The Advent season is starting this weekend, and I am so excited. This is my favorite time of year. With Advent comes the preparation for Christmas and, of course, Christmas lists. If you have children or loved ones who are into gaming, you may find the new video game Spider-Man 2 for the PlayStation 5 on that list. But is this game suitable for Catholics, especially children? We are going to discuss all that and more coming up next!
I was so devoted to answering this question that I put many hours of research into it. For the children, Spider-Man 2 is the third game in Insomniac’s Marvel franchise and probably the most anticipated launch title for the next-gen console, the PlayStation 5. It features the absolute best of what game technology can offer, including amazing graphics, a spectacular story, character arcs, and total immersion into the world they have created. When you are playing this game, you feel like you are Spider-Man. Let me just say, for someone who grew up on the Tobey Maguire films, we’ve come a very long way.
Should Catholics Play Spider-Man 2? | Catholic Game Review
I’m not going to focus too much on the game mechanics; that’s not really what this review is for. I’m going to be focusing on the story and moral dilemmas that both the characters and I faced during this game. But to appease the fellow nerds like myself out there, let me just say, the web wings are sick. Besides that, they give you what you loved about the previous two games, but it’s bigger and better.
Within the first 10 minutes of gameplay, I felt like I was picking up where we left off after the last game. Peter and Miles are growing into this mentor-student relationship while still trying to balance their own lives and all the respective difficulties that come with them. Miles is trying to get into college and having a hard time writing this essay about who he is. Peter can’t seem to hold down a steady job because being Spider-Man is a lot of responsibility, and Uncle Ben did not say, ‘With great power comes a great paycheck.’
Their lives become even more complicated when Craven the Hunter arrives in New York, looking for a final target. He wants to find somebody he deems a worthy opponent, someone who can match his strength and rage. If you’re familiar with the comic book arc ‘Craven’s Last Hunt,’ then you know he eventually sets his sights on Spider-Man. Craven was one of the first spiritual red flags that this game raised for me. His bloodlust is palpable right from the start, and he is the primary villain of this game. Don’t worry; I’m going to get to Venom in just a minute.
What I Enjoyed About The New Spider-Man Game
What I enjoyed about the first Spider-Man game is that Dr. Octavius is the main villain, but at the start of the game, he was actually Peter’s mentor. We only know he’s going to be the villain because we know who Dr. Octopus is. Throughout the game, it becomes this ticking time bomb as you see Peter root for his boss, but you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s much more of a Shakespearean tragedy. ‘I saw you as a son. You are everything I wanted to be, and you just threw it away.’
Fast forward to this game, and Craven is dropping bodies left and right. Characters are dying in some honestly pretty brutal ways. While the combat when you’re playing as Spider-Man is bloodless, there are some cut scenes in this game that had me going, ‘Oh wow, that is violent.’ Including one cut scene involving a character’s death, and don’t worry, there are no spoilers here. But it did contain what I thought was a considerable amount of blood for a Spider-Man property.
I think I should point out that I am grading this on kind of a curve. I don’t think this game necessarily ventures into mature content; it is rated T for Teen. I just worry about little Timmy, who’s like 9 years old, getting his hands on this because his parents are just like, ‘It’s Spider-Man, how bad can it be?’ Of course, you are the best judge for your kids; you know what they can handle and what they should avoid.
Even with these issues, it did still present some thought-provoking questions. Craven’s whole mission is to find somebody he deems worthy to fight him and essentially kill him because he can feel himself getting older. At one point in the game, he even says, ‘I will not let God decide my fate.’ While that may sound melodramatic coming from a Spider-Man villain, isn’t that how we sometimes live our lives? How often do we tell God, ‘Lord, I know what you want me to do. I know where you want me to go, but I just don’t want to do it. It’s too difficult for me. I want to go my own way, my own path. I’m going to do this instead.’ Seeing the lengths that Craven is willing to go to in order to deny his natural fate of getting old left me thinking how ridiculous I must be when I deny God’s path for my life. It left me with a visual image of how I don’t want to live my life, which is kind of the point of villain characters, right?
Speaking of morality, we can’t discuss Spider-Man 2 without talking about Venom. Venom is one of my favorite supervillains. Is that kind of weird to say? It’s because of the Peter Parker symbiote storyline and Peter’s journey with his own morality. No, not that version. This version of Venom is an alien symbiote from outer space that needs a host to survive. But as the bond between host and symbiote grows, it begins to take over, consuming the host. Think like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, how the power of the Ring consumed him and ate him up until it just left him empty inside.
The way that this video game adapts the symbiote storyline is absolutely engrossing, no pun intended. As we see Peter struggle with his power and responsibility, the best stories are when we see our heroes have the option to give in, to choose the easy way out, and instead, they choose the path of righteousness. The symbiote suit is very reminiscent of temptation. It feels like Peter’s friend in the beginning before ultimately revealing its true nature later on in the story. As you see Peter slowly begin to change, becoming angrier and more hostile, the line between good and evil becomes very clear. Peter realizes that if your left hand causes you to sin, or in this case, an alien Spidey suit, then cut it off.
Spiritually Conflicted Because Of This Spider-Man Game
But then the game does something that again left me feeling a bit spiritually conflicted. This does dive into some very light spoilers, so if you don’t want to know anything about this game, skip to this time code. At a certain point, the game lets you play as Venom, going full villain mode and completely obliterating everything and everyone in your path. Now it’s different from just seeing the carnage that these villains cause, but now you’re the one causing it. Again, I do worry about this getting into the hands of somebody too young and encouraging that desire for destruction. So while I do feel like that moral awareness is there, there was also a certain amount of fascination with these darker themes and storylines that take it a step further than the previous two installments in this franchise.
A few other warnings about this game: there is a considerable amount of mild language. Again, it’s nothing too crazy, but for a Spider-Man property, it was a little weird to hear our heroes tossing around these mild curse words every once in a while. Also, while I can appreciate the Venom storyline, as a well-formed Catholic adult, for children, it may be a little confusing for them to see their favorite superhero being consumed by the symbiote, getting more and more angry, and kind of being a jerk for a considerable amount of this game. Peter has some real insults in this game. No wonder your family left you.
There are also a few nods to LGBT relationships in this game. Although we never see a same-sex couple, Black Cat, who for all intents and purposes was actually straight in the previous game and even had a romantic relationship with Peter, mentions in this game that she has to see her girlfriend. Although we never see her girlfriend, and knowing the Black Cat character, it’s entirely possible that everything she says isn’t even true. It still may create some confusion for younger audiences. There is also trying to get MJ to move in with him throughout this story, and they have a few conversations about that as well.
Spider-Man 2 is a gripping and compelling story in which we see our favorite webhead heroes battle both external and internal demons. But it is a chapter in this saga that I think is geared towards more mature and well-formed audiences. As a gamer, I would rate this game an 8.5 out of 10. This is the most fun and exciting game I’ve played all year. But as a Catholic, I think I’d have to give this a five out of 10. If you have kids younger than like 12 or 13, you may want to hold off a bit before diving into this game, which hopefully won’t be too bad because there is a lot of Spider-Man content out there, including the previous two games in this franchise, which are much lighter and chill in tone.
Man, I hope I did not just ruin a kid’s Christmas. I’m sorry, Timmy. But you guys let me know in the comments down below, have you played Spider-Man 2, and what did you think about it? Also, when is the time that you knew God was calling you to something, but it was difficult? I can’t wait to hear your stories.