Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Review — A Next-Gen Leap of Faith
Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales has a lot in common with its predecessor, yet still proves to be a compelling reason to own a PS5 at launch.
I used to really detest Miles Morales. It wasn’t because of anything that I disliked about his character; I was just bitter that writer Brian Michael Bendis chose to end my favorite comic book run of all-time (Ultimate Spider-Man) before I felt like it needed to wrap up, only to then reboot it with Miles at the helm. I didn’t understand why Peter Parker needed to be killed off in the series in order to usher in a new version of Spider-Man. Eventually, I overcame my irrational annoyance with Miles and chose to read those comics that I swore off for so long, only to find that he was an incredibly charming, compelling wall-crawler in his own right.
With Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, those personal, albeit stupid, walls that I built up over the years have continued to tumble down even more. Miles Morales doesn’t just continue to be another great outing for Insomniac Games in its take on the Spider-Verse, but it shows that Miles himself is deserving of being thrust into the spotlight more often. Not to mention, it also proves to be a great reason to have already made the jump to next-gen with the PS5.
Miles Morales picks up one year after the events of Marvel’s Spider-Man with the titular character now trying to come into his own as a web-slinger. After a wild opening sequence, Peter informs Miles that he’ll be leaving New York City for a few weeks to go on an overseas trip with Mary Jane. As the sole Spider-Man left in New York, Miles must quickly find a way to come into his own and defend his newfound home of Harlem from an ongoing war between the corporation Roxxon and a new group known as the Underground.
For the most part, the story of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales continues to be just as effective as Insomniac’s previous outing. The characterization of not only Miles but those around him like Phin, Ganke, and Aaron Davis, is a standout in the title’s eight-to-twelve hour runtime. The game’s primary antagonist, the Tinkerer, also proves to be quite intriguing and is a great first baddie for Miles to take on all by his lonesome.
That being said, the shorter length of Miles Morales doesn’t always do the narrative any favors. Oftentimes, the game feels like it is trying to compress too much character work and storytelling into a more concise period of time, making some ensuing decisions and actions from characters feel a bit confusing. This shortened runtime also makes for a lesser number of scenes that aren’t specifically focused on pushing the narrative forward. Those small character-driven scenes that were scattered throughout Marvel’s Spider-Man (I specifically love the texting sequence between Peter and Mary Jane) were fewer and further between this time around. By the end of Miles Morales, I was definitely still caught up in the story that was being told, but it never reached the same highs as what we saw in the previous game.
Luckily, on the gameplay front, Miles Morales does find a way to improve on what was found in Marvel’s Spider-Man. For the most part, all of the game’s mechanics are identical to what we have seen before. Swinging around town, hand-to-hand combat, and stealth are all roughly the same here in Miles Morales, but thanks to Miles himself having some different superpowers compared to Peter, each element is spiced up a bit.
The most notable difference here likely comes in the way that Miles can utilize Venom, which is essentially an electrical-style charge that he can emit from his body. Miles has a number of these Venom powers at his disposal, each of which are a ton of fun to utilize. Some of these include the ability to slug foes as hard as possible, another in which you can launch multiple enemies into the sky at once, or a third where you can pounce on lone enemies and chuck them into larger crowds, causing a sort of mini-explosion. In tandem with some other new gadgets and the ability to go completely invisible, Miles Morales gives you far more freedom when it comes to combat, which is a welcome step up. I’m not sure how Insomniac will look to improve on combat specifically once the focus is back on Peter in an inevitable sequel, but they have their work now cut out for them.
If there is one area of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales that I’m a bit let down with, it comes to the game’s open-world structure. Much like before, the side tasks that are thrown at you in the game aren’t very compelling and instead are what I’d describe as checklist-oriented. Many of the other aspects of the game just request you to find various collectibles, shut down enemy strongholds, or complete odd jobs around the city. In a time where open-world games of this style aren’t as common as they once were, the structure of both Marvel’s Spider-Man games continues to feel dated, even if it is always fun swinging through the city between each task.
Despite this, I do have to say that all of the actual side missions and other assorted objectives in Miles Morales find a way to meaningfully deepen the characters and flesh out the world. The vast majority of the side missions in the game take place in Harlem, leading to Miles actually feeling like a ‘Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man’ in practice, and not just in saying. Even some of the other collectible assignments end up deepening Miles’ relationships to characters in ways that I wouldn’t expect, while also providing the player with more insight into understanding their backstory.
Most of the RPG elements from Marvel’s Spider-Man are also back this time around in Miles Morales, so you should know what to expect on that front. Additionally, and while this is to be expected in some regards, I have to say that I found a lot of the extra suits that Miles has to change between pretty lacking. This isn’t shocking considering Miles has less of a history to pull from compared to Peter, though. But even with that being said, the Into the Spider-Verse and Bodega Cat Suit are big standouts and might just be the best two overall costumes we’ve seen in either Marvel’s Spider-Man title.
One other weird mentionable is that I found it downright strange how Insomniac locked certain aspects of Miles Morales behind the game’s New Game+ mode. Unless you beat the game and then start a subsequent playthrough, you can’t unlock all of the suits, max out your gadget upgrades, or even purchase all of your skills without heading into NG+. I’m sure Insomniac wanted to incentivize players to revisit the experience before beating it once and then putting it down forever, but it’s really unsatisfying when you’ve seen a game to completion and noticeably still have certain elements that you outright can’t unlock without needing to start all over.
The big elephant in the room with this review is that I haven’t touched on how Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales performs on PS5. In short, as what is arguably the console’s biggest launch title, Miles Morales does an excellent job of making you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth as a day-one investor in the PlayStation 5. While the title is also available on PS4, the lighting, character models, and sheer scope of NYC in the PS5 iteration are on another level. Combine this with the fact that there are virtually no load times to be found and the DualSense controller makes you feel that much closer to real-life web-slinging, it’s easy for me to say that this is the first true “next-gen” game that I feel like I have played.
Even when not taking into account the game’s appearance on next-gen hardware, what Insomniac has done with the scope of some of the setpieces in Miles Morales compared to the previous entry is astounding. I mentioned it previously, but the opening moments of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales makes for one of the more breathtaking sequences found in either game. Even if the rest of the experience doesn’t live up to the gravitas of this opening mission, those that you come across later are just as compelling in more ways than one.
As a final note, I do have to mention that I ran into quite a few strange issues throughout my playtime of Miles Morales. In the course of my fifteen or so hours with the game, it crashed on me at least four times, with one of these instances outright freezing my PS5 completely and forcing me to rip the power cable out. This is in addition to a handful of other strange bugs that I found while playing. None of these issues proved to keep me from having a great time with Miles Morales, but it did get annoying as time went on.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a worthy follow-up to the previous installment, even if a lot of the core DNA has remained the same. Despite some rough edges, the experience as a whole is one that’s hard to put down once you get entrenched. This proves to be doubly true if you’re playing on PS5 and are really looking for a game that’s going to show you what this next-gen leap is all about. Even though the first game in this new franchise from Insomniac might still be the one that I prefer overall, Miles Morales gives us more than an ample taste of where we could see this series going in the future, which makes me quite excited, to say the least.