Spider-man Miles Morales launched as one of the headline PS5 titles. The initial trailer showed off the game’s next-generation graphics; Miles’s venom-powered moveset; and of course, some more of that sweet Insomniac web swinging.
Following on from the commercial success that was Spider-man PS4, expectations were set fairly high for Miles Morales’s big debut. The question is: was it able to deliver? And – on an even more important note – would we have to go around chasing Howard’s damn pigeons again?
Not a sequel:
Insomniac were fairly clear that Spider-man Miles Morales isn’t a direct sequel to Spiderman PS4. And now having played it myself, this is evident.
The game doesn’t follow up on the threads from Peter’s story in the first game; with a largely brand-new cast and distinct tone, this truly feels like Miles’s game. Between the Hip-hop esque track; significantly lighter story(for the most part); and distinct changes made, Insomniac have delivered a great spin-off title. But, do not mistake this for a full-fledge sequel; you will be disappointed.
Miles Morales is not a very long video game. It’s pricing at £49.99 is a point of contention for me.
I managed to finish the game at 99% completion, and this took me about 16 hours. Whether this level of content is an issue for you or not, the fact is this game is about half the length of Spiderman 2018.
Personally, I think that the story could have used a couple more hours. There were a couple characters and a couple twists that I don’t think received enough build-up to properly capture the impact that Insomniac was going for.
On the other hand, I was pleased that Miles Morales managed to change the gameplay formula just enough for it to not feel like a rehash of the previous game. Spiderman PS4’s ‘Arkham style’ combat was one of the game’s big highlights for me back in 2018. Here, with Miles Morales, Insomniac has built upon the system they had in place; adding a few new additions that distinguish Miles and Peter’s playstyles. Unlike Peter, Miles only has a limited amount of gadgets at his disposal throughout the game. However, his arsenal is certainly not lacking, as Miles has the ability to charge up ‘venom’ attacks that pack a real punch. All of these attacks add a new flavour to the gameplay, and are well integrated into the combo flow. You can lift enemies into the air; slam the ground with all your might; and, provide a ‘big-ole punch to the face of New York’s resident villains.
For my 16 hour playthrough, combat never ceased to entertain, with the boss fights being particularly excellent(more so than the first game). I played on the second hardest difficulty and most of the time felt reasonably challenged. To offer one small criticism, I did find the game lacking when it came to normal moves. Most of the base moveset that Peter had is re-used here, with admittedly some new animations for Miles, but it would have been nice to see a couple more unique combos(because the ones they do have are awesome).
A good story elevated by great side content:
Spider-man Miles Morales is a focused, personal tale that acts as a very satisfying introduction to Miles as a full-fledged superhero. The game wastes little time thrusting you straight into the action; with a thrilling chase culminating in a tutorial boss fight against Rhino. Shortly thereafter, Peter leaves for a trip with MJ to Europe, and in his absence, it is time for Miles to shine.
As I mentioned, the narrative here is incredibly focused, and centred around Miles and those closest to him. This framing does a great job of allowing Miles to differentiate himself from Peter; his attitude; the adversities he faces; and all of his fantastic relationships successfully help to create an enjoyable – albeit short – story.
Without going into too much detail, the story focuses on Miles’s local neighborhood of Harlem; with the conflict between two adversary groups in Roxxon and The Underground driving the narrative forward. Unfortunately neither group is particularly well developed, and whilst the Tinkerer: the leader of The Underground, is quite an interesting character, Roxxon’s Elon Musk wannabe Simon Krieger is a lazy, typical evil rich dude. I would have appreciated a few more shades of grey here; like we had in the previous game with Oscorp and Martin Li.
Having said that, Miles’s relationships with all of the central characters are very well developed throughout the narrative and side missions. Ganke – his sidekick and bestfriend – is an enjoyable addition, who regularly chimes in with different teenage musings as you swing around New York. Miles’s mum, Rio Morales, is also an interesting character who’s campaigning in Harlem puts her into some interesting situations – to say the least. There are a few other characters whose relationship’s with Miles are thoughtfully developed, including one of the central antagonists, but I think it is best you see it yourself.
So, the main story is quite good. But, if you were to just blitz through the main story there would be a few developments and character arcs that may seem to have little build-up. This is where the side content comes in.
Unlike in the previous game, the side content here is supplementary to the main narrative. You would be doing yourself a great disservice by not engaging with the side content, in my opinion.
I was pleasantly surprised by how well the side-missions developed a number of Miles’s key relationships from the main story. Miles’s relationship with a number of residents from Harlem is almost exclusively developed through a select few side-missions. This is good. I like this a lot.
Importantly, none of the side-missions feel like filler; they all serve at a minimum, the central service of developing Miles further. Yes, you do at one point have to catch some pigeons, but again this mission serves to develop Miles’s relationship with Peter. This is just one example.
In some games, such as the Yakuza series, side-missions offer a fun breakaway from the intensity of the main narrative. In Miles Morales, they are essential in my opinion to seeing the full story. Insomniac have smartly separated them from the core-missions, for those who just wish to play the main story, but that doesn’t mean that they are not incredibly important to the narrative.
Using the PS5’s potential:
Two seconds. Two full seconds is all it took for Miles Morales to go from the games menu, to the introductory cutscene. Within 2 seconds, I was immersed in the game world; as the palms of my hands were graced with the motions of the New York subway. Insomniac’s immediate – and clever use of the PS5’s DualSense ‘haptic feedback’ feature set the precedent for what would be a thoroughly next-gen experience.
Soon enough I was swinging around New York, with the motion of each webswing being gracefully captured by haptic feedback. ‘This is incredible’ – was an assertion I would regularly regurgitate like a swooned lover, throughout my time with Miles Morales – or should I say: as Miles Morales. Every venom-fuelled punch, luchador esque kick and door being jockeyed-into, is captured by Insomniac’s regular, and immersive use of this new feature. Such use of the PS5’s technology goes a long way into making Miles Morales an incredibly immersive experience. Okay, I think I’ve said Immersive enough now.
Furthermore, upon starting the game for the first time, the player is presented with two key performance options: performance mode, which prioritises a steady 60 frames per second, or fidelity mode, with enhanced ray tracing and graphical resolution. Personally, I spent the majority of the game in performance mode; web-swinging at 60fps is quite frankly, incredible. Again, both options offer players two great options that both reinforce this next-gen experience I keep gushing about. But seriously, this game looks great.
Between the absurdly fast loading times, impressive graphical fidelity, and mostly consistent performance -the game crashed twice during my playthrough, but otherwise was a complete breeze – Miles Morales truly sets the bar for what is to come.
The experience is further enhanced by a good story, even better side content, and solid combat – that does Miles justice as a great hero in his own right. At £49 the price is on the steeper side for the volume of the game’s content, but if you have the chance, this game is still a must play. I still can’t get over how amazing the haptic feedback is.