Developed by Insomniac Games
Published by Sony Interactive Entertainment
Released 12 November 2020
Available on PS4 and PS5 – Reviewed on PS5
When playing the excellent Marvel’s Spider-Man back in 2018, we were introduced to the upbeat and charming Miles Morales part-way through the adventure. Despite playing a relatively minor role in that game’s story, he left a big enough impression on me that I wanted to see more. I and many others got their wish, when Insomniac Games revealed Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
Acting as both a sequel and spin-off title, Miles Morales offers a shorter, more streamlined experience than its predecessor. It’s able to improve upon some aspects, while suffering in others. Does Miles Morales soar to new heights, or end up falling short? Continue reading to find out.
Your New, Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man
Miles Morales takes place roughly one year after the events of the original. After both Miles and Peter stop an encounter with Rhino, Peter reveals he’s going on a work trip with Mary Jane, leaving Miles to protect New York himself. This is the first time Miles has been given such a huge responsibility. As he is still learning and figuring things out, he is bound to make mistakes. It isn’t long before sinister plots start to unfold, from both a group known as The Underground and the company called Roxxon. The overall premise is solid, setting up enough plot threads early on to keep the pace pretty focused, which is necessary for this shorter experience.
There are plenty of great new characters introduced in Miles Morales. Phin, Miles’ childhood friend, is an excellent addition whose motivations are both understandable and not so cut and dry. She provides inner conflicts for Miles similar to that of Dr Octavius for Peter. Both the Prowler and Ganke are also interesting supporting characters. Miles himself is a breath of fresh air and he’s so likeable right from the start. He may be a superhero, but he has problems and makes mistakes like anyone else, especially as he’s still not completely confident in his abilities and responsibility. Watching him develop over the 8-10 hours was a highlight.
Unfortunately, Miles Morales has one of the worst antagonists for a video game in recent memory, that’s Simon Krieger. He’s a basic villain who wants money/power, but simply isn’t menacing or memorable in any way shape or form. His only purpose is so the Roxxon company and their dangerous reactors can be involved. His involvement also highlights other issues within the narrative.
Miles Morales has an overall good story, but it also has a number of problems that hold it back. For me personally, the shorter length ended up hampering the story in a number of ways. I felt like Insomniac were trying to deal with as many plot threads as the original, but the shortness meant that these aren’t given enough time to properly develop. This is made worse when Simon Krieger takes away time that could have been given to Phin or the Prowler, who were far better characters. While the narrative is still good, it spreads itself too thin within the confines of the smaller game. This caused a lot of the emotional moments to not hit the same as the first game.
While much of the gameplay is the same from Spider-Man (2018), there are some new additions and quality-of-life improvements which really helps the game feel tighter. Traversing Manhattan has never felt better, especially if you’re playing on a PS5. Swinging and soaring across the skyline never gets old, with Miles’ animations actually differing to that of Peter. With him still getting used to his powers and web-slinging from building to building, he isn’t as confident. You’ll see him falter and move around more playfully. It’s a great attention to detail. If you do get bored of swinging around for some reason, or just want to get to the other side of the map more quickly, you do have fast travel points. With the PS5’s SSD, load times are almost non-existent.
Combat continues to be an extremely satisfying aspect of the adventure. Miles is deeply versatile while fighting. Being able to zip around the area, chaining together various different punches, kicks and abilities is addictive. What’s also impressive is just how fluid the transitions between the many combat animations are. There’re no stuttering and awkward changes that break up the flow, it’s stellar design that continually leads to more bombastic action. The weight and impact behind each hit also play its role in making the experience that much greater.
Miles has access to new ‘venom’ powers, which add a new dynamic to each combat scenario. You have a venom bar that fills up through combat, attacking and pulling of counters, etc. With more venom built up, Miles’ attacks become more impactful, but you can also use bars up to either heal yourself or activate powerful skills. Weighing up your options, whether to keep the stored venom or use a skill, gives a new layer to combat.
Alongside these venom powers, you also have access to other abilities, suit mods and gadgets that can be upgraded with skill points, activity tokens and tech parts. There’s a lot of depth to the mechanics and customisation, giving the player so many options when it comes to choosing their own playstyle and combination of abilities and appearance for Miles. All of this, combined with the tense and exhilarating boss encounters (especially late in the game), makes the moment-to-moment gameplay so fun and engaging.
Less Monotonous Side Activities
One major criticism of the previous game was that the side activities quickly grew tiresome and repetitive. It’s a relief then that Insomniac took that critique on board and really improved the experience for Miles Morales. While you’ll encounter many of the same types of activities, like challenges, enemy hideouts and crime alerts, they’re no longer as arduous. For one, there is less abundance of them needed in order to 100% complete the map. Hideouts in particular have been streamlined so there aren’t waves upon waves of enemies to fight, which could get old relatively quickly.
More traditional side quests also see a slight improvement over its predecessor. It feels as if more time was taken to make each one more distinct and thought out. I wasn’t expecting a bit of light puzzle solving in one or two, but it was a welcome change of pace, nonetheless. They still aren’t anything spectacular, but the improvements made help the gameplay rise above the first game. You’ll want to try and complete a lot of side activities to get the necessary tokens to upgrade your powers and gadgets.
New York’s Winter Coat
An undeniable trait of Miles Morales is that it’s a truly stunning game visually. While the setting is the same, it now takes place in the winter, giving everything a beautiful coating of snow. It may be the same city, but the change in season helps distinguish it enough for this shorter adventure. Character models are incredibly detailed and full of personality, texture quality is top notch, and the snowfall effects are incredibly realistic. On the PS5 it is all the better, particularly in the performance metrics.
There are a few different options for those on the PS5. A resolution mode runs the game at native 4k with raytracing, but at 30fps. A performance mode sacrifices some resolution prowess in favour of providing 60fps (my preferred choice). Another option was later added that runs at an even lower resolution but keeps 60fps with raytracing. It’s great to see a variety of different options for the player base.
I think Insomniac Games have done a brilliant job with Miles Morales, with it turning out better than I thought it would. I had concerns whether it would just feel like an expansion, but my fears were quickly put to rest. While the narrative doesn’t come close to matching its predecessor’s, where the shorter length did hamper the pacing and depth, it was still a solid story that focused on Miles’ development. In terms of gameplay, this improved in every way, to offer a much more streamlined and less repetitive adventure.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales may not swing to the same, emotional heights of the original, but this is a high-octane and thrilling superhero adventure from start to finish.
Honest Rating = 8/10
You can buy your copy of the Miles Morales from the PlayStation Store.
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