Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 graced PlayStation 5 consoles back on October 20, and critics and fans alike are raving. Not only does Insomniac’s latest combine the best of 2018’s Spider-Man and 2020’s Miles Morales (proving that two spideys are better than one), but it manages to delight in entirely new ways, too.
I’m about halfway through Peter Parker and Miles Morales’ tag-team adventure, and while I’m enjoying the improvements to traversal and mission design, my favorite addition is far more banal. It’s not a fancy suit upgrade, nor is it a particular character cameo. In fact, it has nothing to do with the main story at all.
My favorite moment in Spider-Man 2, after nearly 15 hours of play, is a simple side errand that tasks Peter or Miles with finding a young woman’s grandpa.
Warning: Spoilers abound for the Spider-Man 2 “Find Grandpa” side mission. If I’ve caught your interest and you haven’t played the game yet, watch one of the below videos before reading my commentary.
A Story of Love, Loss, and Life
The “Find Grandpa” mission appears on Peter and Mile’s FNSM (Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man) app partway through the main story. It’s a totally optional request, one without any of the fisticuffs or city-saving stakes you might expect from Spider-Man. And therein lies so much of its charm.
In this mission, a woman asks Spider-Man if he’ll search Central Park for her grandpa Earl, who has wandered off. According to the woman, her grandfather left saying he was meeting someone. In his old age, however, he’s known to get confused, and the woman worries he’ll get lost or hurt.
After a brief mission that has Spider-Man investigate a series of clues, Peter or Miles is able to trace Earl’s inhaler to a nearby bench overlooking a pond. There, you sit down with the aging man to learn who exactly he was meeting.
Check out the scene for yourself (as either Miles or Peter) below:
Oh, Earl. I’m not crying; you’re crying!
Not Every Hero Wears Spandex
Jokes aside, it’s incredible how different this interaction feels depending on whether you’re playing as Miles or Peter.
For Parker, this is a dialogue about having the confidence to pop the question to that special someone. Pete’s clearly thinking of MJ as he relates to the undying love this man feels for his late lady. For Morales, however, the conversation feels more paternal—like something he might’ve had with his own late father.
Notice how the grandfather never actually offers a piece of advice. He asks, “Have you ever been in love, Spider-Man?” and then proceeds to gush about the life he’s lived. He remarks about how quickly his life has passed, sure, but he never utters a cliché like “Live your life to the fullest.” It’s implied. The man knows it all too well, and Spider-Man (and the player) knows it, too.
Rather than retread a tired moment, Insomniac tells a story and gives the player space to form their own takeaways. Earl’s story is one we’ve heard before, perhaps from our own loved ones. Yet, what makes it feel unique is the way in which we set aside the mask for a change and let someone else be the hero.
There’s no fancy reward for our web-slinging protagonists at the end of this fetch quest. There are no baddies to beat, cars to chase, or experience points to earn. Instead, Miles and Pete receive actual experience, from someone who’s mastered the skill tree of life.