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It could have been worse. Not exactly high praise, but eh.
I guess chalk it up to MILES MORALES being way better than I expected, but in my apparently infinite naivete, I didn't even consider that this would be worse than the first game. It is, though - wow is it - in every way possible, including the above. Traversal, combat, story, quest design, side quests, incidental features, bugs - even the look of the game, which is supposed to be this thing's bread and butter - all took noticeable hits. Shocking how big of a stumble backwards this is.
It's perfectly clear at this point that Insomniac has nothing interesting to say or do with Spider-Man. The story of this game is so straightforward and basic it's embarrassing that it was written by adults. And once again, the dialogue and the extremely shaky and inconsistent motion capture and facial capture^ can't pull off the prestige MCU thing they're desperately reaching for. I'm no Spidey expert, but this is far and away the least interesting rendition of him that I'm familiar with. Nothing at all going on. Zero juice. It seriously feels like it's for little children.
^(not buying into the absurd conspiracies around MJ's face, but I can understand why someone would search for an alternative explanation for what they did to her because it genuinely seems impossible that they're that incompetent)
As for the gameplay, it really exposes itself in this one, with combat now being so overstuffed, spongey, and yet trivially easy that it becomes flat-out boring. And and they seemed to realize it and for variety's sake had no choice but to leaven the experience with UNCHARTED-style hold-forward-while-stuff-happens tunnels and, much worse, SEQUENCE after SEQUENCE after SEQUENCE of just walking around doing normal ass pointless stuff. It is CRAZY how much time you spend outside of a spider-suit (especially in the first few hours of the game!!!) looking at stuff, walking between nodes, hearing literal science lectures. The BATMAN: ARKHAM games had lots of different applications for its gameplay systems, always had different interesting things to do and discover that felt holistic to that world and story, and it never just felt like a sequence of samey fights (even though it accasionally was). Here, they have just got NOTHING to fall back on.
At one point, there's a sidequest where a Spidey fan has a copy of the first Daily Bugle photo Peter ever took of himself in action (recreating the cover of the real-world first Spider-Man comic, you know, where he's swinging and he's got the criminal under his arm). So Peter starts to flash back and you're like, oh nice, we're going to relive his first big adventure! But no, the sidequest is actually about him riding his bike to work to get the pictures in on time. I'd say that about fucking sums things up.
Not too much more to say about it - it looks absolutely phenomenal, some of the new moves are enjoyable (having a Falcon Punch to just instantly ruin any kind of heavy guy is pretty nice), and the combat is tweaked a bit, seemingly to serve a more brash, aggressive style which ties in nicely to Miles' character/age. It's pretty good!
Not exactly looking forward to going back to Peter for 2.
P.S.: One thing though - don't really want to say too much about this, but for a game that features a 100% non-white main cast (aside from the weaksauce, terribly-written corporate villain), has an appropriate if a bit clumsy Black Lives Matter shoutout, was released at the height of the George Floyd protests, and is the sequel to one of more grossy cop-friendly major games in recent memory, this game sure does deal with the issue of the police by literally pretending they don't exist!