Most of you will already know that Insomniac’s take on Spider-Man was tighter than a spandex suit that rides up in the crotch. It was one of the best superhero games ever made – hell, it was one of the best games of the last generation, to the point where they’re remastering it after only 2 years. While we’re on the topic of short time-frames, is this speedily crafted sequel a web shooter of the same calibre? Is it worthy of being placed way up there on another Avenger’s Tower sized pedestal?
I ask because sometimes developers get cocky or lazy. Sometimes the demands of being the pace-setting, centrepiece launch title for a new system comes with some new technical curve-balls, or simply not enough time to thwip things into shape. So the question remains, then, is this follow-up, for lack of a worse pun – better by miles?
Being the guy who has clocked it twice – once on Spectacular and again on Ultimate – I feel I can give you a straight answer. What’s on offer here is a Miles-only tale that’s set in the exact same Big Apple sandbox you know and love except now you’re webbin’ in a winter wonderland. Fair warning: from this point onward, plot spoilers for the 2018 title are basically unavoidable, so skip ahead if you’re saving you’ve been saving yourself for the remaster.
This direct sequel picks up a year after the Devil’s Breath crisis that saw a veteran Pete Parker taking on a decent collection of supervillains and Miles Morales enduring his own origin story moment. Our fledgling Spider-Man and his mum have since moved from Brooklyn to Harlem, and Miles now needs to find his footing in a new community. His other concerns include keeping his secret spandex collection a secret from his sole surviving parent and a visiting old friend, and just generally trying to earn some better clout than the dubious title that is “that other, knock-off Spidey.”
As if that washing list wasn’t tough enough, he also has to deal with looking up to a mentor who’s hit the plastic surgery overnight and is now, well, almost unrecognisable. (Insomniac really went overboard on their next-gen-ing of the old Peter Parker model. It’s the rough gaming equivalent of the MCU just pulling the switcheroo for who played Rhodie in Iron Man 2.)
Anyway, the new nip-tucked Pete feels that Miles has reached a point where they have the same skillset and, in traversal terms, they pretty much do. When his young intern grows even further, by manifesting bio-electricity powers, Pete decides it’s safe to go on a romantic vacay with MJ. With Pete effectively out of the picture, it becomes your job to help Miles find his sticky feet as the Big Apple’s only Spidey.
Without saying too much, I thought this was a more than decent yarn. It does not, however, eclipse the first adventure as it’s simply not given enough time to shine. This is a more pint-sized game in almost every metric. For example, my first story-focused run was about seven hours on Spectacular difficulty, I was closer to 10 or 12 hours for the vanilla version of the previous title. And it has to be said that while you’re trying to quell another city-sized threat, the run-time just doesn’t allow for as many supervillains to be folded into the chaos. You’ll physically go toe to toe with three main ones, two of which are new to the game series, and one returning.
All in all, I’d call this a well-crafted ride. It has its own stylishly engaging way of telling a story that makes it feel like its own article, but it also feels over before it begins. There would want to be some free, run-time-expanding DLCs waiting for us in the wings.
Spider-Man Miles Morales is a smaller block party in terms of its gameplay systems, too. Let’s look at it purely by the numbers: though the suits on offer are some of the coolest in-game skins in recent memory, we’re trimming down from 2018’s 41-piece wardrobe to only nineteen. But, in all fairness and perspective, that original game’s count was bolstered with three DLC packs. It’s also worth noting that personal enhancement and perks are done slightly differently here. In the old game, you could equip just one of 24 available suit powers as well as three of 23 suit mods. Miles Morales lets you equip two of 14 suit powers—which have been relabeled as mods—and also two of 13 visor mods.
Once again, your skill tree is divided into three main paths, but unlike the first game which divided its available perks into Innovator, Defender, and Webslinger, Miles has his 33 possible perks pigeonholed into Combat, Venom skills, and Camo skills. It’s also worth noting that nine of those perks are unlocked simply by completing the same number of path-specific challenges dotted around NYC. Not mastering them, just finishing them.
In terms of sniffing out objects, the old collections menu from 2018’s Spider-Man had us chasing six different resource tokens (research, landmark, base, crime, challenge, and backpacks). Miles isn’t into kleptomania quite as hard, you can go snooping for barely half the number of things: podcasts, time capsules, and sound samples.
Miles also isn’t the biggest innovator of web gadgets either, you’re downsizing from eight of Pete’s thingamabobs to just four (think: web-shooters, holodrones, remote mines, and gravity wells). Holodrones effectively allow you to summon these kind of crappy A.I. allies who are great at running interference. Meanwhile, remote mines are great for stealth killing multiple fools, especially if you’ve used a gravity well to stun-yank a crowd into their blast radius. There’s fun to be had here, but Miles’ unique approach to crime-fighting is best seen in his expanded stealth and bio-electricity combat skills, the latter being shockingly satisfying.
First of all, I have to register again how much I love the combat in this franchise. Insomniac cleverly iterated upon the rhythmic fisticuffs seen in Batman’s Arkham series by placing a greater emphasis on air juggling your foes, plus they cranked up the pace to hyperactive. It was a joy to come back and use the old tactics. Stuff like prioritising and isolating certain enemy types, weaponising incidental objects, and expertly controlling crowds by systematically ripping enemies upwards for an air juggle spanking.
Better yet, if you can dodge better than an over-caffeinated Dark Souls player, or deliver more hits than Elvis Presley, you’ll earn Venom energy. Fill a bar of it and you can do a high damage Venom Punch, a teleporting Venom Dash and there are two different ways to either Venom Launch foes skyward or Venom Smash down on people. Redundant double-ups aside, there’s no denying how showy and satisfying these moves are. Earning and using them also becomes more or less integral in boss fights.
You also gotta give props to Miles for being a superior urban ninja. Thanks to a limited invisibility skill, you will get a greater ability to disengage and reestablish stealth. On Ultimate, I found that the first of these sections started out taxing and satisfying, but by the mid-point of the proceedings they became a pushover when Miles earns the ability to do the world’s best Predator cosplay. HUD elements essentially tell you when it’s safe to execute people, and the A.I. is way too accepting of their dwindling numbers and any obviously downed friends.
Be that as it is, and just like the way combat will egg you on to chase triple-digit combos, there’s an addictiveness to gift-wrapping a small village worth of idiots without anybody saying boo.
Visually, I don’t feel I have to say too much here as this title speaks for itself. The default ‘Fidelity’ graphics mode provides an extra-high-quality picture from a 4K resolution base that’s pretty gob-smacking. It delivers a rock-solid 30FPS, but my God it looks pretty thanks to ray-tracing reflections, enhanced lighting, and additional visual effects.
Personally, I played using the basically flawless 60FPS ‘Performance’ mode that uses temporal techniques to provide a 4K picture from a lower-resolution base. I loved the web-slinging traversal in the first game, but the buttery smoothness delivered here elevates it all to something truly sublime. I could do it all day. To experience swinging in a major city more orgasmic than this, you’d need a 10/10 Tinder profile.
Some of that feeling has to do with a few DualSense tricks, too. The second you take to the air and web swing, the Adaptive Triggers do this slight “solidify thing” to simulate line tension. You also get the odd haptic expression in cutscenes where you feel nuanced force feedback (think: clinking a glass during a toast or pitter-patters when Miles is tapping on a keyboard). I have to be honest with you though, after playing Astro Bot and seeing the amazing things the DualSense is capable of with its haptics, I was expecting more powerful and creative feedback than what’s delivered here. That said, when I tried going back to the old game, those old vibrations felt dull and uninspired in comparison. This game may have subconsciously ruined me for the DualShock 4.
Last but not least, it’s pretty mind-blowing to have a fast travel system that allows you to actually travel fast. If you’re running the first game on PlayStation 5 through backwards compatibility, fast travel comes with a ten-second load time. Miles Morales doesn’t believe in load screens whatsoever, it just does it instantly. The future is now, my friends.
Like most any game out there, Spider-Man: Miles Morales has some rough edges and isn’t perfect, and I do have to say that I was expecting something more polished than this. Across the two playthroughs, I saw maybe four different instances where the enemy AI just sort of stop functioning all of a sudden. Having to punch-start everybody back into doing their jobs again is a bad look. An even worse one is needing to do that during a phase in the last boss fight.
As for smaller stuff, I saw way too many instances of KO’d enemies pitching a fit on the floor or getting impaled onto objects for my Share button amusement. In my experience, immersion tarnishers like these can typically be patched into oblivion, and probably will before you even play this for yourself. The important thing is I suffered no system lockups or anything game-breaking.
All that being said, Spider-Man Miles Morales is a damn good launch showing of what a PlayStation 5 can do.
What’s the only thing holding it back from the “be greater, be yourself” motto espoused in its marketing materials? Length. It simply isn’t given enough main chapter run-time or side-mission content to evolve beyond its predecessor. And that’s an especially bitter pill to swallow when you factor in the higher asking price.
THIS GAME WAS TESTED ON A PLAYSTATION 5 FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER. WE LOVE BRINGING YOU THE BEST GAMING AND TECH BARGAINS. WE MAY GET A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THE SALE THROUGH AFFILIATE PARTNERSHIPS
For a launch title, the worth of Spider-Man: Miles Morales is undeniable. It offers an expensive-TV-justifying visual feast – not to mention a tantalising “What Dreams May Come” glimpse at the sugar encrusted future of eye-candy. (Console hasn't even launched yet and I can feel my eyes getting the diabeetus.) Likewise, it delivers super-fast load times and an immersive, tactile DualSense experience you simply can't 'feel' anywhere else.
Venom skills enhance combat that was already sublime
Webslinging feels even more amazing through a DualSense
Ray-tracing and extra VFX offer a visual feast in Fidelity Mode
Barrels along flawlessly at 60fps in Performance Mode...