Man, has it really been 2 years since I reviewed MARVEL Spider-Man and gave it 5 stars? Really!? Sometimes it feels like some games came out only yesterday, while others feel like they came out forever. So, 2 years ago, I reviewed MARVEL Spider-Man and called it Game of the Year. Unlike some other places that put out stupid Game of the Year nominations before the big players come out, I wouldn’t call that race done (Much like the US Election, haha) since MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales should be considered in those nominations. Yes, it’s that good.
Name: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Platform(s): PlayStation 4 & PlayStation 5 (reviewed) Developer: Insomniac Games Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Game Type: Action-Adventure Mode(s): Single Player Release Date: November 12, 2020 Price: Standard Edition (PS4/PS5): AUD 94.95/USD 49.99 Price: Ultimate Edition (PS5 Only) AUD 124.95/USD 69.99
Let’s start with Issue #1.
The story of MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the origin of Miles Morales as he ends his training with Peter Parker’s Spider-Man and becomes his own Spider-Man. As origin stories go, this one is told in a way that makes sense to the canon established in MARVEL Spider-Man. Things pick up a year after the end of the first game, and Peter entrusts Miles with protecting New York City for him while he helps his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson, with her news coverage on Symkaria, taking him out of the game for a majority of things.
Miles is left to contend with the arrival of “The Underground,” a technology-enhanced group led by a new villain called The Tinkerer. What comes from this is a weird mixture of rebellion, protection, revenge, and redemption as The Underground takes on Roxxon, a company that has grown in power in opposition to Oscorp, pushing a new energy type developed by a friend of Miles. As the story progresses, you’ll learn things about Roxxon, The Tinkerer, The Underground, and The Prowler that will take Miles through a huge mixture of emotions that will drag you into the story so well that you’ll be crying with the ending that they came up with.
MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales really does more with the story than you will expect. Sure, you will see a lot of things coming in terms of revelations of characters (Honestly, if you’re a fan of Miles Morales and his solo series since he became a part of the 616 Universe years ago, or have seen Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) and who they are to Miles, but what really stands out here are the smaller details and characters you’ll interact with. Given that MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place a lot of the time in the Harlem section of New York City, which was majorly forgotten in MARVEL Spider-Man, you’re going to see some amazing details with the population and people in the area. Hailey Cooper, a deaf street-artist who is adding some art to Harlem’s background in a few scenes, was a highlight for me. Seeing a video game shows a deaf person in a pretty cool creative hobby. The fact that they have Miles respond in accurate sign-language is a great detail for a very underrepresented segment of people in general. I would love to see more of it.
Clocking in at about 8 or so hours in the first playthrough, taking time to watch all the cutscenes (Speed-runners would get this down to 3 hours easily), and up to 13 hours if you do all the side missions along the way, MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales comes through with a story and presence that not only stands on par with MARVEL Spider-Man but also becomes superior to it in many little ways.
Also, in the MARVEL tradition, you’ll need to watch through the credits after the final mission for a couple of extra scenes, one of which follows up from the MARVEL Spider-Man game.
New York has never looked so good.
When looking at MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales, you can’t really just give it a straight graphical evaluation. This is due to a few small things, two of them being the graphical settings the game allows you to choose at any time throughout the game and a special third option from a Spider-Man suit.
First, I will do my best to explain the difference between the two available graphics modes in MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales: Fidelity and Performance.
Starting with Performance. When you choose this mode, you are having the basic 4K experience that the game has. You’ll see what New York looks like in 4K, but you won’t have any of the real improvements that the PlayStation 5 can do. However, for making this sacrifice, you’ll get a smooth 4K/60fps gameplay experience like you would on something like the PlayStation 4 Pro. At the time of writing and a lack of a copy on the PlayStation 4, I cannot confirm if this is just like playing the game on PlayStation 4 or any real improvement visually on PlayStation 5 that mode. But even with Performance mode turned on, you’re getting an amazing looking New York City, mostly thanks to the way the cultures of the city are represented throughout all the streets, with Harlem being the standout obviously, but also going through Chinatown has a very distinct look and feel that represents what you would see in the real-life areas.
Fidelity mode, on the other hand, is a completely different story. When you turn this mode on, you are going to sacrifice 30fps for the PlayStation 5 to render all those amazing improvements to games that it promised, like Rey-Tracing shadows, adding reflections to every reflective surface, packing some buildings like restaurants with people dining and having a good time, special lighting effects that make the world come alive at night, and even small things like footprints happening in the snow in real-time. I know people will be upset about having to go down to 30 fps to get all the bells and whistles graphically at this time, but remember that this could be patched as developers get used to working with the PlayStation 5. I would compel gamers to play MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales at least once with this mode enabled, as you are going to be missing out on one excellent graphical experience.
Finally, there is one more thing to make a note of. As people might know from a trailer that was released before MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales was released that announced a Spider-Man suit that was based on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which comes with 2 special abilities: One where you see “SMACK!”, “BAM!” and “POW!” style cartoon hit effects, and the other ability where Miles will animate like it was in the movie, meaning it will have a very low framerate compared to the 30fps and 60fps modes that you can choose. Playing in this manner is a bit jarring at first, as this suit was animated at like 10-15 fps, giving it a very jumpy look to the animation. Still, at the same time, it’s incredible to see such attention to detail given to something as simple as a special suit for Spider-Man having its own animation filter.
A swinging good time!
At first, you’d be forgiven for thinking that MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales is just MARVEL Spider-Man with a new coat of paint from a gameplay aspect, but very soon, you learn that Miles plays very differently from Peter in a lot of ways. Sure, you get the usual web-swinging, web-zipping, and vaulting movements from the first game, the stealth mechanics are the same for the most part. Some missions feel the same, but then you unlock Miles’ “venom power” (Unfortunately not the big black suit guy version, but more of a bio-electricity style), which gives you a bit of a power-up and a bunch of new abilities to use in travel and combat.
Using venom power is easy enough with a combination of L1 with either Square, Triangle, or combination buttons to do things like a venom powered punch, dash, ground slam, air-lift, air-dash, and other abilities. You also unlock Miles’ camouflage ability too, which makes stealth a bit more close up at times and a great escape from heavy situations. Using these new powers, alongside new gadgets like Holographic dummies, remote mines, and gravity, makes things different from Peter and his abilities. Combining these new gadgets and abilities changes the flow of battle into something more like an advanced version of the Batman: Arkham Asylum combat system than it was in the first game.
Another thing that helps makes things feel and work differently is the way side-missions are handled. Instead of things just happening around Spider-Man, this time you have a more modern approach to getting those missions through the addition of the “Spider-Man App,” an in-game mobile application that allows people on the street to ask for help with things like finding animals, chasing down stolen supplies, to reporting local drug deals and fights to break up. This way of accessing side-missions means you will spend more time doing things than swinging around waiting for something to happen. But at the same time, you will find that sudden crimes will appear to sidetrack you as you make your way to somewhere else on the map, keeping that anything can happen anytime feel from the first game. While you will feel like Spider-Man is some sort of Uber Eats or Door Dash delivery for help and stopping crimes with this app as a heavily featured part of the game, I’m disappointed that there wasn’t a side-mission taking on that legendary Spider-Man 2 mission: Delivering pizzas.
The sounds of the city.
The one thing that MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales does really well makes New York City sound alive as much as possible. Sure, you’ll spend a lot of time swinging or web-zipping along the quiet rooftops of the city, but when you get down to the ground level where the rest of the non-spider-enhanced population lives, you’ll hear a lot going on. From the sounds of bells, trains, cars, people, and even animals around, you will hear them all. There’s even a side-mission that specifically makes you go around and collect “the sounds of the city,” putting a focus on locations and spaces that really makes you stop and take in not only the amazing visuals of the city but listen carefully to the sound of everything that goes on around you. Not only are you listening to specific things, but the game makes sure that you have other moments and things to listen to during these segments that make you really think about the way sound plays out around you.
Outside of that one side mission and the general background noise, you’re given 2 podcasts to listen to, one the returning J. Jonah Jameson with his rants about how bad this new Spider-Man is, but also a pro-new-Spider-Man podcast hosted by Danika Hart (who did the same thing in the Miles Morales comic series). This gives a good point vs. counterpoint standpoint from both hosts that really helps keep the flow going, plus there are also some special one-off recordings that range from emotional to funny-as-hell… Who knew pigeons could be so interesting.
The story continues…
Once the game ends, there are still a lot of things to do. As mentioned before, there are many side-missions in the game that range from story-style mission series to one-off missions from the Spider-Man app, plus there are more collectibles and locations that you can visit. But since a lot of the city remains unchanged, there aren’t too many new locations or references that you’ll be able to find, though I would suggest going to the Upper West Side and take a moment to admire MARVEL Spider-Man Miles Morales’ tribute to Stan Lee, as well as keeping an eye out for a Black Live Matter mural in Harlem; you’ll get a trophy for visiting one and a new suit for visiting the other in a side-mission.
MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Moralesalso keeps a couple of things locked out till after the final mission is complete, or you start a New Game+ adventure, making sure you go and give this game a second chance to amaze you once again. The game was more than worth it without these incentives, but to gain things like a few new ultimate-level skills and a new suit that gives you access to Spider-Man (The Cat version) for one of the cutest finishers in gaming is more than worth it.
MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales started life as a glorified DLC campaign in the eyes of many people who saw the announcement trailer, but they are wrong. This game is more than worthy of a full-game status. While it does give us a lot of the same from MARVEL Spider-Man in the bones of the game’s development, MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales does more than enough, much like Miles himself, to differentiate itself from what came before, almost improving on the base that was created 2 years ago. And much like the first game, which is also included in remastered format on PlayStation 5 if you buy the Ultimate edition (Well worth the extra money, to be honest), Miles and his adventure is a perfect showcase for not only PlayStation 5 but also for the MARVELgame series and Spider-Man themselves. 100% a must-own title for PlayStation owners.
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MARVEL Spider-Man created a huge benchmark for MARVEL Spider-Man: Miles Morales to shoot for, and it not only achieved that benchmark, but surpassed it with new gameplay, attention to detail, representation, and story. Well worth a full-game in itself that also continues the saga of Spider-Man, while carving out a piece of the overall universe for itself. Visually pushing the PlayStation 5 as far as it can go at launch, while also giving people the option to sacrifice those visuals for extra gameplay power. Should be a Game of the Year contender due to being more of what made the first game an amazing game to play. A must-own for PlayStation owners of any generation.
Miles plays differently to Peter, keeping things fresh but familiar
References to people, culture, and places from the comics
Fidelity mode is amazing
Harlem is alive and a visual feast
Deaf representation in both sign-language and character.
A few too many audio logs
Target pathfinding doesn’t work properly in crowded fights
Dodge mechanic is over-tuned compared to the previous game