Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man from Insomniac Games was among the finest superhero games ever made – with a few flaws mixed into its formula that bogged things down a bit. Starting off with a recap of Miles’ own story from the first game, Insomniac manages to relate his tale to Peter’s in a lot of ways – effectively making them seem like two sides of the same coin. Beyond each having radioactive spider powers, Miles is more like Peter was in his youth and now Peter is there to help guide him. They have almost a Batman and Robin dynamic here when they’re on-screen together, and the voice work between the cast makes the bond between them that much stronger.
It’s rare that the casting being pitch-perfect makes such a striking impact, but right from the get go you know that Miles is unsure of himself and Peter is there to help him gain more confidence in real-time and let him know that it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Much like how the original Spider-Man game was about Peter’s journey and growth as a person as he juggled the role of Spider-Man and his regular life, Miles has to find that balance as he tries to stop Rhino with Peter and, oh yeah, get some almond milk for his mother at home. It’s a very grounded story at times and its small touches help make each character in the adventure seem at least plausible or rooted in reality to some degree.
While it would be easy to think that Miles just plays like a re-skin of Peter in theory, in execution he plays totally differently – and yet he’s familiar enough to just jump in and have fun. Miles has new venom-infused punches and attacks that fill him full of neon-orange electricity and enable him to deal out more damage in a single shot than Peter could in the entirety of his original adventure. It’s amazing how good a job Insomniac has done at making him feel completely different in every way when it comes to his combat and overall movement. Swinging through the air with both Peter and Miles felt natural – but Miles is a bit younger and more naturally athletic, so he has more finesse with his web swinging.
Miles’ combat is also more rooted in what you would expect someone who has grown up in New York their whole lives to use – with a bit less finesse there and more raw skills for hand-to-hand combat, while Peter was more of a natural at stealth and using things like web takedowns to send foes packing. As a character, Miles approaches being Spider-Man differently due to his inexperience relative to Peter, and it isn’t until Peter leaves him to fly solo that he’s able to embrace what he’s learned and take everything to the next level. He still struggles with the balancing act that comes from being a superhero and having the responsibilities of a normal person, but has a stronger family and friend bond to work with than Peter does – which is the kind of thing that could really be expanded upon in a future game.
One constant in both the original game and this one is the goal of both main characters’ families being to better their community. In the first, May Parker set out to help the less fortunate with FEAST – a homeless shelter that is still making lives better in the modern day. Miles himself does what he can to make things better by being Spider-Man, while his mother aims to help save the city from being overrun by an energy group by running for local office, while his uncle Aaron aims to make up for past misdeeds by helping Miles out in the background – albeit with his own motives on the side for doing so. The story in Miles Morales is a bit more focused because while there are still a lot of characters featured, they’re given better definition as characters and there’s more of a daisy chain effect with how everyone relates to Miles.
Here, you have a hero with villains either in his family or who are like family, and that puts him in situations that Peter didn’t have to worry about in the first game. There’s an extra layer of conflict for Miles here and that makes his story resonate more than Peter’s did. Miles’ adventure is also aided by offering a more streamlined experience overall because while it still has a lot of activities to do, it isn’t as bloated in its core design as the first game was with a plethora of things to collect just for the sake of it. Here, you can collect things from The Underground – a group led by The Tinkerer that is dead-set on getting rid of the evil energy group Roxxon. It’s a story with several shades of grey to it and it winds up putting Miles in tough emotional situations constantly. It’s a blast to see unfold and the best story I’ve seen Insomniac put in a game yet.
Visually, Miles Morales shines brightly on both the PS4 and PS5. One big advantage to this being a cross-gen game is that more people can experience it – and as an early game in the hardware’s life, it still looks great on PS5. You have fidelity and performance modes to choose from with the former bringing things like ray tracing into the mix for more realistic reflections and lighting alongside more detail on character models, but at the expense of framerate. Performance mode allows you to lose some effects, but enables you to get a smoother framerate. No matter what console you have or mode you play it on, you’re getting a top-flight visual experience across the board.
The same holds true for the game’s sound design. The voice work is top shelf and the cast has great chemistry, and as a result winds up playing off of one another easily. You can buy that Miles’ family is his family thanks to this chemistry and that holds up for his friends – with funny and awkward moments alike working out far better thanks to the voice acting. There’s so much to love about the acting that it almost overshadows the soundtrack – but that too is impressive without being super-memorable. In this case, I think that works out fine since the blood still gets pumping during intense sections, and it allows the drama to breathe alongside the rest of the sound design. Zipping through New York with a solid set of headphones feels fantastic since you can have the web zip by your side and hear where enemies are at when you can’t see them as well. There’s a lot of care put into the sound design of the game and that falls in line with what was done in the original as well.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an all-killer, no-filler follow-up to the 2018 classic – and has managed to unseat it as the best Spider-Man game ever made. It takes all of the same core gameplay and fine-tunes it while cutting out a lot of the bloat and telling a better story to boot. It looks gorgeous on any console you play it on, but PS5 users do get a boost in graphics and the added tension on the trigger when you’re swinging helps a bit with immersion when compared to the normal DualShock 4 controller. Anyone who loved the original game will enjoy this, and you may very well come away from it digging it more than that.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
This review is based on a physical copy of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales for the PlayStation 5 purchased by the reviewer.