We’ve seen plenty of Spider-Man games release over the years that took the beloved webslinger through all sorts of dangerous escapades, but none managed to nail the vibe of the superhero quite as much as Insomniac Games did in 2018. Let’s be honest, Marvel’s Spider-Man was an absolutely glorious game where EVERYTHING just felt right, whether it was when web-slinging past New York’s skyscrapers, beating up some super villains, or simply seeing the emotional character-driven tale play out.
I didn’t expect to see a follow-up quite so soon, but here we are in 2020 with Spider-Man: Miles Morales. It’s not quite a sequel per se but more of a spin-off, similar to what Naughty Dog did with Uncharted: The Lost Legacy a few years back. Much like The Lost Legacy though, Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes everything that was brilliant about the original game and refines it to near perfection, with Miles’ adventure to save Harlem from a deadly threat making for an outstanding journey overall and the perfect way to experience the PlayStation 5’s capabilities.
If the title didn’t give it away, Spider-Man: Miles Morales sees players taking on the role of Miles Morales… you know… the kid who ended up with the same powers as Peter Parker in the last game following a (you guessed it) radioactive spider bite. Fortunately, Peter was willing to take Miles under his wing and has been teaching him the ins-and-outs of being Spider-Man; not only by showing him how to use his new-found powers, but also by encouraging him to be careful and adopt the heroic mindset.
Following a destructive run-in with Rhino where they only just manage to bring the big nasty down, Peter ends up leaving New York for a few weeks with MJ to do some reporting work in Europe, leaving Miles as the only Spider-Man in New York. It’s a pretty tough gig for a seventeen-year-old, but with the desire to earn the trust of the citizens of New York, the rise of a new technologically-advanced gang, and a shady corporation working on some sketchy experiments behind the scenes, it seems he’s going to have his work cut out for him…
I absolutely loved the narrative of Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Much like the original game, there’s a heavy emphasis based on character building, though seeing Miles develop felt more meaningful here. He’s a youngster who hasn’t only gone through a lot of recent grief but also has this new found responsibility, bringing with it a desire to protect those around him. You really see him grow as a character throughout the adventure and it’s easy to find yourself rooting for him from the get-go. Add some genuinely great villains to the mix and some interesting family dynamics and… well… it just makes for a brilliant tale.
Gameplay-wise, Spider-Man: Miles Morales plays very similarly to the original game. Web-slinging through New York, running up and down walls, and launching yourself off objects feels the same, whilst the basic combat mechanics of beating up enemies, dodging attacks, or stealthily taking them down unnoticed are unchanged for the most part too. This isn’t a significant evolution upon the previous game as far as the basic mechanics are concerned, so you’ll feel right at home if it hasn’t been too long since you played it.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been some changes made to the game though, with one of the most significant coming with Miles’ Venom powers. As you battle enemies, your Venom meter will build up, granting you access to a string of different abilities as you progress through the game. Some of these are particularly effective against specific enemies too, so utilising them in your combos is vital to taking down some foes with ease – on the flip-side, smashing all nearby opponents into the air with the Venom Smash is pretty effective on almost everyone, so I found myself using that a lot.
You’re also able to temporarily cloak yourself, which is a game-changer as far as stealth tactics are concerned. Again, this is activated through a meter which re-fills so you can’t use it carefree, but picking the right moment to hide yourself and pick off foes with stealth attacks is satisfying.
These additions to combat add a whole new dimension of flexibility to encounters, with each catering for two playstyles: the Venom powers allow you to unleash devastating attacks if you prefer to go heads on, whilst the cloaking ability suits players who like to play stealthily. There’s never just one way to approach each showdown with enemies in the game with each different situation catering to both playstyles, ensuring that the new additions really compliment the already outstanding combat mechanics. It adds a bit of variety that wasn’t always there in the previous game.
One other improvement this time around comes with the missions, which are a lot more streamlined to cut out filler content. Sure, you’ll still be chasing down pigeons here and there, finding a lost cat (which brings with it a nice little ‘Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ reference), stopping crimes, gathering all sorts of collectibles (some of which bring with them some brilliantly emotional storytelling) or completing challenges, but they adopt the ‘less is more’ approach by finetuning a smaller selection to be more enjoyable. Best of all, they’re all accessible via the PlayStation 5’s Activity Card feature too, making it even easier to access them – it’s definitely a game-changer as far as open-world games are concerned.
Still, when the web-slinging is as good as it is here, sometimes it’s fun to just make your own way to each location… who needs fast-travel, right?
Speaking of fast-travel, remember how you had to go through a loading screen in the previous game when using the subway, entering or exiting a building, or when simply booting the game? Yeah, those are pretty non-existent here, with the PlayStation 5’s SSD making everything happen almost instantaneously. It never failed to blow me away when I’d leave a building via a vent and be outside IMMEDIATELY, with no waiting around for anything in the game. It’s almost as amazing as Spider-Man himself… almost.
Those hoping to see some impressive visuals will definitely be in awe of the game too, with Spider-Man: Miles Morales easily standing out as one of the best-looking games on the PlayStation 5 right now. You’ve got two graphical modes available that prioritize either the visual fidelity at a 30fps frame rate or a performance mode that attains a consistent 60fps frame rate – I’d recommend the former, with the 4K resolution and some stunning ray tracing making the game look outstanding. I feel like ray tracing is compulsory in a game like this, especially when you can swing through New York at night and see all of the lights and reflections bouncing off the windows of skyscrapers and the snow-puddled floors… it’s breath-taking and easily one of the most impressive things I’ve seen on the console so far.
Also, Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place at Christmas. This means plenty of snow, plenty of Christmas decorations, and plenty of festive cheer. It’s the PERFECT time to play the game really…
Whilst Spider-Man: Miles Morales follows on from its predecessor with an array of improvements, it’s worth noting that it’s a lot smaller in scale. You’ve got less gadgets to use, the level cap is twenty as opposed to fifty, there are less missions to complete overall, there are less villains to beat up – the only thing that really remains the same is the fact that you’re still scaling the same big city, though you’ll visit less interiors there too. It doesn’t make the game worse by any stretch of the imagination, especially since it streamlines the gameplay to be more action-orientated anyway, but it does mean you’ll spend less time beating it. I managed to 100% the game in around twelve-hours, which is a whole lot less than the time I spent doing the same in Marvel’s Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an outstanding example of what the PlayStation 5 is capable of, with the thrilling adventure brought to life by some stunning visuals and an emotionally-driven tale. I loved the new combat mechanics brought on by the Venom powers and the cloaking, whilst the streamlined mission design made everything feel a little bit more meaningful. Add to that the instantaneous loading times and the Activity Card integration and you’ll quickly find that Spider-Man: Miles Morales is easily one of the best launch titles available on the PlayStation 5.
It’s worth noting that it’s a lot smaller in scale that its predecessor, but Spider-Man: Miles Morales still improves upon its greatness. Whether you’re a fan of the web-slinger or not, you won’t want to miss out on this one.
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4