Spider-Man: Miles Morales was released on Nov. 12, 2020. Photo courtesy of marvel.com
*Writers note: I am reviewing this game on a PlayStation 4 Pro and there will be story spoilers.
Spider-Man has been one of the most popular superheroes for decades, and one of my personal favorites since I was a kid. The villains, the relatability of Peter Parker, the duality between Parker and Spider-Man, his “friendly neighborhood” attitude and more make him such a great character. So, it’s not a huge surprise his PlayStation 4 debut became the near masterpiece that it is. Aside from some tedious side missions and open world design choices of course. But since its launch in September 2018, I and countless others have been begging for a sequel. Was it going to take the story further? Have new villains? New mechanics? New characters? Well we got all that on Nov. 12, 2020, sort of anyway.
Instead of a full-on sequel, we have “Spider-Man: Miles Morales.” A new Spider-Man game that’s more like an expansion game, similar to “Uncharted: The Lost Legacy” and “Uncharted 4.” This means that the game isn’t a bigger or reinvented experience as compared to the first game, but does that make it a bad game? Not at all. Is it better than the 2018 original? Let’s find out.
Since this game revolves around Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker, I felt that it was important for Insomniac Games to make Morales feel unique to play and thankfully, they did. Not only is his web-swinging through New York much more balletic and stylish compared to Parker, but it honestly feels much more enjoyable. The web-swinging in the first game is still great, but Morales just mops the floor with his swinging. He has a certain flexibility in his movement that almost makes it look like dancing in a way, especially with the really cool tricks you can pull off while swinging.
Even the musical score by John Paesano has the similar orchestra swell from the original, but even has hip-hop beats that help correlate with Morales. But Morales doesn’t just feel different to swing, but also in the combat as well.
With the new Venom system, Morales can pull off devastating new moves when fighting. One move can be a simple powerful punch for armored enemies, another can be a ground pound for crowd control, and even one that can be used to dash into quicker enemies when they’re too evasive. This system isn’t that different from the Focus system from the original; however, using gadgets, dodging at the right time, stringing combos, and more help charge the three bars the player has for combat. I, personally, found the Venom system more useful compared to the Focus system from the original, as it has more uses in combat and even in swinging when compared to the first game.
Speaking of combat, a good superhero has to have gadgets to help them in a pinch and Morales does have them. Now granted, Morales only has four gadgets compared to the eight of the original, most of them here are still useful. You have your typical web-shooter, web up bad guys or use them to throw objects and projectiles. You also have a Holo-Drone that calls in a holographic dummy to help you in combat, a Remote Mine for setting traps to shock nearby enemies, and the Gravity Well which sucks in any enemies nearby and leaves them temporarily vulnerable. These gadgets can be upgraded with better damage, more ammo, etc. While these gadgets are useful, I do think the options are slightly limited during combat compared to the original, even with all of them upgraded, but it’s not a huge issue. The use of stealth especially is better than before because not only can Morales turn invisible for stealth segments but you can even use it in the combat. Meaning you can use it, to get away from the enemies and heal or if you plan to use gadgets, when they lose you in the thick of the fight. I can’t say the stealth is as complex or experimental as something like the “Batman: Arkham” series, for example, but it does have a stronger focus as compared to the first game.
The game also looks really great, despite not being on the new PlayStation 5. The environment in the games New York City changes with glow of a sunset or brightness from the moon. It not only gives the game a more visually unique identity as compared to the original, but the visuals are dramatically enhanced with the amount of customization in photo mode and in the visual settings in the pause menu.
These elements are on the right track, but there’s one element that isn’t an improvement over the first game, the story. Now I’m not going to say the story of the first game was a flawless story, but it felt not only compelling but had little to no boring or dull moments in-between the scenes of action, drama, and even the comedy. In Miles Morales however, it often feels like a lesser version of the first game despite it not being note-to-note identical.
What made the original game’s hero and villain dynamic work so well is that it felt conflicting. Peter was contributing to Otto’s descent into insanity which made him into Doc Ock. That conflict made the fight between them that much more emotional for you, the player, fighting a villain that you created in a way. That kind of dynamic isn’t here in Miles Morales. While I get that it’s a smaller story and a different kind of villain, when you get down to it, the connection between Miles and the villain isn’t that engaging and at certain points is very predictable.
This is weakened even more by the villain who’s in Roxxon, Simon Krieger. Not only is he not interesting or threatening, but his design he had me bored whenever he showed up. I’m not saying there aren’t good moments or interesting relationships in this story, because there are. The first half-hour or so when Miles and Peter fight side-by-side as Spider-Men leads to interesting character banter, fun combat sequences, and some funny moments with J Jonah Jameson and Rhino. There’s also a stronger friendship connection with Miles and Ganke Lee. Ganke is a bit similar to Ned from the Marvel Cinematic Universe initially, but Ganke has a natural dynamic with Miles that’s not only funny but very brother-like.
Now the story isn’t the only flaw with this game, however. There are some moments during combat where fighting an enemy on a flight of stairs or any slightly elevated angle, would cause the camera to clip through a wall next to you and you can’t exactly see what’s going on. There are also some facial animations on some of the characters that look a bit awkward, particularly on Miles’s mother Rio.
“Spider-Man: Miles Morales” swings into the action like the 2018 original, but just not as compelling or engaging story-wise. It does improve on the original in some respects and even introduces some new ideas but doesn’t quite hit that same bar that was originally set. I can’t say it’s a bad game by any means, in fact in some areas, I prefer this over the original. But if I were to pick which one to replay, I’d probably pick the original.
If you’re a fan of the original or just a Spider-Man fan in general, I still recommend this, but be prepared for a lesser story and some uninteresting characters. Overall, “Spider-Man: Miles Morales” receives a strong 3/5 huskies.
Myles is a sophomore at St. Cloud State and is going for a major in film studies. He’s also a member of the film-centered club called Cinescope. He hopes to become a film critic professionally like one of his personal idols, Roger Ebert. On top of reviews for the Chronicle, he also makes reviews on his personal Letterboxd account. So if you like his work here, give his Letterboxd a look.