Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been playing Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 on PlayStation 5 for review. I 100%’d the game and got a platinum trophy, something I NEVER make the time to do when reviewing open world video games during the busy end of year season, which should go a long way to telling you how fantastic I think this game is as an overall experience.
Building on the foundation created by the prior two games in the series, the new traversal mechanics make navigating between missions even more delightful than it was before. The story is really engaging, the new combat mechanics feel really exciting, and the sidequest content for completionists feels even more tightly designed.
While I absolutely loved my time with Spider-Man 2 as an overall game, my thoughts on the title’s accessibility offerings are a little bit more complicated to nail down. It’s undeniably a more accessible experience than most AAA video games out there today, and on paper its a step forward for the series, but there’s a lot of little fiddly aspects and a few surprising asterisks that prevent game this being one that I can recommend as accessible without giving you a little additional context.
Put simply, the game’s accessibility support is incredibly helpful, but it’s inconsistent in functionality, and in places feels a little rushed, or incomplete, or under explained.
On first boot, Spider-Man 2 presents players with an initial setup menu, for quickly activating a number of common accessibility and general user preference settings. Players can select their gameplay difficulty, access accessibility presets, change “popular settings”, tweak visuals and audio, turn on subtitles, and access the wider settings menu.
In terms of accessibility presets, players can select hearing, motion sensitivity, motor, and vision presets, which bundle together suggested accessibility settings for some of the more common disability category types. This is very much becoming a standard for PlayStation 1st party titles, but Spider-Man 2 does not feature degrees of strength of accessibility presets, as seen in God of War: Ragnarok. I can’t set “mild” or “strong” presets within a disability category for example, so there is still room for growth within the series in that regard.
The hearing preset turns on subtitles, sets background opacity to dark, alters music volume, and sets vibration to functional, a setting which removes all cinematic vibrations, leaving only those designed to communicate gameplay information cues.
The motion sensitivity preset slows down the speed at which the camera rotates during turns when swinging, adds a centre screen reticle, and disables camera shake, swing effect motion, UI paralaxing, motion blur, film grain, chromatic aberration, full screen effects, and depth of field.
The motor preset turns every in-game button hold into a toggle, enables web shooter burst-firing from a single press, allows holding dodge to dodge continuously, enhances auto aim, adds an assist for chase sequences, and sets quick time events to auto complete. It also disables vibration entirely, changes button mashing to button holds, and increases the timing for successful dodges and parries.
To dig a little into the chase assist, this option slows down the enemy’s movement, as well as automating the button press that’s usually required during the moment you’re close enough to an enemy to capture the target. I quite like this approach to chase assist, as it doesn’t take control out of my hands during chases, and means that I don’t have to quickly react to a button prompt if I’m only briefly in range of the capture target.
Lastly, the vision preset enables auto heal (if you have meter for it and your health is low), voice acted narration for American Sign Language sections that are otherwise usually only subtitled, enhanced auto aim, chase assist, as well as changing icon and prompt size to the largest available, and turning on high contrast mode.
Jumping into the full settings menu, the Gameplay menu offers support for granularly tweaking difficulty (If you’re for example comfortable with difficult combat but need puzzles and stealth segments to be simplified), as well as the ability to alter gameplay speed, reducing it to 70%, 50%, or 30%. While this isn’t a granular slider, the options provided do cover a good range of use cases, and are definitely more useful than only offering a single on or off toggle for game slowdown.
The controls menu is the first place where I have to flag one of this game’s accessibility omissions at launch. While there are granular settings options for button holds and toggles, there is no option to remap your controls in-game currently. Button remapping is coming as part of a December accessibility update, alongside several other features that we will mention during this review, so for now you’ll need to remap your controls on a system level rather than in game, which is disappointing.
The audio menu contains a bunch of audio sliders, an option to boost dialogue audio in the sound mix to a higher volume, midnight mode (to reduce the variance in volumes for players playing late at night, or autistic players who benefit from not having big spikes in audio suddenly), as well as options for cutting high and low frequencies out of the overall audio mix.
This menu was perhaps the most interesting for me in practice. Midnight Mode was really useful in conjunction with the frequency cutoffs for helping me as an autistic gamer avoid sudden volume changes and overwhelming extreme noise frequencies, making for an overall much calmer gameplay experience. Paired with boosting the volume of dialogue in the overall audio mix, making it easier to pick out dialogue from the rest of the audio landscape, I was really impressed with how this selection of settings really improved my experience playing.
The only setting in this menu I struggled to use was the option for notch frequency range, which allows in theory the player the option to select a custom audio frequency range to cut out, but my confusion came from it being a single point slider. I expected it would want me to select a higher and lower bound of frequency to filter, and I wasn’t sure how a single frequency number would remove a frequency range. This setting could have been explained in a more intuitively understandable manner.
Subtitles for dialogue can be customised in terms of size, speaker colour, subtitle colour, background colour and background opacity, but another feature not currently present is captions for non-dialogue audio, which are also coming in the December update in two months time.
One thing I do appreciate about the game’s subtitles is that, because there are two Spider-Men, an icon is used next to speaker names in subtitles to denote which Spider-Man is being referenced, a very quick way to convey that information.
The visual settings menu, among other options, is where the player can really dig into customising high contrast mode visuals, which can be customised on a per element basis.
The accessibility menu in Spider-Man 2 largely just collects together accessibility settings options found elsewhere, rather than acting as a hub for any unique accessibility options not found in any other menu.
Lastly, you can set two shortcuts, one each to the left and right D-Pad directions, which allow you to toggle certain settings during gameplay without pausing. I found these useful to map gameplay slow motion and high contrast mode to, as settings that I don’t need 100% of the time in my use case while playing, but that I find helpful to dip in and out of.
In terms of other accessibility settings that are coming, but are not currently available, the December update will also be adding high contrast presets, high contrast outlines (which I imagine will function like the high contrast implementation in Saints Row), mono audio (which I find useful as a gamer with intermittent hearing loss on one side), screen reader support, and audio descriptions for cutscenes.
While audio descriptions being missing at launch somewhat makes sense, it’s an accessibility feature very few big budget games have included which might take some time to implement, many of the other accessibility features missing at launch are fairly standard accessibility features across PlayStation first party releases, and from an outside perspective their being two months delayed from release is a little disappointing.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get a bit more in depth on my thoughts about some of the implementation of settings seen in the game.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales originally released in late 2020, and introduced players to Hailey, a Deaf American Sign Language user who Miles interacts with as part of a very sweet optional sidequest. In Spider-Man 2, Hailey plays a more prominent role in the story, and one I really want to talk about in more depth down the line, once the game is out and I can talk more safely about spoilers.
What I can say about Hailey is that I think her inclusion in the game is really nicely handled, from her interactions with other characters who know varying degrees of American Sign Language, to Miles’ use of text to speech and speech to text to be able to have conversations mid web swinging that for other characters would be voice based phone calls. Small touches, like her classroom having a dedicated ASL interpreter, were really lovely aspects that I was very excited to see.
While Hailey uses American Sign Language as default, and does not speak out loud, for players who struggle with subtitles and need dialogue read out loud, Hailey’s voice lines can be optionally narrated by Natasha Ofili, a Black Deaf voice actor, who provides a really wonderful performance I really appreciated. I think the inclusion of her optional vocal performance does a really good job of walking the line between Hailey’s characterisation, and the needs of some low vision players who can’t engage with subtitles easily.
I also very much appreciated the high degree of motor control accessibility settings on offer in Spider-Man 2, as well as the motion sickness reduction options and high contrast support, which when paired with highly customisable difficulty options made the game, generally, a delight for me to play.
The problem is, this is where I have to start talking about some of the issues that I experienced during my review playthrough, and some of the design choices I didn’t personally get on well with.
A quick first issue that is thankfully unlikely to impact most players, High Contrast mode in the unpatched base version of the game doesn’t reliably function correctly. While in theory it should be able to be toggled on and off, changing all gameplay interactable elements to bright block colours and changing the world to greyscale, in practice this had repeated issues, prior to being patched.
Frequently, one of the two elements would get stuck in one state. Either the player character would get stuck as non-high contrast when high contrast mode was turned on, or the world would get stuck either in or out of greyscale as the setting was toggled. It was ultimately fixable in most cases by saving and reloading the game, but it was a repeated issue that frequently necessitated restarts to gameplay.
This does seem to have been fixed in the day zero patch, so for most users it will not be an issue, but if you purchase the game on disc and play it without connecting to the internet, it’s worth being aware of.
Moving to issues still present post day zero patch, I initially had a LOT of confusion regarding Spider-Man 2 seemingly changing my accessibility settings options that I had selected during reloads. It took me a while to puzzle out what was happening, but my best guess at this point is that because I had turned on a number of accessibility settings presets, then manually changed some settings from those presets to be closer to my needs, on each reset, or each time I was knocked out and had to reload from a checkpoint, the game was reverting any settings that I had tweaked back to those in the preset.
Basically, the issue is that presets seemingly cannot be set to a custom state, in the way that difficulty in the game can. If a player in Spider-Man 2 sets their difficulty to Friendly, but then increases enemy health and enemy damage, the game recognises that changes have been made to customise the difficulty default. Accessibility presets do not seem to do this, which means that if an accessibility preset gets most of the way to your needs, but not entirely, you can’t just turn that preset on and then change the one thing that you need to change, you’re going to have to turn the preset off, and then manually alter all of those accessibility settings yourself to avoid having them revert to the preset on reload.
Additionally, some accessibility settings in Spider-Man 2 come with mandatory on-screen icons, showing at all times that the setting is active. Some of these perhaps, kinda, make sense. If I have a shortcut set to 70% game speed toggle, and forget that I’m playing at that reduced speed, the game might be running close enough to full speed that I don’t instantly recognise what’s happening. For a use case like that, I can see the usefulness perhaps of an on screen visual reminder as an option. The confusion comes for me more with settings like setting aim mode to toggle, or mid-air tricks as a toggle rather than hold. These are likely to be settings that players turn on at the start of their playthrough if they need them, and then keep the setting turned on until the credits roll at the end of the game. Do they really need a constant on screen icon?
It’s an awkward situation, as I know I would be put off using any of these accessibility settings while playing the game on a Twitch stream, because I know people would ask about the icons. There’s no option to disable them, meaning that you can’t quietly use them without people knowing, and they acted as a distraction during play for me as a gamer who struggles with visual clutter at times being overstimulating.
Lastly, and this was mostly frustrating because it was a backstep compared to past entries, but there is currently, at the time of review, no way to relisten to in-game podcast entries after they’re first played. This is an issue because, unlike phone calls with other characters, these do not resume if they’re cut off. This means that, if you accidentally move too close to a crime, or quest, or an interactable, part of the game’s narrative will get cut short, and will not be able to be replayed during that playthrough. In past games in the series these could be replayed in the Collectables menu, but that option no longer exists.
As a gamer who struggles with obsession, and compulsion at times around completionism, thanks autism, I struggled more than I would like to admit with feeling like my playthrough was incomplete because I accidentally cut myself off from a number of segments of the narrative that I can’t revisit without restarting the entire game, which isn’t ideal.
I know I’ve probably sounded fairly pessimistic in the later portion of this review, but I do want to emphasise that, on balance, Spider-Man 2 is still a very accessible video game. It’s more accessible than most big budget video game releases today, and I did have a great time with it. I can simultaneously feel like the game’s accessibility is impressive, and is catering pretty well to my needs, and also believe that the accessibility support that is present feels sometimes it’s like a step backward, that it’s at times a little inconsistent, and it’s a little hard to evaluate without acknowledging some of the planned settings that are still months away from inclusion.
Spider-Man 2 is an incredibly accessible game, but one whose accessibility needs caveats. It does a lot of great things, but it’s not a universal success story in terms of its accessibility. It’s a game, at present, that feels like its accessibility support is a little less polished and complete than the rest of the overall game, and I’m allowed to find that a little disappointing, while still feeling like the game’s level of accessibility present is incredibly useful and worthy of praise.