After heaping not inconsiderable praise on Marvel's Spider-Man after its 2018 release on PS4, then 2020's Miles Morales on PlayStation 5 (which I still believe is one of the best launch titles for any console ever), it should come as no surprise that I love Marvel's Spider-Man 2.
It serves as a great example of why blockbuster games needn't be sneered at simply because they are made by big studios with massive budgets. And it is a worthy addition to a franchise that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto.
However, it is also riddled with the sort of repetitive side ephemera synonymous with open-world adventures, and it's just too darn short.
So why do I think it's still one of the best games of the year? Why has it filled me with joy, even when button-munching my way through another identi-fight?
It's simple.... it is one of the best written titles around.
Web swinging aside – which is still a wonderful way to traverse an open-world map – Spider-Man 2 has the most engaging, nuanced storyline in many a game, and tells it superbly.
It presents a tale of friendship (on multiple levels), tragedy, redemption and loss, and without being corny, to boot.
That's largely thanks to a superb script that could teach Sony's movie franchise a thing or two, plus incredible voice and motion acting from the likes of Yuri Lowenthal and, especially, Nadji Jeter, who reprise their roles as Peter Parker and Miles Morales respectively.
Graham Phillips also puts in a star turn as Harry Osborne who has an equally major role in the proceedings.
It also manages to tell multiple stories in one. We flit from villain to villain, with Kraven the Hunter starting out as the main threat, but then superceded by the much-requested Venom, and while all of these characters are well known to fans of the comic books and films alike, developer Insomniac still manages to make it all feel fresh and exciting.
That's testament to Marvel's trust in the studio – that it can create and populate its own Spider-Man universe without the constraints of decades of canon. It proved this was the case with some of the shocking events in the first Marvel's Spider-Man and does so again here.
Also as before, plot isn't limited to cut scenes. Some of the best dialogue throughout is told while you are swinging around New York City (a larger playing field to before), or during fights.
Indeed, there are a couple of boss battles that feel just as emotional as any fully acted, non-interactive sequence, and it is this that puts the game on a par with the very best. The dynamics between Peter, Miles, Harry, Mary-Jane and even Kraven and Venom aren't just crafted to get you from one set-piece to another, they feel convincing, engaging and, ironically, human.
So yes, there are plenty of moments that seem to be padding – such as numerous crime battles that feel similar each time, but needing completion to get enough XP to level up powers. However, they are also sandwiched by some of the best campaign scripting in gaming today.
My only main regret is that the game feels a bit too short, but that's simply because, after the 30 hours I put into it (side missions included), I just wanted there to be more.
Thankfully, if one of the end credit Easter eggs is anything to go by, there will be.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 will be available for PlayStation 5 from 20 October 2023.
I'll eat my Spidey pyjamas if it isn't nominated in many of the gaming awards for the year.