What’s Up Danger?
As the follow up to one of the best superhero games of all-time and a front-running title ushering the launch of a new generation, Spider-Man: Miles Morales has some monumental shoes to fill. This second entry into Insomniac’s established universe captures its predecessor’s idiosyncratic charm and whimsicality, while retaining the fundamental components of an engrossing Spider-Man story. Spider-Man: Miles Morales is exceptionally heartwarming, remarkably poignant, and beautifully constructed, delivering an exquisitely compelling coming-of-age story filled to the brim with thematic elements of responsibility and sacrifice. The best Spider-Man stories always incorporate the dramatic tension of our hero’s two worlds colliding and Spider-Man: Miles Morales is no exception. While its sense of narrative and presentational novelty is overshadowed by the immaculate achievement that is Into the Spider-Verse, Spider-Man: Miles Morales still manages to astound and compel in a number of unexpected ways while delivering a phenomenal gameplay experience that feels notably familiar, despite its exhilarating enhancements. From its narrative heights – that rival the poignant delivery found in Spider-Man 2 and Into the Spider-Verse – to the pure exhilaration while elegantly swinging through the streets of Harlem or the surge of adrenaline that permeates when executing bio-electric Venom abilities, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a tightly focused rollercoaster ride that improves on many inconsistent elements of its predecessor, while retaining its iconic notion in fluidity and satisfaction. Side-missions are more structured and streamlined, disruptive Mary Jane stealth sequences have been removed entirely, and its centralized pacing is greatly improved due to its shorter nature, with no specific element overstaying its welcome. Its musical intonation also strikes an auditory bliss that thematically resonates with the titular character; familiar themes are reconstructed with trap drums and symphonic beats, boasting an urban contemporary structure, and its use of licensed music is cleverly implemented and also harmonizes with this thematic design. Miles’ conflicted struggle and remarkable personal growth result in a far more grounded and intimate Spider-Man story, truly encapsulating the essence of a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Spider-Man: Miles Morales is every bit as spectacular and amazing as its predecessor.
The character of Miles Morales is one that I am not as familiar with, when compared to Peter Parker. With Into the Spider-Verse being his inaugural foray into mainstream media, there is a notable amount of information that the uninitiated do not know. Insomniac’s take on the character feels exquisitely wholesome and is exceptionally moving – Miles is a boy from Brooklyn that loves his friends and family unconditionally, and simply never gives up. Thematically, Spider-Man Miles Morales is an impeccable equilibrium of the established conventions of Into the Spider-Verse and the growth and development of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the MCU. This may sound like a negative exclamation, but in actuality, it takes the best elements of a successful and established formula and harmonizes them together into a beautiful construct that is pleasantly familiar, yet intriguingly novel. Miles exemplifies a level of growth, maturity, and sacrifice that is notably moving and poignantly inspiring, boasting some of the best character development demonstrated in any affiliated medium. Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ enthralling narrative captures the same euphoric aura established in its predecessor, exuding profound elements of hopefulness, sacrifice, and responsibility. Marvel’s Spider-Man is one of my favourite Spider-Man stories of all-time and Insomniac’s iteration on Miles Morales is arguably just as excellent. The dramatic tension constructed as his two worlds intertwine is undeniably palpable and result in an exhilarating final confrontation that left me awestruck. As with Insomniac’s original foray into the webslinging universe, characters are exceptionally well-written and exude a level of charm and idiosyncrasy I have come to expect with their established repertoire. Miles unsurprisingly steals the show, with his displays of naivety and innocence intricately weaving into his layered development, demonstrating a key sense of empathy and compassion that allows him to triumphantly stand out amongst the superhero scene. His struggling sense of identity and independence is poignantly relatable, with his gradual acceptance and embracement of his individuality being a remarkably powerful character moment. His developing love for Harlem is conspicuously echoed throughout his transformative journey and his constant drive to protect his neighbourhood – from his loved ones to the proud owners of local shops and restaurants – creates a sense of community and constructs the established notion of a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, all of which results in a poignant payoff during its final moments. Miles’ friends and family are equally as intriguing as the established cast of 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man; while Peter and MJ’s remarkable chemistry is notably missed, Miles’ dynamic rapport with his two best friends, Ganke and Phin, is equally as charming and leads to a compelling series of events. Character interactions and revelations are emotionally stirring and ineffably heartbreaking, with plenty of thrilling twists and turns that will undoubtedly leave you at the edge of your seat. Harmonizing with the exceptionally developed characters are their respective performances which are simply astounding. Miles is brought to life in spectacular fashion by Nadji Jeter, bringing forth an idiosyncratic level of whimsicality that lends will to his established growth while also retaining a sense of naivety. His poignant interactions with Phin, voiced by Jasmin Savoy Brown, evoke real, tangible chemistry that is exceptionally believable, creating a weighted dynamic that is riveting and heartwarming. Further accentuating Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ auditory prowess is its remarkable music composition. The intricate design of John Paesano’s musical score thematically melds with Insomniac’s interpretation of the character, with its urban contemporary influence revamping the established orchestral repertoire. Its timely use of licensed music is downright sublime, sending chills down my spine on multiple occasions. The level of dedication and creative thought that went into crafting Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ symphonic sound is a profound testament to its musical superiority to its 2018 predecessor. There were a couple of instances where character dialogue would not trigger, resulting in awkward, audible silence, and a few audio glitches that occasionally broke immersion, however these moments were remarkably rare and pale in comparison to its other impeccable qualities. Spider-Man: Miles Morales is exceptionally gorgeous and its performance on the PlayStation 5 is simply magical. The graphical fidelity mode locks the frame rate at 30fps but has enhanced lighting, ray-traced reflections, and runs at a full 4K resolution. The performance mode offers a silky smooth 60fps gameplay experience but lacks the added visual flair, with ray-tracing disabled, utilizing space-screen reflections, and runs at a lower dynamic resolution. Both have their pros and cons, but are exceptional showcases nonetheless. Utilizing the PS5’s superbly efficient SSD, load times are practically nonexistent in Spider-Man: Morales. Loading up the game from the start menu or fast travelling to a new location takes less than three seconds.
Gameplay in Spider-Man: Miles Morales remains largely unchanged from the established formula constructed in 2018, for better and for worse. Web-swinging in particular is nearly identical to Insomniac’s foundation – from a surface level perspective, no one would blame you for thinking Spider-Man: Miles Morales was Spider-Man 2018 whilst swinging across New York. Aside from a few different tricks and a Venom ability that allows you to gain altitude, web-swinging in Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a conspicuously reused asset from Insomniac’s previous effort. Despite its lack of novelty and half-measure approach, web-swinging is just as satisfying and exhilarating as it was two years ago. Web-zipping to a perch and performing a well-timed point launch to gain increased momentum, which accentuates the precise flow of elegant traversal, still exudes an ineffable sensation of invigorating awe and captivating wonder. I have said it before and I will say it again, the simple act of getting from point A to point B has never been more fun in a video game. Swinging across the lavish sunset of a snow-covered Harlem is absolutely mesmerizing and utterly breathtaking, especially when considering the graphical prowess of the PlayStation 5. The silky smooth, 60fps performance greatly enhances and further cements its pristine foundation of seamless fluidity. Combat bears the same inherent foundation of Marvel’s Spider-Man, with a few enhancements added to the table. Given Miles’ idiosyncratic abilities, the player is able to perform an array of various attacks that were simply not possible for Peter. Channeling his bio-electric energy, Miles is able to unleash visceral Venom attacks that expel his charged up electricity, dealing a considerable amount of damage and leaving enemies susceptible to receiving increased damage. From a devastating Venom Punch, that unleashes an explosive barrage of electricity, to the Venom Smash, a destructive slam that creates a shockwave of bio-electric energy, Miles’ Venom abilities are absurdly satisfying and extraordinarily flashy, especially when complimented with a glorious cinematic finisher. Despite the new abilities, Spider-Man: Miles Morales controls almost identically to its predecessor in regards to combat, with Miles and Peter’s shared move sets overlapping one another. While its stealth system is also remarkably similar, notable refinements enhance the flow and pacing of these segments, resulting in a far more flexible and engaging gameplay experience. Miles has the ability to camouflage himself, becoming invisible to his enemy’s eye, allowing the player to perform easier and more forgiving takedowns. Spider-Man: Miles Morales also places a heavier emphasis on ceiling and wall takedowns, which is a welcomed implementation that allows for more strategic freedom and experimentation. While the omission of Peter’s trip wire is sorely missed, Miles does have access to a remote mine, which can be adhered to a fuse box and remotely detonated to discharge an electric blast that can stun and/or takedown multiple foes in one go. Its general lack of useful gadgets and modifications are an undeniable disappointment, with the absence of the excellent web bomb, impact web, and aforementioned trip wire being a notable detriment to any semblance of flexibility and versatility. Suit and gadget mods are equally as underwhelming, with only a marginal few providing any notable difference in gameplay enhancement. Spider-Man: Miles Morales also includes a delectable selection of unlockable Spidey suits which add an excellent layer of aesthetic variance and creative personality. However, unlike its predecessor, these remarkably detailed and beautifully crafted costumes serve little to no gameplay value. Unlocking a suit in Spider-Man: Miles Morales provides a new mod as opposed to the far superior suit powers introduced in Marvel’s Spider-Man – suit powers have been removed altogether for some unknown reason, which is an undeniable shame. Insomniac’s use and implementation of the DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers lack a sense of prominence but its subtle sensation is still noticeably enjoyable. Boss fights in Spider-Man: Miles Morales are exceptionally well-designed and exhilarating, exemplifying some of the most brilliant cinematic action offered in the medium. These climactic encounters are heightened by the narrative weight that accompany them and are further accentuated by its immaculate visual and auditory counterparts – with the opening and final encounters being some of the most thrilling set-pieces to have ever graced this illustrious medium. Spider-Man: Miles Morales may occasionally stumble due to its minor inconsistencies and questionable creative decisions but is ultimately an exquisitely robust gameplay experience that harmonizes magnificently with its impeccable narrative and amazing characters.
A welcomed level of enhancement and customization returns in Spider-Man: Miles Morales, where players gain XP and unlock skill points through completing missions and activities. These skill points can be exchanged to enhance Miles’ current abilities – from increasing the radius of his Venom Smash to unleashing an explosive Venom blast when a webbed enemy is adhered to the ground or a wall. Side activities, for the most part, are well-varied and serve as a nice distraction from the main story. They can be as simple and mindless as collecting one of many euphoric time capsules scattered across New York to fully fledged side-missions that will see Miles uncovering a conspiracy surrounding the local businesses of Harlem. The general populace can request Spider-Man’s aid through a mobile app developed by Ganke, allowing the player to organize and approach these side missions in a controlled and collected manner. The inclusion of this app adds a prominent layer of intimacy and personal connection between Miles and the people of Harlem, further cementing this profound notion of community. Villainous hideouts return in Spider-Man: Miles Morales, acting as engaging combat challenges that reward you with the resources required for unlocking new suits, mods, and gadget upgrades. Lastly, Peter leaves Miles with Spider-Man related challenges sprinkled throughout New York City – of the combat, traversal, and stealth variety – each of which unlocks a respective ability upon completion (such as the ability to perform a one hit KO on an enemy after performing a perfect dodge). These challenges are adequately designed and add a welcomed layer of longevity and variety to the overall experience. The most important notion of Spider-Man: Miles Morales is its centralized pacing; its side content compliments the main campaign more efficiently than its predecessor and its compressed structure results in a far more focused experience that rarely misses the mark. With the removal of extraneous MJ stealth sequences and Peter’s disruptive puzzle segments, its pacing and sense of flow are downright immaculate, with no single element overstaying its welcome. There are plenty of quieter moments that allow its established character development to marinate in an organically tranquil, yet engaging manner. From celebrating a heartwarming Christmas dinner with precious family to whimsically exploring the Oscorp Science Center with a best friend, these softer, deliberate gameplay moments serve as informative and engaging pallet cleansers to the pure exhilaration demonstrated with its invigorative action. It took me around 12 hours to complete Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which is notably shorter than its predecessor; however, each established element is deliberately executed in spectacular fashion, alleviating any possible trace of repetition, with no facet overstaying its welcome. Insomniac’s latest effort is undeniably all killer no filler.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a worthy follow up to not only one of the best games of the previous generation but arguably the greatest superhero game of all-time. While Insomniac’s iteration of Miles Morales lacks a pristine sense of novelty and independence that their inaugural entry encapsulated so immaculately, its impeccably poignant and emotionally riveting narrative and layered examples of character development reach the meteoric heights established by its illustrious predecessor, arguably surpassing it in the process. As a more focused and structured experience, and with a stronger emphasis on tighter, refined pacing, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an adrenaline-inducing thrill ride that never lets up. From the poignancy of Miles’ established relationships to the fostered sense of community and hopefulness, there so many thematic elements in Spider-Man: Miles Morales that resonate so profusely which causes each twist and turn to be exponentially more weighted and significant. Spider-Man: Miles Morales is ultimately a story about family and overcoming grief. Topped off with the amazing performances that accompany each intricately written character, certain interactions and encounters hit significantly harder thanks to the believable and emotionally grounded performance delivery. Spider-Man: Miles Morales is also an exceptional beauty on the PS5, boasting jaw dropping reflections and gorgeous lighting that lavishly bleed into this tangible and organic world. I love the fact that Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place during Christmas, with the playable Christmas dinner being a notable highpoint in the narrative and an undeniably heartwarming moment that evoked a blissful sense of euphoria. It is a remarkably relatable scenario that feels so intimate and personal, allowing us to fully empathize with Miles and his friends and family. Its gameplay components are equally as rich and robust as its presentation and narrative centerfold, retaining that same iconic feel of fluidity and mobility that Insomniac nailed in 2018. Web-swinging traversal is still exceptionally satisfying to control and remarkably gratifying to visually behold. The introduction of Miles’ Venom abilities add a layer of nuanced depth to the combat structure, resulting in a gameplay experience that retains the foundation with conspicuous refinements that make it feel fresh and exciting. Through the use of Ganke’s Spider-Man app, Harlem and its people are harmoniously intertwined with the established narrative and gameplay counterparts, creating an unparalleled and heartwarming sense of intimacy and community. With its structured and streamlined approach to side content and exceptional refinements to its established pacing, Spider-Man: Miles Morales uses its shorter length to its advantage, crafting one of the most riveting 10-12 hour experiences in the video game medium. Spider-Man: Miles Morales is so remarkably special, inspiring, and unbelievably moving, and it is arguably my favourite Spider-Man story of all-time.