And that’s a great thing.
Note: This review contains no spoilers. Read with limitless abandon!
When I first started up the original Spider-Man for PS4, I was immediately transported back to my childhood, playing what, until that point, had been the greatest Spider-Man game ever released in my mind–Spider-Man 2 for the PS2. The idea of swinging around an open world New York City had always been the pinnacle of Spider-Man gameplay, and we finally had a new gold standard for that. Something that anyone who picked up the controller could tell would be good gameplay for years and years to come.
What does that mean for the sequel, staring Miles Morales? Well, we get the same gameplay that we know and love from the original, but with everything that makes Miles Morales an amazing Spider-Man.
Whooo boy. This was the thing that kept me going on the original. Insomniac knows how to write not only a good Spider-Man story, but a good story overall. Playing that game felt like watching a Spider-Man movie that you were the star of. And we all know the ending to that one was a tear-jerker. (Don’t click that link if you haven’t played the original.)
The nice people at Insomniac did every new PS5 owner, and those just jumping on the bandwagon, a favor. You do not need to have played the original game to enjoy the story of this one. Over all, there’s one moment that really calls back to the original story, which happens during the game’s final sequence. It shows a scene you can follow that takes place before the events of the first game–but it’s more of an easter egg than anything else.
The story of Miles Morales follows the titular hero picking up where the post-ending scene of the original left off: the young wall-crawler turning to his more experienced counterpart to begin his journey as the Amazing Spider-Man. Things turn sideways when Peter, now sporting a new face due to contract issues, leaves for Symkaria for a few weeks, leaving Miles in charge.
Like the original, Miles Morales follows the structure of two warring factions that dot the map and control the flow of the narrative. Instead of the Demons and Sable, we now have the Underground and Roxxon, who respectively fill the same roles.
Leading the Underground is the new big-bad, the Tinkerer. Like most radical revolutionaries, the Tinkerer has been wronged by capitalistic cannibalism, and is looking to take revenge on Roxxon, the corporation that took away the one thing they loved. But this isn’t the same Tinkerer you know from the original pages of Spider-Man lore…
It’s a classic superhero sized story, following comic book tradition of big battles, blindsided plot twists, and taking on large social commentary, while being unabashedly political doing so.
And speaking of comic books, the gang’s all here. Miles’s tech savvy best friend, Ganke, political superhero cheerleader mom, Rio, and misguided but completely relatable uncle, Aaron Davis all make their way from the pages to the small screen.
Of personal note, there’s a subplot involving a Deaf street artist named Hailey Cooper. Miles’s interactions with her show off some amazing digital ASL! As a hard of hearing ASL user, the inclusion was heart-warming, and much needed in a world of increasing representation.
As a New York native, there’s nothing like swinging around the city I know so well. Especially during my favorite time of the year for the city–Christmas! The snowy urban playground is a treat to fly through, even on PS4 without all the fancy upgrades of the PS5 edition. (Speaking of, the PS4 version comes with a free upgrade to the PS5 version, when those consoles become more… widely available.)
However, for a story that’s focused so much on Harlem, it would have been nice to see some more of Manhattan tacked on to the end of the amputated neighborhood from the original. Harlem is about a tenth of the size of the real world equivalent, and it would have been wonderful to swing through more of it.
Regardless, the festivities are all around, and it’s noticeable from the hanging Christmas lights, to the cozy scarf and hat suit you get from helping the adorable Hailey.
Suit wise, there’s a spread of 19 stunning outfits for the young webslinger to don from across the ages of Miles’s comic book history. Most are unlocked with resources, but some are unlocked when certain conditions are met. All come with various suit and vision modules that can be mixed and matched to suit your game play style and aesthetics.
During my playthough, I did encounter a lot of graphical glitches. Mainly confined to cutscenes, these ranged from snow particles expanding and filling the screen, to props jumping all over the place. Once, I did have the humorous fortune of seeing a dead Miles’s buttocks deflate suddenly, which made me laugh out loud.
None of these small glitches affected the gameplay, except where the camera was involved. Glitches and all, the view was incredible, and the experience, breathtaking.
Update: Since writing this, I’ve obtained a PS5, and WHEW. Graphically, it’s a massive upgrade. Although I haven’t played through much story on the new console, cutscenes appear to not have any of the graphical glitches I’ve noticed on PS4. On top of that, loading times are non-existent. PS5 versions of Spider-Man: Miles Morales come free with your purchase of the PS4 copy, and vice versa.
Let’s start with the obvious. Traversal is incredible! But we already knew that. The reason that it took so long for me to finish this game and write this review was because most of the times I picked up the game, I steadily avoided story progression in favor of sipping some wine and swinging around feeling like a bad-ass. That, and there’s always something else to do in the massive open-world adventure.
With a new Spider-Man comes new powers, and for Miles, that means camouflage and venom. Not to be confused with our favorite black suited symbiote, Miles is able to absorb and expel electricity in a set of moves called venom strikes. The ability vastly improves combat options, and makes clearing out large groups of enemies really exhilarating, especially once you get the ability that chains venom stuns across nearby enemies.
Camouflage, on the other hand, vastly improves the other aspect of the game: stealth. Miles Morales basically begs you to make use of stealth in combat. Many times, specifically when starting to take out Roxxon and Underground bases, I found that brute force wasn’t the answer, and stepping back to tackle the space with stealth not only caused better results, but was immensely more fun. The addition of remote mines, and the return of the gravity well created some very memorable moments, and tapping a guy on the shoulder while invisible, only to punch his confused face a moment later is cheering-out-loud level cool.
Speaking of clearing out bases, I still have only cleared out a single base. They scare me. I’ll be honest, it took stepping outside of my comfort zone to write this article to actually walk up to a Roxxon base and work on taking the thing down. To be fair, there’s always more activities to focus on in the big city, so waiting until the end to take on these large complexes wasn’t exactly something I had to go out of the way to do. When I finally got to it, as I mentioned above, I was rewarded heavily. Not just in collectables and experience, but learning new ways to take out enemies with finesse.
Although the game features a progress tree and upgrades, at its core, this is a skill based game. You’re pressing dodge at all the right moments, and comboing large series of attacks, swings, and web moves if you want to move effortlessly through swaths of criminals and corporate muscle (who are, technically, criminals too).
All the original muscle memory from the first game will do you well in this one. Despite the new flashy animations and Miles-esque movement, combat feels exactly as it always did–fluid and dynamic. To me, the final fight felt “easy,” but it’s not because the difficulty wasn’t there. It definitely was. Having over 200 hours between the two Spidey titles made the combat “feel” right, and I was able to quickly identify weaknesses in the Tinkerer’s armor and take them down swiftly.
This is not a weakness, but a strength in the game. Like the various training missions left around the city by Peter show, having the reflexes of Spider-Man with the controller pays off, and the game is constantly training you to be a better Spidey while rewarding you with upgrades for doing so. It’s a brilliant system, and as the adage goes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” and they kept the best of the best for this sequel.
The accessibility menu of this game is massive! It’s probably the most impressive set of accessibility controls I’ve seen from any 2020 title out there.
Of course, the usual QTE (Quick Time Event) assist options are there, but everything from dodge window times, to icon and prompt sizes, to high contrast Spidey Sense, to the color of emphasized text and enemy highlighting and more is all configurable.
There’s even the option for audible narration of the ASL sections of the game. Subtitles are legible, properly labeled and timed, and most importantly, accurate (you’d be surprised). Insomniac clearly went out of their way to consult the accessibility sphere of the gaming community for what was needed, and listened to every voice.
One thing I noticed as someone with creaky fingers is that opening Miles’s phone, which is triggered by sliding left on the touchpad, can be rather difficult at times, not registering at times, however, you can assign the action to one of two shortcut keys on the d-pad for ease.
Absolutely full points for accessibility on this game
Having finally finished this high-flying sequel, I’m even more giddy at the prospect of picking up a PS5 when I can, if for no other reason than to replay this absolute masterpiece on the hardware it was designed for. It’s a polished piece, with flaws that are easy to dismiss when compared to the immense amount of detail and love that went into constructing a more action packed continuation of an already prestigious game.
I’m not one to give numerical scores, but I’ll label this one with a 7.75 spider legs out of 8.
You can purchase Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales for PS4 or PS5 from the link below. As a disclaimer, this is an affiliate link and I will receive a small commission from any sales made.