When it comes to PlayStation 5 launch titles, I was surprised to see a new Spider-Man game was coming this quick. It made perfect sense when it was discussed to be a standalone DLC in much the same way “Lost Legacy” was for Uncharted, or “First Light” was for Infamous: Second Son. This time we‘re focused on Miles Morales but with all the same DNA as the original Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PlayStation 4. Miles is not only someone we played as briefly in the original Spider-Man game, but he’s been a beloved Spider-Man character in recent times thanks to the animated movie, Into the Spider-Verse. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Miles step into the forefront of more Spider-Man fan’s eyes. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales somehow captured the magic of Into the Spider-Verse and the original Spider-Man game, and created its own spin with a unique story…
Spider-Man: Miles Morales tugs at my heart strings on so many levels: as a fan of Spider-Man, as a Puerto Rican from New York City, as someone who went to graduate school in Harlem, as someone who is invested in the Black Lives Matter movement, and as someone who is an advocate for more media sources to have brown and black people as main protagonists. Now before you aggressively throw the SJW card at me or at this game (I’m actually a professional SJW– Social Worker), I will be clear that the game is very focused on Miles story, but it lightly touches on current world issues, in much the same way that the original Spider-Man game did for the LGBTQ community. I can see the argument that this game could have done more with that, but its inclusion was good enough so that we can focus on the light-hearted vibes this game brings, and learn about Miles relationship with the community of Harlem, NYC.
Right off the bat, the absolute best thing about Miles Morales is it takes every strand of DNA from Peter Parker’s Spider-Man and remixes every strand to fit Miles vibes. The music, the combat, the environment, the personality, the suits, and the quests. From the beginning and throughout the game it remixes the intro music, traversal music, and combat music with a hip-hop beat. It’s so good and I found myself constantly head-bopping while swinging through NYC and fighting Roxxon security forces, RAFT goons, or The Underground kids. Then Miles is given suits with hoodies, Timbs (Timberlands), and even a bodega cat. The music and suits truly capture the culture of NYC.
The activities Miles completes are very focused on Harlem culture from helping small businesses get their supply back after they have been raided, finding a missing bodega cat, saving a park gathering from becoming a warzone, and ultimately saving Harlem from experiencing sickness from Roxxon’s new energy source called Nuform. It is an accomplishment that Insomniac was able to have players re-visit NYC and give it a completely different feel. Part of this is because the story and quests are mostly focused on Harlem, giving a voice to the Black and Latinix people of that community and truly capturing the culture. There’s Puerto Rican flags all over Harlem, people are often seen dancing in the streets, and Miles mom had all of the essential food items needed during a Puerto Rican Christmas (pasteles, tostones, pernil, arroz con guandules, empanadas, etc.) The other part of NYC feeling so different is the setting during Christmas, one of the coolest times to be in NYC. The city is filled with white snow and colorful lights, Christmas trees and wreaths.
This game got me in the Christmas spirit and truly helped exploring NYC again to feel like a new, refreshing experience. The last piece that made exploring NYC feel refreshing is the lighting and reflections thanks to ray-tracing. I played this game on fidelity mode because it’s not a combat-heavy game, and I have no regrets. Swinging through the city and seeing accurate reflections in the windows of the many buildings, brought so much life to this world and made exploring more of a joy than ever before.
Going all the way back to the comics, Miles has unique abilities called Venom powers. Venom is just the name assigned because “ it stings”, but they’re essentially bio-electricity powers. These powers made fighting brutes a lot easier and made Miles feel a lot more OP. Many of the puzzles in the game were also heavily focused on re-activating a generator or some electricity source to proceed. Miles can Venom punch, Venom Smash, Venom Dash, Venom Jump and all of the cool, acrobatic Spidey moves but with electricity. You can’t just spam the Venom powers all the time as you’ll need to build that meter with traversal tricks or punching and webbing enemies.
Miles also has way less gadgets than Peter Parker in the original game, making his combat feel different. Now you can summon holograms to fight by Miles’ side, release a gravity well to pull enemies together, place remote mines to lure enemies into electrocution, and — of course — spew off web-shooters. Miles can also use his camouflage ability, making stealth a hell of a lot easier. Miles even swings around the city much faster and more stylized than Peter. Overall, all of these remixes don’t just make sense to make Miles Morales feel different from the first Spider-Man game, but it fits into Miles character who is very much so a nerd who loves and creates hip hop music.
I loved how Miles story in this game is unique from the comic books and from Into the Spider-Verse. It made all of the twists, turns, and character reveals feel less predictable. Overall, I loved most of the characters and they created a story where several of Miles adversaries had understandable and clear motivations. Miles Morales was never given stand out villain’s like Peter Parker, so I felt Insomniac did a great job in re-defining who the adversaries are and creating a story where we felt empathy for them.
Although I thought the story and characters were overall good, one or two crucial characters felt slightly short-sighted. One particular character felt tonally all over the place, and the behavior shift felt too extreme and very motivated by the plot instead of character development. I’m of course being vague as to avoid any spoilers. However, Miles is an absolute gem. He is funny, nerdy, for the people, too friendly for his own good, makes little quips during battle that genuinely made me chuckle, and he is very much so an apprentice. I am looking forward to seeing how Miles character develops in future Spider-Man games.
This is going to be a short but substantial experience, as you can finish the game in a about 8 hours (I even beat it in 3 hours on NG+ with skipping cut-scene’s and side activities), but there’s a lot of good supplemental content there to maximize your experience, that doesn’t feel like padding I think it is the perfect length for a stand-alone Miles story and I’m curious to see if Insomniac will include this kind of in between standalone story-telling for future characters introduced into the Spider-Man PlayStation universe (maybe Spider-Gwen?) I’m grateful that I get to step into the next Spider-Man game with a fulfilling understanding of Miles Morales as a character, and as Harlem’s Spider-Man. 4.25-4.5/ 5 Bibles.