I really, really, REALLY wanted to experience Spider-Man: Miles Morales on a PlayStation 5 as it is one of the titles in the launch lineup that drew my interest, with Demon’s Souls being the other one. As I checked my inbox, I was shocked to see that the review copy came in, which snapped me back to reality that it was coming out on the PlayStation 4 as well. I was nervous at first, because I only had so much time to actually play, finish, and write up the review for it. I booted up the game, drink in one hand and controller on the other, and soaked it all in.
Much of the arguments around Spider-Man: Miles Morales is that of being just the same Spider-Man 2018 game, only with a different character. They’re not wrong. At a glance, it is a reskin and if that turns you off, I wouldn’t blame you. I was thinking pretty much the same thing while I was playing – “Huh, it’s basically just Spider-Man.” and I almost didn’t give Miles a chance.
At the end of the day, as the credits rolled, I’m glad I gave the game a chance to pull me in, because when it did, it never let me go. If anything, playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales on the PlayStation 4 only got me more excited at the prospect of a better and more immersive experience on the PlayStation 5, and that really made my spidey-sense tingle.
If you’ve played the 2018 title, there will be a lot of things that will be very familiar to you. All things considered, Spider-Man was a fantastic game, so more of that is definitely good. For real though, weren’t we all expecting something similar from the very first time the game was announced?
That said, let’s jump in.
One year later…
Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place one year after the 2018 game, and if you’re like me who has totally forgotten about what happened 2 years ago, there’s a handy recap movie that can be played to get you up to speed. Because of this, Miles Morales is something you can definitely immerse yourself in without having played the previous title, but there are references and cameos here and there that will indeed add to the enjoyment factor.
Real talk, why haven’t you played the 2018 game yet? Anyways…
Miles gets caught up in this mess between Roxxon Energy Corporation and a group of heavily armed thugs who call themselves “The Underground”. The story revolves around this premise and it is through this that Miles discovers a deeper plan that calls on him to be the hero that he was meant to be.
In all of my reviews, I never go into discussing story details because I don’t like spoiling things for anyone and I want the players to experience the game the same way I did. Don’t expect things to change here, we’ll talk about everything else except that.
So, what’s new?
Story aside, Spider-Man: Miles Morales shines the spotlight on a whole new cast of characters. You have Miles (of course), Ganke (Miles’ best friend), and Rio (Miles’ mom) among others. Rhino makes a comeback, and even Peter Parker makes an appearance to provide Miles with some guidance as he goes all in on this superhero business.
Performances from each member of the cast is fantastic, from the naivete of Miles to the warm-hearted and motherly Rio, the game excels in making the audience feel connected to the characters. There was hardly any instances of writing that made me cringe, and the storytelling was very engaging. Coming from someone who is not as familiar with Miles Morales compared to other Marvel superheroes, I did not have a hard time understanding and relating to the characters, which is a testament to great storytelling by Insomniac.
Taking cues from the first game, Spider-Man: Miles Morales streamlines a lot of the features and mechanics that make it much more concise, even at the expense of game length. There are far fewer suits in this game compared to the first, there are fewer gadgets, around the same number of skills and three skill trees… you get the drift. Side missions are back, crimes are back, and if you remember all those collectibles and tokens from the first game that allow you to upgrade or unlock new things, they’re back too, just in a different shape or form.
There are a few new mechanics that have been added as a function of Miles having different powers from Peter Parker. Some puzzles in the game will take advantage of this, like using a tether web that conducts electricity to power up a generator, but they happen just a handful of times during the whole story. Level design isn’t vastly improved from the first game, and puzzles aren’t hard to do at all, which may leave something to be desired for players looking for a challenge on that aspect.
Combat is mostly the same, which is a good thing because Spider-Man 2018 had very fluid and responsive mechanics and controls. This time around, miles packs some power behind his moves, and has a new arsenal that revolves around his ability to conduct electricity and turn himself invisible. Miles can easily clear mobs of enemies as his Venom attacks cover an area, translating to faster and more visually appealing but sometimes easier fights.
While this is the case, combat eventually falls into the same problems as the first game, where you just pull off the same move over and over again to win the fight. I didn’t mind, I like boring. My old hands can barely stretch themselves out to attempt any of those acrobatic showcases, but it might be something gamers would consider. I’m sure some combat highlight reels will begin popping up on Youtube within the first few days of release, but definitely I preferred sneaking my way around thugs and popping them with stealth takedowns.
There are also fewer enemy types in this game, which boils down to melee, ranged / firearms, sword, brutes, and shields. No more sable agents, no more jetpack dudes, thank goodness. You’ll still need to employ different tactics per enemy type and while I do appreciate the various enemies, there wasn’t enough of the shielded variety to really make me change up my tactics over the course of the game. For about 90% of the time, I would launch an enemy, do an air-combo, switch to another one, perform a finisher on the brute, switch to another one, repeat. It’s effective, it’s boring, it gets the job done, but again it speaks to the enemy variety, which doesn’t keep you on your toes as much as the first game did.
Built for the next-gen
Now that I’ve gotten my gripes out of the way, let’s shift gears.
First off, I believe that the game really was made and designed for the PS5 and just downscaled to cater to the millions of PS4 players that wouldn’t adopt a PS5 on day one.
Loading times in the game are very minimal. During a regular gaming session, and if i’m not mistaken, you’ll only see a loading screen twice or thrice – first after you load the game from your save file, second when using fast travel, and third if and when you die. The game seems to be optimized very well, and the loading times aren’t that long either. In one instance, fast travel took around 15 seconds give or take, which will most probably be cut down to maybe 2 seconds or so on the PS5. Entering a “dungeon” and leaving also had no loading times, ensuring you transition in and out of the free-roam experience faster.
The game runs smoothly, maybe even smoother than the first game. Frame rate dips, if any, were very minimal. It ain’t 60fps, that’s reserved for the PS5, but the present gameplay experience is still very pleasant. The visuals seem to have been improved also, featuring a lot of shinier textures and surfaces, especially on Miles’ default suit and during cinematic sequences
One thing that is radically different from the 2018 game is the soundtrack and Miles Morales is all the more better for it. Spider-Man had a lot of the more heroic sounding bgm, something very similar to the Avengers orchestra arrangements from the MCU. Miles Morales takes a different turn and drops the beats, going full R&B hip hop especially during combat sequences. It’s refreshing and is a joy to play with as it really sets the tone for who Miles is. Miles is young and energetic (in more ways than one), and the music captures his personality perfectly.
Attention to detail
Speaking of capturing things perfectly, just last week it was revealed that the “Into the Spider-Verse” suit will be making an appearance in the game and props to Insomniac for pulling such a feat with amazing attention to detail. As you equip the suit, you’ll notice quite a few things – your physique changes to reflect the art from the movie, your attacks have comic-book POW effects (you can choose to disable this), and even move based on the 12fps style from the animated movie (you can also choose to disable this).
As you swing through the city streets of Harlem, you might notice Miles botch his swing animation at times. Remember, Miles is new to this superhero thing, so he isn’t as experienced as Peter is, and even that is portrayed by the way he talks and acts throughout the duration of the game.
Speaking to his inexperience, you’ll also see Miles fumble a lot of the things and decisions that you know Peter Parker would have done differently. You’ll see this throughout the story, and you’ll find that it really is part of the charm that Miles Morales brings into the game.
His own hero
It took me a while to warm up to Miles Morales. I was struggling to get past the “This is just the same game” idea out of my head. I kept comparing it to the original and I think almost everyone will do that at some point, I won’t blame you for it. There was a certain mission that really flipped my perspective, finally selling me on Miles Morales as his own character.
From here, the game does not let go of its grip on you. Throughout my 10 hour playthrough of the campaign, which some may finish faster or slower depending on how they play, I was deeply engrossed and invested in the story and its characters. Even though the villains here aren’t as big ticket as the sinister six, the game still finds a way to reel you in because of how relatable Miles and the rest of the cast are.
10 hours does sound a bit short compared to the first game, which averages around 15-20 hours for the main campaign, but the pacing here in Miles Morales felt good and felt right. Nothing feels forced, and while some of the characters in the game could use a bit more screen time and exposition, the main cast did not suffer from the same shortcoming.
More than the gameplay, Miles Morales really relies heavily on its storytelling and succeeds in that front, telling an emotional tale full of heart that is not hard to appreciate. I had finished the game feeling satisfied and although short, it does leave the door open for more adventures in the future.
What we liked:
- Surprisingly emotional story
- Amazing attention to detail
- Minimal loading screens
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Sets a good benchmark for the incoming PS5 experience
What we didn’t like:
- Short campaign
- Enemy variety could be improved
- Not playing it on the PS5
Verdict: Buy it!
Spider-Man: Miles Morales successfully steps out of the shadow of the 2018 title and establishes itself as a game that can stand on its own. It has a great cast and engrossing story paired with superb gameplay that a lot of similar games in the same genre fail to capture. Although the campaign is a bit on the short side, there are a lot of side activities that will easily push your playing time upwards of 15-20 hours.
If you loved Spider-Man, then Miles Morales is definitely a must add to your library. Even if you aren’t a fan, the game is built on solid foundations that make up for a more than serviceable action adventure title.
After playing the game, I have a deeper appreciation for Miles and the rest of the cast, something that I can’t say for a lot of the other games out there. I will neither confirm or deny that I may have shed a tear during a certain portion of the game, which was highly unexpected but totally welcome.
I would highly recommend that you wait to play this on the PS5 if you are getting one sometime soon because I feel that the full breadth of the experience can really be unlocked using the new hardware. That being the case, it’s not hard to recommend the PS4 version if you don’t care so much about higher frames and ray tracing. Wherever you choose to play it, Miles Morales is a great way to get yourself introduced to the series.
*Spider-Man: Miles Morales was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.