Analysis | Spider-Man: Miles Morales is short, but has refined combat and strong storytelling.
If you haven’t finished the first Spider-Man, developed by Insomniac for the PlayStation 4, I recommend that you do so before reading any Spider-Man: Miles Morales reviews. The game is a direct sequel, a standalone expansion whose story takes place a few months after the events of the original game.
Here Miles Morales is already in possession of his powers after being bitten by a genetically modified spider, still at the end of the first game. Yes, just like Peter Parker at the beginning of his unexpected superhero career. The difference is that Miles can count on lessons from Peter himself to learn to control his new abilities, something his mentor had to learn the hard way.
When you start the game, you can watch a short video and remember all the events of the original game. The next moment you start to control Miles, the hero of that game and the only controllable character in the campaign. The first few minutes are a light walk through Harlem, showing the boy’s mother’s campaign for mayor and a New York taken by snow, in a Christmas atmosphere.
Answering the call of the city’s great hero, Miles leaves for a practical lesson with Peter. The two escort the bandits – whom Peter himself defeated in the previous game – back to the Barge, New York’s high seas prison. Obviously, the event isn’t going to go as the heroes planned and the breathtaking intro begins.
In this short introductory snippet, which doubles as a tutorial, you can see some of the game’s graphical and driving improvements, even on PS4, where I played the entire campaign. The particles that pop on the screen while the Rhino breaks half of New York, Peter fighting the villain in the background while you kill some henchmen in the foreground, all of this demonstrating improvements that are certainly the result of a greater investment in production, after the acquisition of Insomniac by Sony.
With the control of the action, it’s quick to adapt again to the gameplay. Combat remains responsive, fast, and fluid. Miles is very reminiscent of Peter himself, but with new animations for everything. Just when you start to think that maybe it’s even too similar to the original, the game introduces you to Venom skills, a kind of electrical discharge that the boy can use to paralyze and devastate enemies. At that moment it becomes clear that Miles has his own personality and moves, which promises to make the adventure memorable.
On its own
After the intro concludes, Peter announces to Miles that he is going on vacation and away from the city for a few weeks. The boy from Harlem, who until then was just a promising apprentice who is discovering his new powers, will now be the only Spider-Man on the block and the city will be under his responsibility.
Unlike the original game, where Peter is already a more mature Spider-Man and has dramas of the typical young college graduate with many bills to pay, with Miles the tone of the narrative is much more reminiscent of the most recent films, which have the actor Tom Holland as protagonist. The similarity is such that Miles even has a school friend as a supporting actor, who knows his secret and helps in the creation of improvised equipment to fight crime. The interaction between the two is fun, it works and yields a few laughs. One helps the other in the main moments of the game and makes the journey lighter, even if there are tense and exciting moments.
The conflict that will need the hero’s attention in these two weeks revolves around the beef between Roxxon, an energy company that has done and still does a lot of wrong things in New York, and a group that seeks to overthrow the corporation in the worst possible way, without care about the side effects of your attacks. This whole adventure lasts a short time, about seven hours if you are going to play only the campaign, but it has a good development, a breathtaking ending and sets the path for a future Spider-Man 2. For those who played the first one, this expansion it’s essential.
The Harlem Hero
Like the original webmaster, Miles Morales is also the friend of the neighborhood. The connection is strong with Harlem and several of the secondary missions put the boy to deal with the people who live there and help with their problems. Because of this, this neighborhood has received modifications in relation to the first game and is much more detailed.
With all the problems in the real world and the global protests against racism that black people face, Insomniac made several references to the social problems that we still haven’t overcome and left messages of support for Black Lives Matter scattered around the city and in some missions. However, for a game that features a black protagonist wearing the uniform of one of the main heroes of the planet, perhaps it lacked more daring to address the theme even more, in view of current events.
Although most of the missions are focused on this sector of the city, all of New York is available to swing your web once more, only now with more Christmas decorations and snow everywhere. The crossing system, even, remains as much or more fun than with Peter, with the difference that some animations show Miles’s unpreparedness, who suffers more to perform acrobatics and seems a little awkward. In control, however, none of that changes, everything is extremely responsive and fluid as ever.
The activities on the map are also very similar to those of the original game, with a lot of dots that hide collectibles, challenges left by Peter, hidden boxes with resources and other little things that make sense with the story and are better for you to discover on your own. By doing them, you’ll get resources to improve your equipment and create new costumes, one of the cheap ones in the base game that is repeated here. This set of activities is necessary to obtain platinum and increases the content available in the game, which also has a “New Game +” and an extra difficulty level for the most daring.
As it is an expansion, even if independent, you can’t deny that, especially for Brazilians, it is for a price that is beyond salty for the few hours of content available. For those who didn’t play the first one and are already going to amend the two in sequence with the Ultimate version, considering the current values of the games, it’s more worth it. For those who will only face the expansion, perhaps it is the case to wait for a promotion.
New powers, more responsibilities
Although he was also bitten by a spider, Miles has some different powers and this reflects a lot, both in combat and in the progression system. Almost all the skills that Peter learns during the original game are already mastered by Miles here from the beginning. The remaining few are learned by completing Peter’s challenges around town.
The big news, which forms the boy’s skill tree, are Venom, a kind of electrical discharge, and Invisibility. With these new powers, he can generate massive area attacks, paralyze enemies, and invade locations undetected.
All these new features fit very well with what had already been developed in terms of combat in the original game and don’t make the experience too complex, as it remains very fluid and intuitive. Even in the tutorial, when I was in doubt if I remembered how to fight after months without playing the original Spider, the combos and dodges came out naturally, which shows that the good and fun part was maintained, with more options having been created, which is always welcome.
To balance the challenge, since Miles deals very well with enemies thanks to his new powers, the amount of opponents that come at once is much higher than in the base game. This caused a problem on the PS4 in the form of constant drops in the frame rate per second (fps), which hindered in several parts of the game. Optimization in general, by the way, already shows that the game was designed on PS5 and suffers to run on PS4. During the campaign, I had four or five crashes, which asked to restart the game after crashing in combat. The noise that the console makes to run the game is already the usual pattern, reminiscent of an airplane turbine, not actually being a novelty.
Near the end of the game, when all abilities have been released, Miles becomes a fighting machine that even seems superior to the original Peter. Dealing with hordes of enemies is a lot of pleasure and the number of approaches you can take before and during combat make each encounter a memorable experience, which makes the fights here perhaps the best in a superhero game.
The bosses, a base game problem, are still not very bright in this expansion, but two in particular stand out a lot. The final boss has several stages and requires the use of all your techniques. The visual spectacle in several of these clashes draws attention and anyone playing on PS5 on a state-of-the-art TV should leave the battles euphoric.
Something I missed was the special abilities of the suits. Here they only release an upgrade for the hood or for the body suit, but nothing special thought for them with nice animations. In the end, the costumes end up being just cosmetic, with one or the other having a nice animation for the finishes.
In summary, the combat remains fine, with more possibilities for actions and fun as ever. There is still room for improvement and good ideas that look like they will make the continuation of the title unmissable.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an independent expansion (standalone) that doesn’t invent much, but adds very welcome elements to the combat compared to what is seen in the original game, which had already become one of the best on the market in this regard. Miles’ story is fun, well-executed, but short, which may disappoint anyone who is going to pay the hefty price that this game costs here in Brazil. Performance on the base PS4 is far from ideal and suffers from frame drops and even crashes, something that is the result of graphic and density additions aimed at the new generation. With everything that was built here, expectations for a sequel are the best possible and the webhead is in good hands at Insomniac.
- Refined combat, even more fun than the original game
- Fun, light narrative with an exciting ending
- Swinging through New York remains one of the best experiences of the generation
- Short campaign, lasting about 6 to 7 hours
- Base PS4 performance issues
A PS4 copy of the game was provided by Sony for this review.