I live and breathe Spider-Man. I’ve loved him long enough that I used to call him “Pider-Man” because I couldn’t pronounce the “S” when I was a baby. Spidey has always been a part of my life, so of course I was beyond excited for “Spider-Man 2” (SM2), the video game that was recently released in October. This game damn near put a stop to my love, social and work life. I played this game until 5 a.m. — a feat I haven’t undertaken since I was in middle school. It’s safe to say I’m a Spidey aficionado, and as one, I have some conflicting feelings about the entirety of this game. Of course, a huge spoiler warning before it all starts.
Unequivocally, the gameplay and presentation in SM2 are massive upgrades. The graphics are jaw-dropping, the game loads faster than you can blink and the combat and traversal are exquisite. In this game, you play as two Spider-Men, Peter Parker and Miles Morales. Both have a bunch of exciting and fun-to-use combat abilities and gadgets. This makes combat a lot more challenging, since in previous games, many abilities made the game a lot easier. All of the new gameplay mechanics added — such as changes to web-slinging, parrying and new ways to beat the snot out of the New York City bad guys — make this game a blast to play.
The story, on the other hand, is an entirely different beast. There’s a lot of baggage here, but the villains and heroes are the main point of this story. Kraven, the Lizard and Venom are the three big bads of this game, and Peter and Miles both have to juggle defeating them and protecting New York at the same time. Kraven and the Lizard are very well done. Kraven is a big game hunter who is a brutal killer who hunts for the thrill of it since he is slowly dying of cancer. The Lizard is a tragic character who tried to heal his lost arm with animal DNA and turned into a monster. These two are done incredibly well, but Venom, one of Spidey’s most popular villains, is drastically redone here and — if you ask this web-head — for the worse.
In the original comics, Venom is a dark, gooey, sludgy alien monster that must attach to a host to survive. At first the host was Spider-Man, but he realizes this alien suit is antagonistic, so he gets rid of it and it latches onto Eddie Brock, a rival of Peter Parker. It feeds on his hate for him and turns him into Venom. It’s a really great story that has been adapted countless times in movies, shows and games. Venom is now in this game’s universe, but instead of being Eddie Brock, he is Harry Osborn, Peter’s best friend. As a die-hard Spidey fan, this change is an incredibly misguided one that, while it works for the story, just feels wrong.
Harry is the son of Norman Osborn, who is infamously the Green Goblin, Spidey’s arch nemesis. What’s so great about this is the inherent drama that comes with it. Pete is friends with Harry, but his father is secretly a psychopathic murderer who wants to kill him. Eventually, Norman dies, and Harry is overcome with grief and psychosis and eventually takes on the role of the Green Goblin and fights Peter. In a tragically poetic fashion, he dies like his father before him, but in a heroic way, as opposed to the villainous death his father suffered from. This story is great in the comics because of how tragic and ironic it is, yet horribly bittersweet.
Harry being Venom in this game feels wrong and out of character. Harry is Green Goblin, not Venom. Venom is Eddie. Imagine if, in a Batman movie, they made Joker’s alter ego Harvey Dent. It just feels wrong. Is this opinion incredibly subjective? Yes, absolutely, but if there’s a Pipe Dream columnist who can comment on this change, it’s me. It’s plain as day. Harry as Venom is like taking the jelly out of peanut butter and putting it in pickle juice.
Harry being the main villain is also repetitively similar to the original game. In Spider-Man (2018), the main villain is Doctor Octopus, Peter’s mentor turned supervillain. Having a close friend turn into the antagonist is a good idea since it gives the hero a great conflict, but it was already done once. At the end of that game, Peter’s Aunt May, the woman who raised him, died. It was an incredibly famous moment in the game, and it really set this version of the character apart from others due to how shocking this moment was. Aunt May has been around for literal decades and has never died in the comics. At the end of SM2, no one dies — not even Harry, who is defeated, removed from the symbiote and left in a coma due to his disease.
The story of SM2, while enjoyable and full of twists, falls flat on further examination when you compare its decisions to the original comics and the game before it. The gameplay, however, was without a doubt a great improvement and allowed for a more enjoyable playing experience. Video games are half story, half gameplay. They’re both very important. SM2 doesn’t fail in its story — it just is a bit disappointing. For future entries, the Spidey writers should lean into doing what made the first game successful — stick close to the original ideas, with slight alterations here and there to keep things modern and fresh. I have full faith that the third installment here will be nothing short of incredible if done well.
Nicolas Scagnelli is a senior majoring in English.