of the game’s quests, it transforms the conventional perception of superhero work. For example, after retrieving stolen artifacts for the museum, Miles pays homage to his late father through their shared love of jazz.
The game opens with a battle against a super-sized Marko Flint, known as Sandman, as he towers above Midtown. You swap between both Miles and Peter to bring him down as he blasts apart whole city blocks in a blind rage.
Following their encounter with Marko, Miles and Peter discover that he is haunted by memories of his daughter. Players are tasked with collecting these scattered memories across random alleys and skyscrapers throughout the city. Each fragment contributes to restoring Marko’s humanity, and the accompanying sound clips vividly depict the pain he has endured over the years.
In the midst of these emotional journeys, the classic series antagonist Kraven enters the scene, leading a group of mercenaries in pursuit of previously-captured villains like Scorpion and Vulture, whom he deems worthy prey as the world’s preeminent hunter. As Peter and Miles work to thwart Kraven’s designs, they also strive to assist their former adversaries in finding a path to redemption.
Tombstone, another notorious villain, undergoes a significant transformation, exchanging his leather jacket for the attire of a Coney Island carnival worker, complete with charming rides. Later in the game, Peter, along with the highly enhanced Harry Osborn, stages a rescue operation to liberate Tombstone from Kraven’s henchmen.