[Review] Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Playstation 4/5

  • Developer: Insomniac Games
  • Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Release Date: 12/11/2020
  • Price: £49.99 / $49.99 [UK / US]
  • Game played on PS5

Introducing: Spider-Man: Miles Morales Review

This was it for me, the big game that I was looking forward to when the Playstation 5 dropped. In 2018, Spider-man was my game of the year that year and I had been craving more ever since. It was a little disappointing to find out that Miles Morales was going to be a much shorter game compared to the original, but I was still happy to get anything from Insomiac’s team given they have been on a real roll with their last handful of titles. So, did Miles Morales live up to my expectations after these two years of waiting?

Take a Swing

Spider-Man: Miles Morales puts us in the shoes of Miles, who became New York’s newest teenage Spider-Man near the end of the prior game. Having recently moved to Harlem following the death of his father and on winter break from school, he’s both trying to get a handle on this whole Spider-Man thing and settle into his new life. It’s been a year since his powers manifested, though, so after a… let’s call it semi-successful takedown of Rhino with Peter, Peter feels safe handing the keys over to Miles, so to speak, while he goes on a trip overseas with Mary Jane. That means that Miles is the only one swinging around at the moment and the city is his to protect. There’s a lot happening outside of being Spider-Man too, like an energy company moving in with big promises and his mother’s run for city council.

For those who were worried that Miles might be overshadowed by Peter, I’m happy to report that this game is definitely Miles’s story. While Peter is a presence, it’s only early in the story, at the end, and some occasional phone calls with Miles when word gets back to him about what’s going on in New York. From beginning to end, Miles and his connections are the focus here. It’s also interesting to note that Miles is also a character that is more community focused. While stopping crime was a lot of the side activity in the prior game, in this one an app set up by a friend of Miles allows him to take on other missions that are more focused on helping people on a smaller scale level, such as finding a lost cat or helping to get a car unstuck from the snow.  It’s a really nice touch to give Miles a different feel as a Spider-Man from Peter, but I found myself wishing that there were a few more of these activities since they were such a nice break from the typical crimes that could pop up.

A Leap of Faith

There are a lot of characters here that are either entirely new for the game series or more fleshed out than before. Miles’s mom, Rio, is given a little more ambition in this game and a real sense of what her ideals are which makes her feel more grounded and I really appreciated as an expansion of her small appearances in the 2018 game. Genke is Miles’s friend from school and works great for giving Miles someone to talk to when he’s swinging around and a way to alert the player to things that might be going on in their area through either talk or the app he created. Liked JJJ’s podcasts last game? Well, there’s another podcast that Miles listens to, this time pro-Spider-Man to balance the vitriol of JJJ (though you are able to turn these off like before).  New characters include Phin, an old friend of Miles from middle school who is coming back into his life after they drifted apart, and Simon Krieger, head of the energy company Roxxon who gives off the biggest Elon Musk vibes. Even the side characters of Harlem have a lot of life and variety, such as Teo, the grumpy bodega owner, or Hailey, a deaf artist who uses exclusively ASL in game. The city of New York is just as much of a character as it was in the last game, with even more side conversations than before the give a real life to the world. While the map is the same as the last game, the addition of the seasonal changes of winter bring a just different enough feeling that I didn’t mind that at all.

There are less villains to be fighting since there isn’t a Sinister Six style setup here, but the few that we are given are used well and there are some interesting turns in the narrative to be found here. Even if you’ve watched all of the footage from the lead up to the game, you’re still going to be in for a few surprises that were selectively edited out in the cutscenes shown prior to release. I won’t say that the story was groundbreaking for a superhero narrative, but it did what it needed to in order to keep me interested and made me care about the characters which is about all that I ask for most of the time. 

It’s short, clocking in at about half the size of Spider-Man (2018) I would say, so I would consider it more of a 1.5 than a 2 in terms of sequel. That’s fine by me, though, even if I can understand how some people can’t personally justify the price. There is some content that isn’t available until after the main story is finished or is only in new game plus, though. After the story, there is a short epilogue made up of a hunt for collectibles which was pretty sweet and I appreciated being held back until the very end. Additionally the best suit in the game, the one where you get to have a backpack with a cat in it, (You cannot change my mind that this is the best suit) is also held back until the main story is finished. New game plus holds back some upgrades and a single suit, which does make a second run through the game have a different feel, but left me with an overabundance of tokens to spend and nothing to spend them on at the very end of the game.

The Friendly Neighborhood

There’s a lot of new, a lot of old, and a lot of changed in this game, so let’s go through what you can expect going in. Combat has been changed up a lot. Suit Powers are no more and focus has also been done away with. Miles instead generates “venom” while he fights which allows for stunning electric attacks and the ability to heal up. Finishers are still around, but they are no longer gotten through a generation of a meter, but instead are a reward for reaching a combo of 15 in combat. I found that this had me using finishers a lot more because they were no longer a trade off for healing but instead worked into my performance in combat. Enemies can feel like they are able to take a lot of hits, but once you start using all the parts of your repertoire, it becomes clear that there are ways to do more damage than just your basic punches. At first, using your venom may feel a little awkward, but by the end of the game I was throwing it around left and right to take out my enemies and when you reach that point of understanding, combat really becomes a blast! I also felt that there were a lot more of the finishers that were contextual so they didn’t feel repetitive. I mean, I did see the same ones a lot, but even late into the game I was seeing ones that I hadn’t seen before which was really nice.

One of the big changes that I notices is the way that crimes aren’t really something that you have to do anymore. You could always avoid them in the prior game, but they were required for 100% completion. Here, you actually don’t have to do them at all. In fact, I went for large swaths of the game without doing any and didn’t feel like I was missing much. That may disappoint some and I will admit that it did leave them feeling a little tacked on, but at the same time, I wasn’t left swinging back and forth over and over to finish up the last few in an area like I had been with the last game.

New Yawk, New Yawk

Traversal is very much the same and there are plenty of things to find and collect. In fact, a lot of the side activities in this game involve going and collecting something, much like the backpacks of the game before. Sometimes there is a very light puzzle element to this or there will be enemies around, but very often it can feel just like you are going to a place and collecting something and that is all. That is a little disappointing. Thankfully the challenges make up for that, with each one you complete now granting you a skill somewhat related to what you were doing in the challenge. It makes these feel a little more rewarding, rather then just something that you have to check off. 

You gadget selection is more limited in this game, down to only four. While it make sense that Miles would not need something like an electric web if he’s able to just sling electric punches around, it still felt like they were a bit lacking. My favorite little web bombs are gone, for example. However, it’s worth noting that beyond the basic web shooters, the ones that Miles does have are all unique to him. I don’t know if this was an action on the part of developers to give his gameplay a little more of its own character or if it was just a way to play around with new mechanics, but I feel like it worked out for them either way.

Got a Quip?

The last thing I want to talk about is stealth, because stealth is a whole new feel this time around. In the last game, stealth was very simple and at times very easy. You could pick off enemies one by one with attacks and distractions in order to clear an area out more quietly and without risking the loss of health. The game teaches you stealth early on in a way that feels very similar, going over the basics, but then after a little story progression, Miles unlocks the capability to become briefly invisible (in a high stress moment as a defense mechanism which then becomes controllable). This ends up changing stealth up a lot.

When playing as Peter, it was very hard to get alerted enemies to calm back down because they would figure out where you were once they knew you were there very easily. Miles is now able to completely vanish and hide out to let them settle back down and think he fled. It’s great for those who want to go in entirely stealth focused and remain so even after a slipup. Miles also is given a gadget that can take out multiple enemies stealthily in the right contexts. All this is to say, the game gives you more toys to play around with in stealth, but I found that this can make stealth exceptionally easy, even if it often takes a little longer than going in guns blazing. Once you get into the perks, it gets even more easy with modifications such as the one that makes Miles go automatically invisible if someone starts to notice him.

New suit, New Me

This game is absolutely beautiful. I’m not someone who notices framerate a whole lot, I’ll admit, so I didn’t mind playing on the 30FPS mode in order to experience the ray tracing effects. The game takes full advantage of these capabilities, more than happy to put you in places with reflective windows or super shiny floors to show off just how good it looks. I’ll admit, I did every once in a while go “Oh that’s me!” whenever I caught sight of Miles in a newly reflective surface. Like I said before, the map has not changed very much since the prior game, but it’s stills such a wonderful map that I can’t bring myself to be too bothered by it. The aesthetic changes brought on by the city slipping into the holiday season were a wonderful touch and I loved seeing all the holiday décor sprinkled around the world. I already know that I’m going to be coming back to this game later in December to get some holiday vibes when I can’t go back to my usual holiday spots due to Covid-19.

The game has a very different musical feel than the prior game too. Most of the music in Spider-Man (2018) was very much in the vein of the MCU, big swells of orchestra music while swinging or in combat. It also could feel a little repetitive at times. The short runtime of Miles Morales might have contributed to the way that I don’t feel that it was as repetitive here, but I can’t say for sure because the soundscape is really changed up. The punchy hip-hop and techno sounds really do give the game a lot of it’s own personality and the orchestral style music still makes a return in key moments. The final fight’s music was stunning the first time that I played it. (So much so that I died in the process of telling my roommate how great I thought it was.)

Big Shoes to Fill

Miles ran gorgeously the entire time that I played. I never experienced any framerate issues that I could see and my Playstation 5 was whisper silent. The only times at which the system would get noisy was when the disc reader would kick up, as I opted for a physical copy of the game. These occasions were rare, and usually when I was booting up the system itself before even launching the game. People raving about how fast the load times are on this console aren’t wrong. On Playstation 5, Miles Morales loads anything in mere seconds. I don’t even have time to finish taking a drink of water before the game has finished completing fast travel. It’s brilliant and gives me a lot of hope for the next game in the series.

Given that this is a cross-generational title, I didn’t expect it to make that much use of the DualSense’s new features. However, there are some small applications that I really like. There’s a light resistance on the right trigger while traversing the game that just game it a little more of a tactile feel. Was it needed? Not at all, but it was never distracting either. It also never tired my hands while I was playing, though those who have motor issues in their hands, may need to make adjustments or turn it off. The haptic usage was nice as well. There wasn’t a lot of it, but this electric crackle effect they made at a few key moments was a nice touch.

I am the Spidered Man

Overall, I adored this game, but know that for some people it is going to be too short or seen as a glorified DLC. I will say that calling it a DLC is a little reductive, there’s a lot of good stuff packed into this game’s shorter runtime, especially for those who are already invested in the character. This is a half step to to sequel and I am pretty alright with that, even if it does mean that I am salivating for what the full Spider-Man 2 will end up looking and feeling like when it comes down the line.

Pros

  • Absolutely stunning visuals
  • Fun shakeups to combat
  • Miles’s story feels like it belongs to him
  • Plenty of new flavor to the game

Cons

  • Fewer gadgets than last time
  • Stealth can feel a little too easy

Verdict

Spider-man: Miles Morales is a must play for anyone who loves Spider-Man, bringing fresh twists to Insomniac’s game series.