Marvel’s Spider-Man made a mark. It’s another technical showcase for the PlayStation 4, showing what Insomniac Games and the system are capable of. It also happens to be a genuinely enjoyable superhero game, which is something that often is in short supply in a world where many companies want to quickly cash-in on series’ popularity. It’s important to acknowledge that going into Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, because this is building on that foundation and offering an equally impressive and, in my opinion, generally more interesting experience.
With Insomniac’s first Spider-Man adventure, we experienced a story following an established Peter Parker. He’s been Spider-Man for a while and, at the end of his story, we see that Miles Morales gained similar abilities. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales presents us with a follow-up that is more of an origin story. But rather, I’d almost liken it to us seeing what happens when the training wheels come off of a kid’s bike and they have to learn how to manage on their own.
So much has changed for Miles. He’s living in Harlem now. His dad died. His mom is running for City Council. He still isn’t exactly sure what all of his powers are. Also, the Spider-Man he’s idolized isn’t around for a bit, leaving him on his own. We have this sense of him learning alongside a mentor who had a similar sort of start and some of the same abilities, but the commonalities end there. Miles really does have the chance to be himself and explore his own identity, deciding what kind of Spider-Man he’s going to be. And, at the same time, Insomniac is drawing from Marvel’s established history.
And I love how Insomniac doesn’t shy away from it. Considering what 2020 was like, there are certain story beats and moments that hit me harder than I expected, because of the things happening to and around Miles and the people he loves. Seeing disasters around New York City, corruption and these experiences is identifiable. It made me connect with and feel for these people even more.
This isn’t to say Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is overly heavy or depressing in any way. Everything is in equal balance here. It pays tribute to the comics while doing its own things sometimes. It can be fun and silly. (The already revealed Spider-Man the cat is a taste of its lighter side.) Miles himself is charming in a way that I would say Peter isn’t, as he’s this likeable kid who you want to see succeed.
I love how cohesive Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is. Everything fits together so well, and there’s this great sense of balance. In the original game, I often felt overwhelmed by how much happened in the world around Peter at once. So many villains are packed into the game, like Mister Negative and the Sinister Six. You care about Peter, but Insomniac also worked to give Mary Jane, Miles, and Black Cat attention. As you would go from mission to mission, it seemed like people constantly were calling out for Spider-Man’s help.
With Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, things are more concise and focused. There are plenty of insights into Miles’ life, his friends and his foes, but he remains the priority. (Though rest assured that there are plenty of cameos here.) This is his story, and it manages to take its time with building him up while maintaining a steady pace. There’s less pressure for things to constantly be happening or elements to be introduced, because Insomniac already did all that. The lack of pressure is palpable, and I feel like I was able to (vicariously) be a better Spider-Man because both Miles and I had room to breathe. Especially since the new Friendly Neighborhood app from Ganke helps better organize the optional missions while I would hunt for collectibles or continue through the storyline.
Though, it could be because Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is remarkably accessible. As much as I loved Insomniac’s original game, the number of QTEs used and way battles were handled sometimes left me stumbling and barely surviving fights. Here, we have a champion of accessibility from the very start. Games begin with someone setting the difficulty, which ranges from Friendly Neighborhood to Spectacular, and offers details about enemy aggressiveness, damage, and health at each tier. (Friendly Neighborhood even ensures Miles can’t be knocked out in a fight.) Additional accessibility options include subtitle font and color settings and the ability to adjust elements like holds, presses, and assists in case people have issues with QTEs or repetitive actions.
The tutorials are handled well too. Your introduction to Miles as Spider-Man involves working alongside Peter as you learn the ropes. It feels like a safety net for not only you, but Miles. Especially since Miles does have unique abilities like his electrical Venom strike and invisibility. These are brought up in practical ways that never feel overbearing. Likewise, the optional Challenges Peter set up for you manage to be the best sort of edutainment.
But really, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales flows. Everything connects so well. Combat is fluid, with easy to chain together combos and using Miles’ gadgets and skills in efficient ways that make you feel accomplished even if you’re button-mashing. This is one of those games where combos make sense, and it seems like you would naturally gravitate toward the buttons that cause Miles to use a Venom-enhanced attack. I felt better about stealthy situations, because Miles’ ability made me confident and offered a security net. And, while it isn’t combat related, how quickly he gets a subway pass that makes fast travel possible again cuts back on elements and encounters that might have a chance of feeling exhausting.
It also looks great. I played Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales on a launch PlayStation 4 and was impressed with it. It does give my system a workout, just as the original game did. I look forward to seeing it on a PlayStation 5 and how the additional power will enhance the experience as a whole.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the hero we’re looking for. The game takes everything people loved about Marvel’s Spider-Man, the story, the collecting, and the smooth fighting, and presents us with a story that somehow feels more balanced and dedicated to its star. I think it is impossible to come away from it not loving and rooting for Miles.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales will launch on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 on November 12, 2020.