Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales PS4 Review
A thrilling, albeit brief, ride with the most compelling Spider-Man yet
Marvel hasn’t seen a runaway success with video games since their 2018 hit, Marvel’s Spider-Man. At the time, Insomniac Games gave Marvel’s gaming world a much needed response to DC’s hit Arkham series under Rocksteady Studios. The years that followed produced serviceable but shallow uses of the vast IP, leaving many hungry for a standout experience again. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales arrives to answer that call.
Miles is infinitely more grounded than the “original Spider-Man”
Spider-Man: Miles Morales immediately separates itself from its predecessor by placing a newly empowered Miles Morales in the role of New York’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. And he’s taking on the role solo. Having spent 8 years defending the community, Peter Parker decides to travel abroad with Mary Jane, strongly believing that Miles is more than capable of running the show in his absence. Of course, as luck would have it, a nefarious plot reveals itself and shadowy villains take hold of Harlem, putting its future in peril.
The opening moments of Spider-Man: Miles Morales reveal an unrefined hero-in-the-making, sitting as a stark contrast to our time with Peter’s Spider-Man being in his prime back when we were traversing New York City in 2018. The confidence and the experience of Miles’ superhero mentor is not here. When we last saw Miles, he was trying to wrap his head around his powerful transformation. Now that has evolved into an ongoing lesson about the demands of donning the iconic costume. With great power comes great responsibility, and all that.
The uncertainty of his capabilities and figuring out the crucial work/life balance puts the character at the heart of what makes Spider-Man’s earlier years so relatable. Plus, Miles is deeply embedded with his community, strolling down the vibrant Harlem sidewalks and engaging with the locals in a more direct and personal way than we saw with Peter Parker. Despite constantly swinging well above the city streets, Miles is infinitely more grounded than the “original Spider-Man,” as Peter is referred to, making our young hero-in-training an incredibly engrossing character.
Diving into the meat of the not-quite-a-sequel follow-up reveals a largely familiar experience when it comes to gameplay, albeit with a few small tweaks. Swinging around New York City’s boroughs is as exhilarating as ever. Insomniac even took the time to add a minor but meaningful touch to Miles’ swinging animation. Given his limited time as a fellow web-slinger, our protagonist has not yet become accustomed to great heights. Because of this, the swinging animation becomes more erratic and messy as the altitude rises. It’s a visual reminder that we are not controlling the veteran Spider-Man.
As for combat, bouncing between enemies and dodging plays out similar to Peter, at least at the basest level. The big shift comes in the form of emerging powers, which make this less refined Spider-Man distinct. The previous game’s combat was heavily focused on single-target strikes. Spider-Man: Miles Morales opens engagements up with area-of-effect options. Venom abilities can apply a status effect to multiple surrounding enemies at once. New gadgets, such as the Holo-Drone and Gravity Well, further expand on this multi-target aspect and the tactical depth to be found in encounters. Keeping track of enemy clusters can be problematic during indoor sequences, however, due to occasionally unfriendly camera positioning.
Miles Morales can be molded to fight your way
Fighting is more customizable this time around thanks to mods tied to the Spider-Man suit and visor. Damage can be reduced, dodge windows extended, and gadget ammo drop rates increased via mods. It’s another way the game enables players to build Miles into their own Spider-Man outside of the three skill trees, allowing for greater investment in his development. Also making a return is a slew of iconic suits that can unlocked to capture the look of several important comic storylines. From the look of his suit to the functionalities packed inside, Miles Morales can be molded to fight your way.
The emergence of new powers and the steadily supplied gadgets gives a true sense of growth and progression while leveling up, turning the rookie into a more formidable force against the evils engulfing the area. Those evils come in the form of the Roxxon Corporation, touting their NuForm energy solution, and The Underground, a mysterious organization determined to undermine Roxxon’s efforts at any cost. Other villains appear, such as the Tinkerer and Prowler, with a couple cameos waiting to be sought out, but the count of notable names falls far below what we saw in the Sinister Six-centric storyline previously.
Herein lies both a strength and a weakness of Spider-Man: Miles Morales. The narrative is focused on the trials the young hero endures, but it moves at a brisk pace given the short runtime. In comparison to the first game, Miles Morales can be completed in about half the time, if not less. Crimes, collectables, and outposts can extend the play time, but the core campaign clocks in well under 10 hours. To put it in perspective, Spider-Man: Miles Morales contains as many main story missions as Spider-Man (2018) has in Act 2 alone.
The brevity of the experience, although stylish and explosive, is disheartening. Miles Morales is such a lovable character, one that we were dying to spend more time with. Insomniac’s latest work captures the best tones of the wildly popular animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. When the credits roll, you will no doubt be wishing for more time. While the aforementioned activities litter the map, awaiting completionists, and a New Game+ appears for subsequent runs, it’s hard to overlook the fact that Miles Morales wasn’t given a fuller experience.
That said, those negatives don’t outweigh the strengths and the game remains an easy recommendation. As we move into the next generation, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a fine looking send-off for the PS4. And its $49.99 pricing also places it competitively in a gaming landscape that has yet to decide if titles will carry a $59.99 or $69.99 price point moving forward. Obviously, the brief nature of the game is reflected by its “budget” price tag, but the quality on offer continues the trend of Sony’s recent first-party titles.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales perfectly captures the essence of being Spider-Man, giving us a story of a young man looking to live up to the expectations associated with the title while also leaving a mark that is all his own. While the campaign doesn’t house a plethora of villains, the cast is diverse and inclusive, deepening the connection to the city in a new way. In the end, all we could ask for is more time to invest in Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, for he presents a more compelling protagonist than the seasoned Peter Parker.
Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales
- Available On: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
- Published By: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Developed By: Insomniac Games
- Genre: Action
- US Release Date: November 12th, 2020
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a thrilling, albeit brief, ride with the most compelling Spider-Man yet."