Launch games on a new console are generally technical showcases, graphical powerhouses with very little beneath the surface once you scratch away at them. It’s perhaps fitting then that one of the first games of the PlayStation 5 era is Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Like the console, the newest Spider-Man is a new kid on the block who has a ton of legacy behind his name.
And just like the PlayStation 5, Miles is also a powerhouse in new threads, even if his moves do feel remarkably familiar. Where Insomniac’s webspin-off to its amazing 2018 game starring everyone’s favourite webhead really shines though, is in how it condenses so much joy, thrill-seeking adventure, and tragedy into a small package that can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with its big brother. The newest Spider-Man may still have a lot to learn, but as Insomniac wants to remind you he’s not just another Spider-Man.
He’s our Spider-Man.
Picking up not too long after the events of Marvel’s Spider-Man and its DLC campaign, Miles Morales is finally in the swing of things. It’s Xmas season in Manhattan, Peter Parker’s left his protégé the webbed-up keys to the city as he takes a well-deserved vacation, and Miles is swinging solo. Naturally all manner of hell breaks loose and it’s not too long before Miles finds himself in the middle of a war between a new criminal organisation known as the Underground and the jackbooted thugs of Roxxon Corporation who are wielding late-stage capitalism to deadly effect.
Fortunately this Spider-Man can do whatever a spider can and then some. Miles is as agile, strong, and fluent with web-shooters as your thumbs’ 2018 memory recalls, but he also ha a few added tricks up his spandex sleeves thanks to his bio-electrical powers and protective camouflage. This doesn’t just give Miles a completely different setup for taking down mobs of goons, but they’re also incredibly stylish blasts of power and personality.
Got a thug whose guard is tighter than a duck’s butthole? Smash him with a Venom blast punch that sends him flying into a nearby wall. Got a problem with an Underground member who happens to be equipped with a programmable matter super-sword? Venom-dash into her and clean up the mess. Heck you can even store up a full three charges of your shocking abilities and unleash them in one almighty blast, zapping everyone around you.
The brilliance of this system is its cadence. Venom abilities are built up from successful attacks and dodges, with their addition flowing organically into Miles’ fighting style. They’re not just visually fantastic to make use of but they’re tactical advantages that can help you out of a tight spot when used correctly. Combined with a small pool of gadgets, Miles flows through combat like an amazing arachnid in a manner that feels familiar but is wholly unique to his character.
And that right there is where Spider-Man: Miles Morales truly succeeds.
What made the 2018 Spider-Man game such a standout hit wasn’t just that it felt sensational to play, it was incredibly engaging to watch as well. There was a story at its core, of triumph and tragedy. The sheer joy of being Spider-Man with the heavy burden of responsibility that the identity brings with it. Miles’ tale echoes that of Peter Parker, but the difference here is that his personal journey is defined by who he is: A really good dude.
Miles was already a fantastic human being in the first Spider-Man game, but since gaining his powers and being taught how to use them, he’s an inspirational hero. Peter Parker may not have too much of a presence, but as a mentor and a friend? He’s brilliant. Parker knows that there will be difficult days, he knows that mistakes will be made and that Miles will be asked to do the impossible. All of this education in web-slinging 101 is amplified by the unbreakable trust that Parker has in Miles, that he won’t just be a new Spider-Man but a different one.
And by building on that legacy, Miles more than rises to the occasion. Harlem’s hero embarks on a tale that is both joyous and sad, overflowing with culture, and characters who bring out the best in him. Topped off with villains both megalomaniacal and pesonal, and by the time the finale hits you right in the emotion guts there won’t be a dry eye left in the house.
As far as superhero epics go, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is also wonderfully short. The main campaign will take around six hours to complete if you pace yourself, and there’s a number of side-activities to do to stretch that time out. In an age where some companies are seeking to create perpetual money-making machines designed to last for years, Insomniac’s shorter adventure has more value for money than you’d expect it to, especially if you grab the version that includes the remastered 2018 Spider-Man game on PS5.
And by silly purple helmet of Galactus, is Spider-Man: Miles Morales something to see and feel on that console. You’ve got two visual options to make use of when you start the game: Performance and Quality. Quality adds ray tracing features and incredibly lifelike puddles to the game at the cost of the framerate, running at a stable and cinematic 30fps.
Performance on the other, takes a few bells and whistles away but delivers an impressive 60fps presentation that was my preferred way to play. Both modes look outstanding though, showcasing crisp lines, gorgeous lighting, and a charming amount of colour. The DualSense controller on the other…erm…hands, adds an unreal amount of haptic feedback to the product.
There’s the signature targeted vibration feedback that will leave your appendages tingling during missions and high-stakes showdowns, with the charge of a venom attack slowly building up the rumble in the controller and then going full force when you unleash these abilities, or more subtle use of the tech for the day to day life of Miles.
It’s the adaptive triggers do an especially fantastic job at selling you on the idea of web-swinging. Nothing has really changed regarding how you get around New York while leaving your sticky mess all over various buildings, but the triggers do provide more tension and release on your web-swinging, adding yet another small touch to an impressive package.
Even better, the game is a brilliant showcase of the PS5’s custom SSD technology. Hopping into a game from the main menu takes mere seconds, while it literally takes longer to initiate fast travel than it is to actually do so. If technical evolution like this, which somehow renders all of Manhattan in stunning detail at a breathtaking speed is how the PS5 era is kicking off, then there’s a bright future ahead for Sony’s latest console.
Last Updated: November 16, 2020