Harlem’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man lands an incredible opening punch.
Two years after delivering the best Spider-Man game fans have seen to date, Insomniac Games is back with a powerful follow up to one of 2018’s stand out games. With Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Insomniac aims to take the character of Miles to the next level within their own version of the Spider-Verse. They’ve taken much of what worked with the original game, tweaked the combat, and removed a lot of the unnecessary filler. While all of New York City can still be explored, the focus is clearly on Miles’ hometown of Harlem and his relationships with those closest to him. What’s left is a streamlined, 10-20 hour adventure that’s sure to leave any Spider-Man fans grinning from ear to ear.
As discovered in the original game (and further followed in “The City that Never Sleeps” DLC), Miles has just come to grips with his new powers. Peter has brought Miles under his wing and taught him all there is to know about being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. However, with an international trip sidelining Peter, Miles is thrust into Big Apple babysitting duty. The story sets up all of Miles’ supporting cast wonderfully. From his best friend, Ganke, to his mother, Rio, all side characters are well fleshed out and wonderfully acted.
Of course, things quickly go south when a mysterious new female version of The Tinkerer shows up. Mega-corporation, Roxxon, has created a powerful new source of energy and The Tinkerer is hell bent on obtaining this dynamic new energy for herself. With Peter out of the country, Miles is thrust into uncomfortable new territory, but also discovers new powers along the way that help balance out the scales. Insomniac Games really nails the local vibe and does a great job conveying that this is a smaller scale title with Harlem as the focus. Everything culminates into an emotionally impactful finale that stands toe to toe with the original’s ending.
If you’ve spent hours web-slinging around New York in Spider-Man’s first PS4 adventure, you’ll feel right at home in Spider-Man: Miles Morales. The basics of zipping around the city remain intact and the map is still worth exploring. What’s been reduced is the sheer amount of extra stuff the game throws at you. There are still fun and worthwhile collectables, but the number or variety of them has been dialed back. This allows Insomniac to focus on the main and side quests which steal the show from beginning to end. Without spoiling anything, there are more villains than just the Tinkerer that show up and one particular side encounter had me literally laughing out loud with the witty writing.
Combat is one area that Insomniac needed to drastically shift in order to capture the essence of Miles’ Spider-Man. New powers are introduced through his venom blasts and active camouflage. With both standard combat missions and stealth missions making a return, the latter power comes in especially handy. While reduced in number compared to the first game, new gadgets are also introduced. Interesting ones include the Gravity Well which draws all nearby enemies into one another for a satisfying impact and the Holo-Drone which essentially acts as combat reinforcements should you need it. Combining all this with the already excellent combat foundation yields encounters that are absolutely thrilling and fun to engage in.
It’s true that Spider-Man: Miles Morales feels like more of an evolution than a revolution to Insomniac’s formula, but there are enough new features in this game that help it feel fresh at the same time. A slightly re-tooled menu system are all welcome improvements and, of course, there are a bevy of costumes to unlock for Miles. It’s worth noting that I experienced a fair amount of bugs in Miles Morales compared to the original Spider-Man including two hard crashes where I was forced to restart the game entirely. Hopefully Insomniac Games can smooth out the stability over the next few months. Despite these hiccups, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an absolute blast to play and is a nice step forward as we progress toward the inevitable Spider-Man 2.
My experience with Spider-Man: Miles Morales was on PlayStation 5, and I can confirm that the game looks stunning in fidelity mode with ray tracing turned on. This mode runs the game at 30fps while there is also a 60fps performance mode which outputs at 4K resolution but upscaled from a lower pixel count. Once I turned on performance mode there was no looking back though. Swinging through the city and taking out thugs felt buttery smooth with a locked 60fps. While the tug was present to swap back for those beautifully traced rays, the graphics didn’t seem to lose too much when compared to it’s flashier counterpart. On PS4 Pro, the game runs at checkerboard 4K at 30fps while the standard PS4 locks everything down with a stable 1080p/30fps output. Overall the game looks fantastic visually, especially considering it’s a launch title for the PS5.
The soundtrack deserves special attention here as well. As the vibe shifts from Peter to Miles, so too does the soundtrack. While not entirely absent, the traditionally sweeping orchestral scores are wonderfully blended with hip-hop beats laced throughout almost every track. Toss in songs from the likes of Lecrae and Jaden and you’ve got a score that would feel right at home in the recent “Into The Spider-Verse” movie. It can’t be overstated how much this helps with the overall vibe. Everything from the Harlem focus, to Miles’ relationships and what makes up his core are all accented by the outstanding soundtrack.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales has a great self-contained story, and deserves the attention of any True Believer. The solid bedrock of the first game set Miles Morales up for success, but improved combat, new gadgets and abilities, and nice quality of life improvements all go a long way in making this compact package special. At a discounted price of $50 MSRP, this game comes as a healthy recommendation.
Note to Parents
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is rated T for Teen due to language, violence, blood, and drug references (more on the ERSB rating here). The content is reminiscent of a PG-13 movie with peppered use of d*mn, a**hole and “what the h*ll?”. I also heard one use of the S word. Themes worthy of discussing with your kids include honesty, self-control, selflessness and, of course, responsibility.