GAME REVIEW: Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Maxwell Alexander swings through New York once more
Title: Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Platforms: PlayStation 5 (tested), PlayStation 4
Release Date: November 12
Rating: PEGI 16
‘Be Greater. Be Yourself’. That’s the slogan for the follow-up to 2018’s critically-acclaimed Marvel’s Spider-Man. In the opening scenes, it’s hard to see how that slogan fits. Spider-Man: Miles Morales handles almost the same as its counterpart did. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I’m sure a lot of people will agree. Swinging your way through New York City was one of the highlights of the last generation of consoles, after all.
But it is a reminder that Spider-Man: MM isn’t a numbered sequel and more of a continuation of 2018’s game. Set just over a year after the events of the first game, we take control of Miles, the young hero in training, trying his best to emulate his Idol, Peter Parker. But does the game do enough to stand on its own merit and define Miles Morales as more than a reskin of everyone’s favourite wall crawler?
Gameplay wise, you can definitely expect more of what 2018’s Spider-Man did well. Swinging through the city feels just a joyous as it did the first time out, with some slight tweaks to Miles’ animations. Especially in the early part of the game where Miles feels less accomplished and often flails about, while flying through the air. It’s subtle but it does help to portray him getting used to the ropes. Compare that to the end of the game where Miles has a certain swagger to how he jumps off buildings and swings through the city. It’s a great way to show off the character's development as he becomes more confident over the course of the game.
What is a nice touch for the PS5 version is the use of the adaptive triggers. As you swing through the city you will feel a slight tension in the right trigger, like you’re gripping on to something. And then a nice snap feeling when Spider-Man reaches the end of his tether. Almost like the trigger giving way with the sudden release.
The base combat feels almost like a carbon copy from the first game but the addition of Miles’ ‘Venom’ powers do a decent job changing the dynamic fights as the story progresses. Not to be confused with the symbiotic villain, known as Venom, these new powers are rooted in electricity. Hitting foes with a ‘Venom Smash’, see Spider-Man jump into the air and strike the ground with an electric charge that shocks and stuns enemies unfortunate enough to be near him. Not just a flashy gimmick, these moves become essential in defeating certain types of enemies later on.
The flip side in making these moves, so important in defeating a particular type of enemy, is that fights can get slowed right down as you wait for your Venom meter to fill. While this doesn’t happen often, as the special bar does fill quite quickly when battling enemies. I did find myself a couple of times having to duck and dodge against some of the tougher brutes longer than I would have liked to, once all the smaller grunts had been defeated. It’s not a major bugbear but it does slow the pace down a little when you’re having to wait for the meter to fill up.
Another difference between the PS5 version and the PS4 version is the haptic feedback you get in the Dual Sense controller. Charging up Miles’ Venom attacks crackles and pops through controller, giving the sensation of lightning running through your hands. While it doesn’t have any mechanical benefit it, does help to make you feel extra powerful as you unleash these new abilities.
Another power that we are given is the invisibility cloak. Stealth sections were a major part in the first but now Spidey can vanish into thin air when spotted. This probably makes up for the less than robust stealth mechanics by feeling a bit like a get out of jail free card if you mess up and someone does see you.
Miles also comes with his own set of gadgets. While Spider-Man’s trademark web shooters are present, a couple of the other gadgets feel a bit out of place. Especially the ‘Gravity Well’ which sees Spider-Man throw a little black hole hand grenade that sucks enemies too it. While functionally very fun to use, and it does make for some great combos when paired with some of the Venom attacks, I can’t help but feel this is a little overpowered for a 17-year-old boy to be making in his bedroom.
Graphically the game is gorgeous. Especially when put into PS5’s Fidelity mode. Through the power of ray tracing, New York feels even more alive, with stunning reflections bouncing off every building and cars alike. A trip through Times Square, at night, is especially jaw dropping. With neon lights dripping from every corner of the screen and bouncing back at you through puddles and window reflections.
New York has extra licence to flex this particular muscle in its Christmas holidays setting. Bright Christmas lights flood the streets and blankets of snow give the game a really festive flavor.
There are minute details in Miles' suit, like little flecks of shiny plastic on some of the costumes and the breathable fabric holes in the spandex. The attention to detail is stunning.
I played most of the campaign in fidelity mode on PS5, but you can switch to performance mode and crank the frame rates up to 60fps from 30fps at the expense of the ray tracing.
One of the game’s biggest strengths though, is it story and setting.
Having to deal with villains close to home and a far makes for some fun cut scenes that I don’t particularly want to go into here, for risk of spoilers.
Miles really comes alive in a way that was perhaps missing in the first one. While we all loved saving New York from the Sinister Six, the city rarely felt more than a playground for Spidey, rather than his home.
In Harlem, Miles has that home. Harlem is draped in multiple nation’s flags, (including Miles’ own Puerto Rican flag from his own heritage), NPCs can be heard speaking Spanish and stunning graffiti covers most building corners. We get to see inside Miles’ home, meet his friends and family and build relationships with many of the local residents in the area. It really gives Miles and his community depth and flavor, and most importantly something to fight for.
As the game's two battling factions (Roxxon and the Underground) duke it out on Miles’ doorstep, you can’t help but route for Spider-Man to put a stop to it. I loved the evolution of Miles as a 17-year-old anxiously dealing with his new responsibility to his own version of Spider-Man, full of swagger and unique abilities. Mixed in with a terrific soundtrack that includes original songs from Jaden Smith and a remixed hip hop version of the original game's score, the game does a great job of defining itself as its own game and not Marvel's Spider-Man 1.5.
The game does all this in a very short period of time, with the campaign taking roughly about five to seven hours to beat. But what it delivers in this short period is a far more personable experience than we got with the first game.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales could have inflated players' game time with lots of filler missions but it actually does the opposite and thins out the collectathon that the first game had a tendency to turn into. And this makes for a far more enjoyable experience and steers it away from making the missions feel repetitive. There are still a heap of collectables to find and a ton of Easter eggs hidden throughout the city to discover. So don’t expect for the game to be over after the credits roll.
Do I wish I had a longer campaign? Yes. And some of the great boss battles and set pieces are missing from the first game. But despite that, Spider-Man: Miles Morales oozes style and delivers a more refined and wholesome Spider-Man experience that leans more on it characters than its spectacle. And I for one cannot wait for a follow-up. So it may not be the Ultimate Spider-Man experience but it certainly is Amazing.