After Marvel’s Spider-Man blew us away, it felt like it was only a matter of time until Miles Morales got his own game. While this might not be the larger full sequel to Spider-Man, Miles gets his chance to shine and it makes a seriously compelling argument for shorter gaming experiences.
All about family
Miles is still coming to grips with the various changes in his life, and it is a lot for a high schooler to go through. He is at a new school, in a new suburb and while he is learning to control his powers and be a crime fighter like Spidey, he is also dealing with the loss of his dad.
Most people would be falling apart under the pressure, but Miles is made of sterner stuff, and he is surrounded by an amazingly supportive family. Sure some of them are friends, but the kind of friends that you would invite over for Christmas Eve dinner.
Miles gradually moves on from being the other Spider-Man to our Spider-Man, and seeing this change and perspective is something so powerful and meaningful
Things are a bit quieter now after the big escape from The Raft, and Pete heads out of the country for a while, leaving the new Spider-Man to be the only one for a while. And mirroring his feeling of not quite belonging in his new home in Harlem, enemies and townsfolk alike are rather dismissive of this other Spider-Man. The kid. It probably doesn’t help that you are swinging around in sportswear with a Spidey mask.
Much like Marvel’s Spider-Man, Miles Morales delves deep into the relationships of the characters, be it as friends and foes of the man or the spider. Similarly, there is the overlap that makes things tough, especially with Rio Morales campaigning in Harlem to protect small businesses and culture from the greedy eyes of crime lords and business tycoons.
Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man
While Pete might have worked closely with at least some of the Police force, Miles moves away from that and has an app that allows him to connect directly to people that want help. There is a definite tone change in terms of the Police, with cops telling you they don’t want your help or you are messing up a crime scene. After helping one person in Harlem, they even told Spidey to “move off before you get stuck in questioning all day”.
In-between the various main missions, Spidey can check the FNSM app to see who needs help around the city, letting you help people and track sidequests without swapping out to the map screen. The people in Harlem quickly realise that their requests and needs are being heard, and Miles gradually moves on from being the other Spider-Man to our Spider-Man, and seeing this change and perspective is something so powerful and meaningful that several parts of the story give me goosebumps.
Beautiful, beautiful rays
Marvel’s Spider-Man already looked gobsmackingly good on PS4, with some dark magic letting you swing around a gorgeous city. We have since learnt about some of that magic, like buildings showing fake reflections to reduce the number of calculations being made while swinging on by those skyscrapers. Now on the PS5 with ray tracing, those reflections are real and they are everywhere and they are glorious. From shiny polished floor tiles to skyscraper glass and the spectacles of your best friend Ganke and the reflective bits on your suit, you can see reflections everywhere. The number of times I just had to stop and gawk during a fight, opening up photo mode to look around probably added an hour onto my playthrough time.
I think Insomniac knows this, because the photo mode has a few more tricks and tools this time. If you pause during a Venom attack (using your bioelectricity), the lightning continues to move and pulse, letting you time your perfect shot. Takedowns also no longer fix the camera in place, letting you see the action from a different angle if you want. You can also change suit on the spot, or add in extra light sources to show off the way light interacts with a scene, or just get that photo to pop.
Speaking of pop, the game has pretty much abolished load screens. Beyond the initial load, which is pretty short, you won’t see anything when changing outfits, fast travelling or if the time of day changes for a quest. They literally put the fast back into fast travel, with subway journeys being instant.
The right length and rhythm
Once you get into the action, there isn’t much that will make you look away from the game, which might result in you finishing Miles Morales in a single sitting. The main story, depending on how many of the various side activities you do, can be finished in around six hours. But those six hours are more powerful and hit harder than some games that take 60 hours to get to the good stuff.
From an absolutely amazing opening through to a dramatic, emotionally charged finish, Miles Morales is a rollercoaster of great story beats and interesting characters and making it longer would have just diluted the story. Too often open-world games are full of bloat, with unnecessary storylines and collectathons to keep you playing. Instead this feels neat and refreshing, and every side mission adds something to the story. I wanted to get the collectables, because they were cherished time capsules Miles and a friend secreted over the city. Another set of tasks reveals more into your Uncle and your Dad’s past, and why they had a falling out. Then after the credits, you have a Birthday treasure hunt that made my Adam’s apple swell a bit. Feeling like you want to do side quests and activities instead of having to is a huge difference, and Insomniac nailed it.
The number of times I just had to stop and gawk … probably added an hour onto my playthrough time.
This game is a sequel in all but name. Miles might be a Spidey, but he has a different bag of tricks and way to handling things. From the way he fights enemies and quips, to the way he swings through the city, pain-staking detail has been put into giving Miles his own style and keeping that sense of him still feeling things out, which can be seen as he swings around town, sometimes travelling backwards or limbs flailing before swinging again.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the kind of game that will be written about and remembered fondly for a long time to come, and may just be a new golden standard for open-world sequels and how to proudly tell a message and take a stand.