While a lot of developers have made fun Spider-Man games over the years, Insomniac really nailed it in 2018 with Marvel’s Spider-Man by adding depth, a solid story, and some stealth action straight out of Batman’s Arkham games to the familiar open world action we’ve come to expect from Spidey’s interactive adventures. And now they’ve done it again in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5), a semi-sequel / side story that features the friendly wall crawler from a different neighborhood.
Picking up not long after the end of Marvel’s Spider-Man,
Spider-Man: Miles Morales open with our titular hero learning the superhero ropes from the original Spidey, Peter Parker. But when Peter goes out of town on a work trip, and a turf war breaks out between the military tech company Roxxon and anti-Roxxon terrorist group called The Underground, Miles has to step up to save the city, whether he’s ready or not.
Like their namesake characters, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is similar to Marvel’s Spider-Man, but not the same. Navigating New York, for example, uses the same swinging controls and is just as fluid. The same is true for the acrobatic ways Miles takes down bad guys; how he uses his webshooters and the environment to his advantage; and can be sneaky in a way that makes you wonder how many of the Batman Arkham games he’s played.
Miles also, like Peter, has spidey-sense to alert him to incoming attacks, and can avoid easily with the touch of a button…usually. He also has some handy gadgets, as well as a leveling up system that allows him to improve his skills and upgrade his equipment, while also making him stronger and more resilient. And it all goes down in a wide-open version of Manhattan that feels as much like the city as it did in the first game.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales also has the solid and intuitive controls of its predecessor, and they work the same way as well. Chasing a car full of bank robbers, for instance, plays out the same here as it did in Marvel’s Spider-Man, and the same is true for combat.
In other words,
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is basically Marvel’s Spider-Man, just with a young black Puerto Rican kid replacing a white man (insert your own joke about tiki torches here).
That said, Miles is not your father’s Spider-Man. For starters, he has a bio-electric attacks that stuns enemies and makes them more vulnerable…and charges their cell phones. Miles can also camouflage himself, essentially turning invisible for when he wants to be even sneakier. Though while these abilities are effective, and recharge at a good clip, they’re not so powerful or prevalent that they make Miles feel invincible.
What also feels different about Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is how his fist fights are more even keeled than those in Marvel’s Spider-Man. In that game, some of the bad guys were disproportionately stronger than their coworkers. But that doesn’t happen here. In part because Miles’ bio-electrical attacks level the playing field, and in part because the bad guys — the regular ones, not the marquee boss battle ones — are all of comparable strength.
To compensate, the members of The Underground have apparently learned the benefit of spreading out and attacking from on-high. During one early fight, for instance, Miles starts by fighting a bunch of them on the street, but then has to jump up onto a nearby roof to take out some bad guys who are shooting at him, only to learns they’re also on the rooves of two other nearby buildings.
This penchant for three-dimensional thinking…
also makes things interesting when Miles invades an enemy’s base and goes full Dark Knight on them, stealthily taking out enemies from above. In one particularly exhilarating instance (which I won’t spoil), Miles gets to play this game of bat and mouse in a four-story room with a ton of scaffolding, which is a great location for this kind of Arkham-esque gameplay.
As with his new fighting skills, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales changes other aspects based on how Miles is different from Peter Parker. For instance, Miles often gets help from his pal Ganke, and picks up side mission through a phone app. He also has some of his own gadgets, including some shock mines that come in really handy when he’s breaking into an enemy stronghold.
In a similar vein, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales doesn’t run the same kind of errands that Peter ran in the previous game, and even when he does, they sometimes play out differently. For example, there are times when Miles will try to stop some guys who are trying to hijack a truck. But when reinforcements arrive (theirs, not his), Miles has to pay special attention to the ones targeting the driver because failing to do so, well…
But while there’s plenty for Miles to do in his eponymous game, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is still a side story to Marvel’s Spider-Man in the same way that Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was a side story to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. As a result, it doesn’t have as much to do, either in its main story or in his side quests. Which isn’t to say there isn’t doesn’t feel like a full game, it totally does, just that it’s not called Marvel’s Spider-Man 2: Miles Morales for a reason.
While being relatively shorter than its predecessor isn’t a problem,
there are times when Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Moralesstumbles. Though, not surprisingly, it does so in some of the same ways as the previous game.
For starters, Miles, like Peter, can use his spidey-sense to locate important items in the world. And like when Peter did this in the first game, Miles’ doesn’t active nearly long enough, nor does it mark items after Miles has noticed them. Of course, this is the same problem Batman had in his Arkham games, and Lara Croft had in her recent outings, and so on and so on. You’d think there’d be a pill for this by now. But there isn’t, which is why we have to keep pressing the spidey-sense button over and over…
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales also has a couple problems we’ve seen in other games. Like Destiny and Destiny 2, the menus awkwardly have you using the right thumbstick like it’s a mouse. Then there’s the all-too common problem that comes when you turn off the background music, only to discover this also kills the music in cutscenes. Even worse (or weirder, your call), while doing this in the Mass Effect games just made it look like people were dancing in eerily silent clubs, here they leave the music on when Miles puts on a record, but kill it when the cutscenes become musical montages.
It’s also disappointing that the version of Ganke in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales isn’t as Ganke-esque as he is in the comics, or Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, or when they called him Ned in Spider-Man: Far From Home for some reason. Though, admittedly, it doesn’t make this less fun, since this game’s version still does do a good job as your guy in the chair.
Like the characters and their comics,
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales isn’t just Marvel’s Spider-Man with some minor cosmetic changes, and it’s not a radical reinvention, either. Instead, it adds some new and interesting elements to what is (and has long been) a great way to translate Spider-Man’s unique skills into a video game. Which makes this a worthy successor…even if it isn’t a sequel.