Review: Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a spectacular follow-up

Anyone can wear the mask.

Spider-Man is a character near and dear to my heart. I’ve written at length about my love for the character, largely due to his flawed nature. He’s not a perfect superhero, he struggles like all of us despite his extraordinary abilities. Spider-Man: Miles Morales captures that essence of Spider-Man perfectly and takes it multiple steps further.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place about a year after the first game. After getting a basic grip on the superhero basics, Miles is tasked with keeping New York safe after Peter goes overseas. With a lot of the major villains locked up, it seems like a pretty easy task. That is until The Tinkerer shows up to wreak havoc, testing Miles as Spider-Man on a large scale.

While there isn’t some huge world ending event like in the first game, there are big stakes in Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Miles feels immense pressure to prove himself and earn the Spider-Man name. Not just to Peter Parker but to the public and himself. This is all about Miles realizing what it really means to be Spider-Man.

Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales features the suit from Into the Spider-Verse
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales features the suit from Into the Spider-Verse

He goes through all the trials and tribulations of being Spider-Man from loss to personal sacrifices. As he learns how to juggle his personal life and responsibilities as the city’s temporary sole protector, he realizes a lot. Miles ultimately has to realize it isn’t about copying Peter to be the best Spider-Man. It’s about defining himself as his own Spider-Man by being true to who he is as a person rather than his mental ideal of a superhero. Being Spider-Man isn’t necessarily about being able to shoot webs or punch really hard. It’s about the ability to persevere and never stop doing what’s right, no matter what’s in front of you.

Insomniac understands and showcases this idea of Spider-Man in a way no other developer ever has. Spider-Man is a character that’s better than the rest of us but can bring out the best in all of us. In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, we see the “friendly neighborhood” element to the nth degree. Since the game largely takes place in Harlem (you can explore the entire map from the first game still), there’s a large focus on the connection between Miles and the citizens.

While not everyone believes Miles is capable at first, the game is about unity. It’s about what Spider-Man can be as a symbol to the people. It echoes a lot of the best ideas from across the Spider-Man mythos from the city’s greater desire to protect the webhead when he’s at his weakest to protecting each other, even in the face of the greatest dangers.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Starting Spider-Man: Miles Morales for the first time was like revisiting an old friend. After an introductory cutscene, you’re thrust right back into the thick of it. Just like the first game, you start by free falling and releasing your first web to swing from. Once you grip on to that first web, everything just rushes back to you like real motor skills.

It is instantly familiar yet even more satisfying than ever before. As a die-hard Spider-Man fan, I couldn’t help but tear up as I shot my first web. Given Miles is far less experienced than Peter, he flops through the air. It often reminded me of the Scooby-Doo cliche of a character rapidly kicking their legs before gravity kicks in. Sometimes he’ll try to do a cool spin or twirl and awkwardly fail. Sometimes he won’t shift his weight properly and you’ll see him react accordingly to his rough movements.

There’s a lack of gracefulness to the way Miles moves, not just from swinging but to combat as well as he kicks more instead of punching. It’s truly fun to watch, thanks to Insomniac’s great animators and insane attention to detail.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Speaking of punching and kicking, the combat in Spider-Man: Miles Morales is again, very familiar. There’s not a whole lot you can do to change the basic Spider-Man combat mechanics. He’s going to fight in the way you’d expect, just with new animations. That said, there are some new tricks here that provide that much needed innovation to keep it fresh.

The new innovations are enough for me to flat out say that the combat in this game is better than the first. Despite having less gadgets than Peter, Miles makes up for it with his new Venom Powers. This is the sort of electric shock charge we’ve seen in the trailers and the Into the Spider-Verse movie. This allows you to do things Peter Parker can’t by stunning enemies, greater crowd control, and much more.

Miles can also get up close to enemies without being seen by using his invisibility power. This brings a whole new layer to stealth, making it easier for takedowns but also allow for escapes. In the heat of battle, you can go invisible and retreat to safety. This will allow you to take a moment to compose yourself but also gain the advantage by re-entering stealth.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Miles is both a brute with his Venom Powers but a worthwhile predator thanks to his stealth abilities. If Insomniac allows co-op or let’s players pick who they play as in the next game, there will be notably different playstyles.

The biggest problems I had with Spider-Man: Miles Morales are with performance. I played on PlayStation 4 as I did not have a PlayStation 5 but have heard it performs really well on PS5 from other critics. Many have been very impressed by how it runs on next-gen but I can’t speak to that myself.

What I will say is that there some of the stuff the PS5 version is boasting is here in the PS4 version. The game does load remarkably fast on PS4, specifically between deaths. The initial load-in from the menu to the game is about 20 seconds on a PS4 Slim. Respawns are 10 seconds or less, you can exit buildings with no load times as you see here, and more.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

There is a catch, though. Sometimes, you’ll be swinging through the city and the game will outright stop and load stuff in. Everything will come to a total halt for a few seconds and try to catch up with you. This happened a handful of times for me. There are also notable FPS drops both in key moments, such as the finale, and at other random times. Some items, such as a gift box Peter gives Miles at the start, also have low-resolution textures.

These are by no means deal breakers but they are quite noticable and show that the game is running on some old hardware. If you have the option, I highly recommend playing on PS5 but the PS4 will suffice. Sony will be issuing a day one patch that has some general fixes and polish as well.

The Verdict

Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the end of one generation and the start of another. It serves as yet another defining title for PlayStation but also an essential story for Marvel’s greatest hero. With new innovations in Spidey gameplay as well as loads of refinement and a wildly impactful story, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the game we need right now.

Even as it chugs on some dated hardware with the PS4 version, you can’t go wrong with Miles Morales on PS4 or PS5.