Shortly after Miles Morales appeared in Marvel’s Spider-Man, many fans including myself wondered if and when the iconic Afro-Latino teenager of Puerto Rican ancestry and protégé to Peter Parker would get a separate video game all to himself. While Miles was a great supporting character in the previous adventure, his portrayal as a superhero represents something more powerful (think of what Chadwick Boseman’s performance meant for Black Panther) and therefore he deserved a bigger spotlight in a separate but equally important storyline.
Enter Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a standalone single-player third-person action-adventure game focused entirely on the 17-year-old kid from Brooklyn and voiced by Nadji Jeter. Taking place a year after the events of 2018’s Spider-Man, Miles finds himself adjusting to his new life in Harlem, supporting his mother’s campaign for City Council, and learning to master his newly discovered abilities. After teaming up with Peter to defeat Rhino, Miles is given the important task of protecting Harlem and all of New York City on his own while his mentor takes an overseas Daily Bugle business trip with MJ. This is where the popular phrase “With great power comes great responsibility” transforms his mindset and allows him to embark on a deeply profound journey filled with growth, acceptance, and self-discovery.
The Spider-Man That Harlem Needs
As a largely self-contained narrative, Miles Morales is an outstanding character development piece that fully examines our hero’s strengths and weaknesses while also depicting how the weight of being a superhero positively and negatively impacts those around him. Nadji delivers another memorable performance as Miles and instantly adds more credibility, personality, and depth to the beloved character. While we have often been mistreated, misrepresented, and underappreciated throughout history, it speaks volumes to see characters such as Miles rightfully celebrated in this fashion not just for my generation but for many future generations to come.
In addition to being a beautifully crafted representation of our lead protagonist, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is also a great starting point for those who are new to the series. If for any reason you never played 2018’s Spider-Man, Miles does narrate a quick recap video at the beginning to get you caught up on everything that has happened to him so far. Once you start playing, there are a total of 16 story-based missions with some additional side missions and backstory content to further flesh out character relationships and motivations. While certain characters or themes may be similar to how they were portrayed in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, this is an entirely original story with enough twists, and turns to set it apart from both the comics and movies alike.
If there is one sole criticism that I do have about the story it would be that Miles’ adventure is intriguing but doesn’t feel quite as long as Peter’s was in the previous game. Insomniac Games did tell us ahead of time that this would be a standalone game and many could compare the length to that of Uncharted: Lost Legacy which isn’t a bad thing at all. However, when you start to compare the number/notoriety of key supervillains in the previous game (The Sinister Six) to this game (Rhino, and Tinkerer) then on the surface, it certainly doesn’t feel quite as epic in scope and scale.
Furthermore, there are plenty of easter eggs throughout this game (including a significant teaser after the credits) that lets you know just how big of a deal Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 will actually be. The next installment will most likely have moments where you’ll be able to play as both heroes but hopefully, there will also be an option to play through the entire game as only Miles. With all that said, if you’re interested in playing a solo Miles game that successfully establishes the character but is ultimately designed as a jumping-off point to future bigger installments, then you’ll be satisfied by what this title has to offer.
Another Graphical Showcase
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales looks visually stunning much like its predecessor did. The game takes place during the busy holiday season across 9 different areas including Harlem, The Upper West Side, Central Park, The Upper East Side, Midtown, Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich, Chinatown, and The Financial District. The vibrant colors of illuminated Christmas decorations and buildings along with snow falling gently from the sky makes this game feel like the perfect timely release. The inclusion of nearby bodegas, historical landmarks, street fairs, and painted murals sets the tone, instantly making the atmosphere easily recognizable and sentimental to any New Yorker out there.
The main and supporting cast of characters are fully rendered to perfection and the animation remains fluid in cutscenes and gameplay. While there is an accurate depiction of diversity within every community, there will be some instances where you’ll encounter NPCs that look and sound similar. This is especially true for the rival factions that you fight throughout the game. While Insomniac has managed to alter certain aspects of these adversaries, some models do remain exactly the same as they were in the previous game. Of course, this isn’t a deal-breaker as it does give Miles several types of gangs to face but it is worth pointing out in case certain enemy types may look familiar to veterans of the series.
Familiar Gameplay With Some Key Tweaks
Speaking of familiarity, the core gameplay mechanics in Marvel’s Spider-Man are pretty much the same in Miles Morales. The main difference lies within the new combat, bio-electric venom, and camouflage skills that Harlem’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man now has in addition to using gadgets and web-swinging abilities. The Venom punch attack is highly effective at both stunning enemies and manually powering up electrical devices throughout the city. As you progress through the game, you’ll earn skill points from completing missions and various activities that can be used to further level up your character.
Throughout the campaign, there is an escalating war between Tinkerer’s Underground gang and a corrupt energy corporation called Roxxon Energy. These factions are very reminiscent of Mister Negative’s Inner Demons and Sable International’s Strike Force team from the previous game and therefore you can expect some of the same types of objectives including shutting down enemy bases. Addictive combat is once again the bread and butter of this experience so if you enjoyed these dynamics before, then you’ll definitely feel right at home with this game.
In addition to completing the campaign, you’ll also be able to participate in App activities throughout the city, and unlock new gadgets, alternative Spidey suits, visors, and suit mods. Miles’ home and several of the subway stations throughout the city become prominent fast travel hotspots meaning that you don’t need to web swing everywhere if you don’t want to. There are various collectible scavenger hunts for items throughout the city as well. Since most of these are also narrative-driven, I will refrain from spoilers but I will say that you’ll have plenty of fun engaging in these quests. Lastly, there are benchmarks for XP that you can earn from doing things like wall running and remaining untouchable in combat. These options in addition to the New Game+ mode and the randomly generated crimes that happen all over the city are guaranteed to keep you busy for quite a while.
The PlayStation 5 Advantages
If you were fortunate enough to successfully pre-order a PlayStation 5, then this is definitely one game worth getting on that platform for many concrete reasons. First and foremost, there are two different performance and fidelity options to choose from. You can play at 60 FPS without graphical features or at 30 FPS with ray tracing and all the bells and whistles such as improved lighting, shadow, and details. If you have a 4K TV with HDR support then you will be absolutely blown away by the visuals even more so.
Another reason why you should play this game on PS5 is because of how well it fully utilizes the Dualsense controller. The adaptive triggers make swinging across the city very easy while the Haptic feedback fully immerses you into the world further by letting you feel every sensation whether it be from executing a powerful attack, jumping onto moving vehicles, or taking massive damage from a group of enemies. As a bonus, using the Pulse 3D wireless headset will allow you to hear every nearby sound and conversation.
Lastly, the PS5 ultra-high-speed SSD is indeed the gamechanger that Sony promised it would be as the game loads incredibly fast (roughly 2-3 seconds) from the moment that you press start on the title screen. This coupled along with the Control center’s activities feature highlighted in their recent User experience preview video means that you can easily jump to a nearby mission and it will load up in no time. If you love trophies, then this experience is certainly one that you’ll enjoy most and I’m very curious to see how this cool feature evolves over the console’s entire life cycle.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a great standalone adventure game that proudly honors the 17-year old superhero from Brooklyn in all his glory. While the game is noticeably shorter and doesn’t present any major changes to the gameplay formula, it does succeed in reinforcing the point that representation matters in video games and is the perfect setup for the next big title in the franchise.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales for the PlayStation 5 provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.