After its initial reveal during the PlayStation 5 State of Play stream, Spider-Man: Miles suffered from some uncertainty.
There were questions about the length of the game, whether it was exclusive to PlayStation 5, and if the game would manage a simultaneous launch with the PS5 console. As a result, you would be forgiven for wondering whether Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales might fall short of its predecessor, 2018’s PS4-exclusive Marvel’s Spider-Man.
Fortunately, any concerns are misplaced. It is a testament to the quality of work from the team at Insomniac Games that Miles Morales manages to build upon the success of the original Spider-Man, emerging as an essential PS5 title and a contender for Game of the Year in 2020.
Right into the thick of it
Miles is immediately hurled into action, joining Peter Parker as a convoy carrying the gargantuan Rhino falls under attack. Events swing from bad to worse, as the duo struggle to contain the rampaging Rhino. The aftermath prompts Peter to take some vacation time in Europe with Mary Jane, leaving Miles to patrol the city.
It’s a breathless start that players of the previous game will appreciate, triggering the muscle memory of the sleek combat loop learned in the previous game. Miles Morales doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does enough to make the combat feel rewarding when it could so easily have felt repetitive. As the game unfolds you’ll have the opportunity to try out Miles’ venom sting and camouflage powers which add another dimension to encounters.
A new Spider-Man
With Peter gone, Miles is left to monitor the menacing presence of Roxxon Energy. Simon Krieger, head of the energy conglomerate, serves as the obvious mustache-twirling villain – but the story runs much deeper than the initial set up.
The fact that Peter trusts Miles with the burden of watching the city speaks both to the high regard he holds for him but also to the weight the up-and-comer has to carry. Yet, that’s kind of the point. Miles has his own aspirations of rising to meet his mentor’s expectations, but he’s still figuring out how to be his own Spider-Man while juggling the expectations of those he confides in.
The game implores you to see the best in people and the community at a time when the world is rife with toxicity and distrust. It silkily sews together narrative and gameplay in a way that feels meaningful and true to Miles as a character. One of the best examples of this comes during a side quest where you return a delivery address list to a FEAST truck driver.
In this particular side quest, you approach the FEAST truck in a similar fashion. You perch on the roof similar to how you would a getaway car. Instead of hoisting your enemy from inside and slowing the vehicle, Miles hangs beside the window and delivers the list to the driver. It’s a welcome twist on a successful formula that encapsulates everything Miles Morales the person – and the game – is all about.
The plot is perfectly paced, granting respite at opportune moments, allowing you to digest recent events. The debuting podcast of Danika Hart is a welcome alternative to the ranting of J. Jonah Jameson. However, Jameson does continue to reappear and the two intersect with hilarious consequences. Swinging through the city and listening to their dialogue brings as much, if not more, entertainment than busting an arms deal.
My other favorite past-time was completing the various side quests accessible through the new friendly neighborhood Spider-Man app, which is designed by your confident Ganke. It helps to draw out Miles’ understanding of his own identity within the local Harlem community, as both himself and as Spider-Man, and how the tension between the two might manifest.
Danika and Ganke are two of a host of myriad characters who help bring the city – and Harlem in particular – to life. Many of them, such as Miles’ Uncle Aaron and long-time friend Phin, harbor secrets that inevitably complicate Miles’ feelings as he navigates the dual role of Spider-Man and being a teenager.
Anyone who’s familiar with the recent animated film Into The Spiderverse will likely approach Aaron with trepidation, but his words as an imperfect surrogate father provide some of the story’s most compelling moments. It’s not all brooding and serious. Miles’ blossoming friendship with Hailey through sign language is one of the most rewarding subplots, both narratively and because it unlocks one of the coolest suits. So too is his heartwarming relationship with his mother, Rio Morales.
However, the most engaging narrative is found with the villainous Tinkerer thanks to the duality between them and Miles. I don’t have a huge history with the comic books, so my prior knowledge of the Tinkerer was slim to none. Yet upon completion, I felt that this was one of the best-developed foes of the recent Marvel craze. Their motivations are relatable making their decisions understandable, even if that brings them into direct conflict with Miles. The two often feel like different sides of the same coin.
Simon Krieger, on the other hand, never quite emerges into a threat. He’s got some good lines and the acting is perfectly serviceable, it’s perhaps simply a case of the other plot threads striking so well that Krieger’s Roxxon Energy company feels like a bit-part player – more of an effective framing device than anything else.
The game is stunning in the 60 frames per second performance mode, with no signs of any dips in framerate. Upon completion, the temptation to fiddle with the photo mode is encouraged by the beauty of New York City during Christmas season. The game also pays lip service to the DualSense controller’s adaptive trigger feature with resistance during web-swinging. Hopefully, this will be explored further in the inevitable follow-up, which has been hinted at in both this and the original Marvel’s Spider-Man.