A few gameplay spoilers ahead.
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Reviewed on: PS4
Also available on: PS5
Release: 12th November 2020
It’s not a stretch to say that Insomniac’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales was one of the most hotly anticipated releases this year from the moment it was announced. Not only was it set to be a launch title for the PS5 but it also released for the PS4. This eliminated many of the barriers preventing fans of the first from enjoying it.
As it stands, this game exists in an interesting place that’s only been occupied by a few others over the past couple of years. It isn’t quite a full sequel but it’s substantially longer than a typical DLC, more like a spinoff title.
In the past, series such as Uncharted and Dishonoured have explored this middling spinoff genre with releases like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Dishonoured: Death of the Outsider. These games allow for the developers to further explore the lore of the world they’ve created as well as the complexities of its characters.
Visually, as is to be expected, Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales is just as stunning as the original. The expansive city of New York has been given a vast coating of snow, coupled with more lights to exude the Christmas spirit. The sun still shines across the shiny streets and snowflakes slowly drift through the breeze.
From a gameplay standpoint, everything we loved about the first game shines just as well here, perhaps even more so. The swinging and acrobatics feel like they’ve been tightened up and there’s a clear increase in fluidity as a result of these adjustments. The combat remains to be a delight with a flurry of combos to chain together and experiment with. This game introduces a new mechanic known as Venom Power. This ability essentially acts as an electric enhancement to Miles’ attacks. For starters, quite early on, you’ll acquire the Venom Punch which allows you to dish out a much bigger hit than normal. The bar that you use to charge this ability also serves as your health regeneration. Having both abilities share the same spot cleverly forces you to choose when to use Venom Power and when to heal.
Overall, the gameplay is tighter and builds on the incredible foundation set by the first game.
The open world is about what you’d expect if you played the last game. It’s filled with plenty of activities such as crimes, challenges, side missions and collectibles. The tokens that were present in the last game to purchase upgrades and suits now work a little bit differently. Instead of there being a token for each type of activity, they’re now just known collectively as Activity Tokens which can be obtained regardless of which activity you do. You also have Tech Parts which function as a secondary currency for the same purposes. Given the length of the game, there’s about 25% less open world content than the original but I found that all of the activities were fun to do and that none of the quality was diminished.
The two year gap between this game and the original has allowed for more detail to be added to the world. Though, this push for added realism really stretches the PS4 to its limits. Every now and then I found that the game would stop mid-swing so it could properly load the next section of the city. This also extended to some of the combat sections if too many enemies are being attacked at once. This isn’t a huge problem in the whole game but when it happens, it’s quite jarring. Apart from this, I only encountered the odd graphical glitch here and there but for the most part the visuals remained sharp.
The sound design overall is top notch. The music that Insomniac has peppered throughout the game pairs beautifully with the way Miles moves through the air and really captures the essence of how fun it must be to be Spider-Man. The orchestra that accompanied Peter Parker has been changed out for something a little more rhythmic. Swinging around as Miles Morales, you’ll be treated to more of a beat as you bounce from wall to wall. The highly detailed sounds of the city that could be heard in the first game are of equal measure and continue to bring Insomniac’s world to life.
The story of this game is thoughtful, action packed and engaging throughout but I won’t go into it here. The performances from the actors are fantastic and really showcase the quality of voice acting that we see in games these days. Nadji Jeter continues to be great as Miles Morales and new additions such as Troy Baker, Ashly Burch, Griffin Puatu and Jasmin Savoy Brown round out an already stellar cast for the series. The game may be shorter in length but nothing is lost from a narrative perspective. It’s very well paced and will very much keep you hooked into the world of Spider-Man.