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SummaryNew Generation, New Spider-Man
The Good* A great technical showcase for the PS5 launch: speedy load times, ray-traced reflections, and new weather effects make for a more immersive experience.
* Miles' new abilities are fun to use.
* A mostly-solid continuation of the story from the first game.
The Bad* A very familiar experience to the first game
* Game is shorter and smaller in scale than the first, between a DLC and a full campaign.
* Some annoying boss fights drag down the fun.
The Bottom LineIn the fall of 2018, Sony and developer Insomniac Games launched what would be known as one of the PlayStation 4’s defining titles: Spider-Man. The game’s lavish production values, open-world web traversal, enjoyable combat, and cinematic storytelling made for an enjoyable comic-book power fantasy. With the dawn of a new console generation and the power afforded to the developers, Insomiac decided to return to their reimagined Marvel universe and continue the story by focusing on a new character taking up the Spider-Man mantle: Miles Morales. Somewhere between a DLC and a sequel, the game largely sticks to the template established by its predecessor while offering up a few new wrinkles of its own.
Continuing where the previous games’ DLC left off, the story is set some time after the original game around the holiday season. Miles has spent some time learning how to use his newfound spider powers under Peter Parker’s tutelage. One day, Parker decides to leave New York on vacation with his girlfriend over in Europe, entrusting Miles with the responsibility of being New York’s only Spider-Man. That’s also when Miles begins to discover that he has some unique abilities of his own which Parker doesn’t possess. New enemies emerge over the holiday break as Miles is caught in a war between Roxxon, a corporation offering a new clean energy source and an eco-terrorist resistance known as The Underground. Miles must split his time with protecting his neighborhood from these new threats while also dealing with the highs and lows that come with the holiday season.
As with the first game, the game’s story presentation is highly cinematic, fitting more with the tone of the Sam Raimi/Tobey McGuire-era Spider-Man films than any other incarnation, although with Miles as the star there’s also a bit of the acclaimed animated feature Into The Spider-Verse mixed in as well. We’re given a much greater exploration of Miles’ domestic life compared to the first game, as he’s still a high school student unlike the post-grad Peter Parker. Much like Into the Spider-Verse, the soundtrack mixes the traditional orchestral stylings of the first game with drum machines, electronic beats, and even songs with vocals, giving an urban, hip-hop flavor to this particular Spider-Man. There’s even a suit mod you can unlock which mimics the annoyingly choppy, stop-motion comic book animation style from that film, even if that looks incredibly out of place in the photo-realistic world of Insomniac’s games. One thing that might throw some people off is that the voice of Peter Parker has been completely recast for this installment. That being said, the new actor does an excellent job with the role and I barely noticed it after a while.
The presentation is only enhanced with the new possibilities afforded by the next-generation PS5 hardware. Despite also being available on the PS4, Miles Morales is clearly designated as Sony’s flagship, showcase launch title for the system. The PS5’s speedy SSD allows for unbelievably quick loading times when booting up the game, while the enhanced draw distance and ray-traced reflections offer up a more immersive New York. New weather effects this time around include snow, intense blizzards, and fog, although as with the first game every time of day is pre-set for each story mission, and there is no true day-to-night cycle. There’s a calm, serene beauty to the falling snow and Christmas lights which contrasts nicely with the fast-paced comic-book action of the gameplay. There’s also a performance mode, which shuts off the more advanced graphical features but doubles the framerate, allowing for an unbelievably smooth and fluid 60 FPS game experience that puts the previous generation incarnation to shame. While no single enhancement truly blew me away individually, all of these features collectively make for an impressive experience at the outset of a new generation. Insomniac has also remade the original game’s campaign using these new features and upgrades as well, allowing you to transfer your game across generations, although you’ll need to purchase the ultimate edition to download this. That being said, I did witness a couple of crashes as I made my way through this game’s campaign, so perhaps there’s a few next-generation kinks left to iron out.
Spider-Man Miles Morales doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel when it comes to its overall game experience. Even though Miles is supposed to be a rookie compared to the far more experienced Peter in the first game, the way the game feels to play is remarkably similar. You’ll still swing around New York as Spider-Man with the same basic control scheme as before, completing various objectives and earning skill points and tokens to invest in upgrading Miles’ abilities and suits. You’ll still battle waves of faceless goons from various factions using different combo moves as well as gadgets. The open world of New York is largely the same apart from being gussied up for Christmas, and new interiors have been added for specific missions. And random crimes and objectives will pop up constantly to reward you with experience points and tokens that can be used to unlock new skills and suits. A hero’s work is never done, it seems.
There have been some changes and streamlining, however. First, the Pipe Dream-style puzzle sections which were meant to simulate Parker’s scientist occupation have been completely axed in favor of environmental puzzles, a smart idea in theory. However these are disappointingly basic, and rarely, if ever had me stumped for long. Generally, the puzzles come down to either using web to connect electric wires, using Miles’ bioelectric abilities to charge generators or punch through walls, or using web to hold a mechanism in place to keep a door open. That’s where the second major difference comes in, as instead of each suit having its own special ability when the special meter is full, Miles utilizes his own bioelectric “Venom” attacks which stun enemies and open them up for extra damage. You’ll need this to break the guard of the new enemy types introduced in this game, and it also allows for a fair amount of crowd control. The downside is that each suit feels a bit less unique, although some of them are still pretty cool. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock increasingly powerful venom attacks, starting from a punch and eventually graduating to using a full, screen-clearing attack which knocks out just about everybody around you.
Later on, Miles can also turn invisible using his camouflage power, which is highly useful for stealth and avoiding hairy situations during combat. I’ve even been able to escape combat entirely and go back into stealth when using this during a few instances. That being said, I feel that the length of time Miles can become invisible is a bit too long, however, and its a bit too easy to just walk around and web everyone unseen. This ability, while awesome to use, could have used a bit of nerfing.
While the first game constantly shifted the player’s perspective between Peter Parker and the unpowered Miles Morales and Mary Jane, I found this to be a choice which didn’t pay off. We want to play as Spider-Man in our Spider-Man game! This time around there are no such perspective shifts and we’re playing as Miles for the entire game although there are a couple of flashbacks to Miles’ life as an ordinary kid.
While the first game was loaded with huge set pieces and big boss battles, Mile Morales dials things back a bit due to its shorter campaign. Most of the story missions are focused around the Harlem area as opposed to all of New York. There are some nifty set pieces involving a mall, a bridge, and a few major boss battles, and all of these offer the kind of spectacle seen in the first game: there just isn’t as much of it. One boss battle in the back half of the game is easily the most annoying fight between the two campaigns, and if it weren’t for the game’s forgiving checkpointing I might have chosen to dial down the difficulty for a bit.
Spider-Man Miles Morales does the PS5 proud as its inaugural AAA title, offering a great superhero experience. However, it rests so much on the foundation laid by its predecessor that there really isn’t much left to go beyond continuing the story and streamlining a few aspects and adding some new powers for its new character. Much like Miles himself, It’s a game that cannot quite escape the long shadow of its predecessor despite possessing some of its own identity. That said, if you enjoyed the first part then you’ll also like this one as well.