When I played and reviewed Marvel’s Spider-Man back in 2018, it was a fantastic experience that was somewhat bogged down by cookie-cutter open world activities and frustrating stealth missions. With the announcement and release of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5, we have our first chance to see what Insomniac have learned from that original release. Have the wrinkles been ironed out? Has the combat system been built on? Read on to find out!
What is immediately noticeable from the first boot of Miles Morales on PS5 is how completely different the energy is. With an already experienced Peter Parker, Marvel’s Spider-Man felt like a relatively subdued experience. There was plenty of drama and action, but it was a fairly serious affair. Miles Morales (both character and game) is different. He’s new, he’s learning, and his style is completely different to Peter’s. There’s an exuberance and energy that wasn’t there before. It comes in Miles’ mannerisms, as he bounces down the street listening to music or as he becomes ecstatic as he receives his first true spider-suit. It’s felt in the music, with the hip-hop and rap beats bringing an up-tempo vibe that wasn’t seen in the original. It’s seen in Miles’ interactions with others, as he stumbles over words and reacts triumphantly as he gets something right. It’s incredibly relatable, even as someone that’s now hit 30, and brings a view and representation that is sorely missing in videogames.
That focus on youth and learning flows into the story of Miles Morales, as we follow Miles’ stint as a solo Spider-Man. Similar to Peter Parker and Marvel’s Spider-Man, there’s a focus on friendships, mending broken relationships and making some difficult decisions. The story moves between light-hearted moments where Miles feels like the teen he is and more serious moments where you can see and feel the weight of his responsibilities weighing on him. Perhaps the most encouraging part of the story in Miles Morales’ story is how it deals with mental burdens and unhealthy relationships. Miles turns to the people he loves and trusts for help and guidance, instead of internalising his struggles, while he also stands up to and cuts off an unhealthy relationship during the game. In a world where toxic masculinity and stoicism cause so many people (myself included) to internalise their struggles instead of seeking helps, it’s encouraging to see a game push healthy mental and emotional practices like this.
Every other aspect of Miles Morales on PS5 is a case expanded, altered or refined versions of the content that existed in the original game. In the case of world activities, this comes in the form of better presentation and less repetition. The biggest change comes in the form of the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man app. Gone are the days of relying on random chance to get all of the different crimes in the game completed. Now, you can use the FNSM app to pick specific crimes to travel to and complete if you desire. Crimes have also been removed from the district completion metric. Side Missions also pop up in the app, giving you a central location to track the starting point of a mission and presented the rewards you’ll gain upfront. While most of these side missions have story implications or interesting moments, some of them feel too basic and aren’t particularly engaging. This includes searching for a missing car, which was basically just web-slinging to a chop shop and beating up a few people. A little more depth to some of these would have gone a long way.
Speaking of web-slinging, if you’ve played Marvel’s Spider-Man you shouldn’t expect any surprises here. There’s very little in the way of traversal unlocks through the game, with Miles starting off with almost all of Peter’s unlocked movement skills in his repertoire. Instead, you’re just given free reign from the beginning to enjoy yourself as you swing your way through New York City. It feels just as amazing as it did in the past, while the 60fps Performance Mode elevates it even further.
The one issue with the Performance Mode, of course, is that it comes with reduced visual fidelity and effects. This might not be a big deal for some who prefer the higher framerate, but Miles Morales looks absolutely stunning on PS5 when using the Fidelity Mode. Seeing realistic and accurate reflections in the skyscrapers throughout NYC is a revelation, while the lighting and weather effects combine to create some technically and artistically impressive scenes. This is especially noticeable during night-time scenes where neon lights truly standout or when using Miles’ Venom powers in combat. The animation is still top-notch as well, with a fluidity to it that is still impressive to see.
Speaking of Miles’ Venom powers, this is where combat in Miles Morales feels different to the original game. While Peter Parker relied on gadgets and his own physical prowess in combat, Miles comes with an array of superpowers that are true to his comic book representation. Chiefly among these are his bioelectricity fuelled Venom powers. Miles is able to generate bioelectricity within himself, represented in-game as a meter that fills as you hit enemies, dodge attacks or complete tricks, and releases this in the form of different damaging attack. This includes Venom Punch which is a powerful shortrange punch, Venom Dash which is a quickfire medium range attack that flings Miles forwards and more. Some of these abilities can be chained together, making Miles feel like a much more powerful force than Peter was. The trade off to this is that Miles has less gadgetry than Peter, but that hardly felt like an issue in the game.
The other way Miles powers manifest themselves is in his ability to camouflage for short periods of time. This can be used in a few different ways, such as allowing you to ambush enemies, but where I found it most useful was in re-engaging stealth. Wanted to stay in stealth through an entire mission, but someone is looking at you? Quickly engage camouflage to render yourself invisible. Being overwhelmed in combat? Engage camouflage and zip away to gain some breathing room. This helps balance out some of the more difficult combat encounters in the game, while also allowing you to keep re-engaging stealth if you just want to slowly pick off enemies. The one trade off is that it does make some encounters feel a little too easy, but it’s easy enough to ignore the system if you prefer.
One final issue I had with Marvel’s Spider-Man was that its open-world overstayed its welcome. Each district required completing a large number of cookie-cutter objectives that were shoved into just about every single district in the game. This meant that, as much as I enjoyed the game, boredom gradually set in as I spent more time completing activities. Miles Morales has slimmed down those activities significantly, either by reducing their amount or by completely removing them from the district completion counter. There’s only a handful of bases to complete and a smaller number of side missions. Instead, more time is spent on collectibles that include story context and content. I found this to be a much more engaging system, as there was a narrative hook to these activities, as opposed to the ‘beat up 50 bad guys’ of bases and larger combat encounters. The trade off here is that this means Miles Morales is a much shorter game overall, with roughly 15 hours being enough to get 100% district completion. There are also some skills, a suit and some gadgets that are only obtainable in a New Game Plus run of the game, which is somewhat frustrating and forces you to replay the game if you want true 100% completion.
Overall, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales feels like Marvel’s Spider-Man’s Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. It’s a smaller and shorter experience that builds on the fundamentals of the original game. This means that while it’s a fantastic experience, it doesn’t quite feel like a truly new game. With that said, its streamlining of world activities, up-tempo energy and refining of combat mechanics makes it an overall net-positive. It’s short length and some of its less engaging side missions hold it back from being truly amazing, but Miles Morales is absolutely worth a buy on PS5.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with a review copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4. For more information, check the official website.
- New energy is fantastic - Streamlining of world activities stops them from overstaying their welcome - Plenty of positive representation - New combat and stealth mechanics welcome additions
- Game is a bit too short - Some side missions have little weight to them