Spider-man Miles Morales is a better game than 2018’s Spider-man in every conceivable way. I wasn’t a big fan of Spider-man, finding it tedious, overlong and padded. Thankfully, Spider-man Miles Morales suffers no such issues. Sure, it’s fundamentally a very similar game but the streamlined approach taken by Insomniac has paid off in spades.
For starters, Miles Morales is much shorter than Spider-man and its narrative focus is far more narrow. Rather than trying to include multiple villains, intersecting plotlines and stuff far too much lore in, Miles Morales focuses solely on Miles and the fight to protect his neighbourhood; Harlem.
Friendly neighbourhood Spider-man is far more literal in Miles Morales. This tightened focus also allows Insomniac to hone in on some significant ideas, with Black Lives Matter playing an important role in the underpinning theme of Spider-man Miles Morales. What’s more, while I’m a fan of Peter Parker, Miles is now my preferred Spider-man.
Spider-man Miles Morales Review
I don’t want to get into the story much as to talk about too many details would spoil it, but the broad strokes are that Peter Parker is heading overseas with MJ and leaving Miles as the only Spider-man in New York. Set not long after the first game, Miles is still a newbie Spider-man and the citizens of New York call him ‘Other Spider-man.’ With Peter gone, Miles has no safety net and it couldn’t come at a worse time as energy company Roxxon has moved into Harlem and criminal vigilante group The Underground are battling each other on the streets.
Miles primary focus is the protection of Harlem and its people and this is where the Black Lives Matter themes come into play. Minority residents of Harlem vocalise their frustration and anger that both Roxxon and The Underground don’t see them and believe they can simply move in and do whatever they like. The notion of standing up for yourself and your people is a throughline in Miles Morales and as he performs heroic feats, both great and small, the people start to call Miles ‘Our Spider-man.’
The social justice themes in Miles Morales don’t bash people over-the-head and they aren’t in your face but they’re there and if you pay attention you’ll see what Insomniac is trying to say and do with the character. It’s important to acknowlege and respect these things, now more than ever, and Insomniac has managed to weave hugely important issues into a — largely — light-hearted, comic book hero video game.
Rest assured, the usual story beats are there; overcoming adversity, insurmountable odds, betrayal, finding the courage within etc. Having this story told through Miles eyes makes it feel fresh as it’s a new perspective and a new take on a well-worn formula.
There’s nothing wrong with Peter Parker. Hell, I grew up watching the animated Spider-man series and loving it. But he’s been the guy for such a long time. Seeing Miles step up and be Spider-man is excellent. Because he’s still new to the gig he’s nervous and doubts himself but never falters in his convictions, even when it’s too his personal detriment. He’s also a very different person than Peter. He grew up in a different environment and is a product of that environment. He’s connected to his neighbourhood and its residents, he’s proud of his heritage and family is all important. Moreover, family isn’t just blood.
Aside from the deeper, emotional aspects of the character, Miles is simply cooler than Peter. He’s a man of the city and the streets. He has an easy way about him that Pete just doesn’t have. Where Pete is emotionally stunted, Miles has depth. Where Pete is nervous, Miles is confident. The differences even extend to the music Miles listens to. Of course, his playlist includes hip-hop and soulful tunes. I’m not sure what Peter listens to but I’d be willing to bet it’d be some god-awful indie band nobody has ever heard of.
I know I sound like I’m being harsh on poor old Peter but it’s the way his character has been written for years. As Spider-man, he’s great. He’s the wise-cracking web slinger. But as himself, he’s a real downer. Miles is terrific as both himself and his alter-ego.
Gameplay-wise, Spider-man Miles Morales has integrated on Spider-man. Miles has, largely, the same skill set and abilities as Peter with a few additions. In the comics, Miles has bio-electricity (Venom) and invisibility. Both of which make appearances in this game. In fact, they both become integral as the game progresses. Using Venom abilities and invisibility gives Miles an edge over his enemies and vastly changes how combat and stealth encounters go down.
Where I used stealth occasionally in Spider-man, in Miles Morales, stealth is far more viable and for more enjoyable. Invisibility and Venom play a large role in making these encounters more enjoyable and each of them feels far more like the stealth encounters in the Batman: Arkham games. Likewise, if you want to go in all webs blazing, combat is more impactful and more streamlined and Venom abilities really change the dynamic. Miles multiple Venom powers a devastating to enemies and can be used to create enormous combos and deal with enemies before they can even get near you.
Venom Jump is my favourite as Miles leaps into the air and brings any enemies in the AoE with him. When they’re launched into the air, they’re disarmed and stunned so you can go to town on them and get a huge combo. As you progress through the story, you’ll unlike a number of Venom powers, each useful in their own way and in different circumstances. Miles Skill Tree also improves both Venom powers and Invisibility.
Aside from Venom powers, Miles has the same skill set as Peter, but improvements in the mechanics in the two years since Spider-man make the game’s combat far more enjoyable.
Just as the story has been streamlined and focused, side missions and content has undergone the same process. Now, Miles accesses crimes and ‘activities’ via the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man app on his phone. There are far fewer of these side activities and they’re far less repetitive than in Spider-man. Each activity and crime has two optional objectives to create some replayability and additional challenge and completing them earns you extra tokens to purchase suits and upgrades with.
Unlike Spider-man, side missions and content make sense within the game’s internal logic and don’t seem like the dumbest possible thing Spider-man could be doing; pigeon collections and fish antibiotics, I’m looking at you. Instead, they all relate to Miles ‘job’ as Spider-man and his position within the community. Side missions deal with Spider-man lore and touch on peripheral characters and even on some fallout from the events in Spider-man.
The main takeaway for me is that Spider-man Miles Morales doesn’t seem padded with pointless content and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s focused, tightly scripted and delivers a well-told story with heart and impact.
I played Miles Morales on PS4 Pro and it looks and runs flawlessly for the most part. I did suffer four or five full crashes which required me to restart the game but Sony has promised a Day 1 patch which includes “general fixes and polish.”
Overall, whether you play Spider-man Miles Morales on PS4 or PS5, you’re getting a sublime superhero experience. Miles is every bit as good a Spider-man as Peter and, in my opinion, should be the default Spider-man going forwards. The inclusion of social issues and themes based on real make this Spider-man story more personal and more meaningful as well as highlighting key differences between the Spider-man we know and the ‘other’ Spider-man.
It might not be the brand-new, system selling experience we’re used to getting at the launch of a new console, but Spider-man Miles Morales is an incredibly good game and a must-play.
Spider-man Miles Morales was reviewed on PS4 Pro using a digital code provided by PlayStation Australia.