Another Crack at the “Thwip”
2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man was an undeniable triumph. Granted, many of its fundamentals were taken from the Arkham series. But Insomniacs affection for our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man span a different web. One of optimism and hope rather than the darker, heavier tones used in Batman’s outing by Rocksteady.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, available on both Playstation 4 and PlayStation 5, inherits all of this. Rather than a full-on sequel, this is an expansion. Although it comes with a price tag of a full game for PlayStation 4. Building on what they achieved in the original, Insomniac dive right into exploring the character of Miles Morales.
Set around a year after the original game, Miles is now under the tutelage of Peter Parker. Morales, like Parker, is instantly likeable and charming. It was fantastic getting back in the swing of things with a brand new Spider-Man. Playing the original is not necessary to enjoy this new adventure, which starts with a fantastic and explosive tutorial.
The unparalleled traversal of the original returns, but Miles gives it a whole new feel. Animations between traversal swinging convey a sense of unease in the young student, who occasionally stumbles or flails his limbs in a moment of panic. This doesn’t affect movement at all but does show the level of detail Insomniac has poured into the title.
New York has also had a makeover. Including a fresh set of side missions that are slowly revealed as you progress through the story. Sadly the irritating pigeon side quest returns! Thankfully, it is no longer as heavily scripted. In the original, it would run through character conversations before allowing you to catch the winged-rats. Whereas now the faster you are, the faster you can catch the pigeon. There’s a song in there somewhere.
With Great Power Comes Great Response-Ability
Once again, the seamlessness of the action is extremely impressive. This is further enhanced with responsive controls, especially on PlayStation 5. There’s a beautiful flow to this brand of action. You can leap from building to building straight into combat then back out again. Or, on easier skill settings at least, you can go toe-to-toe with entire gangs and rack up impressive combo streaks.
Morales’ different traits are further explored in combat. His unique abilities - a camouflage that turns him invisible and “venom powers” give a slightly broader skill-set to choose from. They also serve as an impressive tech demo for the PlayStation 5’s lighting. Stealth sections are also easier thanks to the aforementioned camouflage. Especially as you climb the new skill-tree, which includes the ability to automatically turn invisible when spotted.
Guiding Miles from nervous student to noble superhero is expertly realised. By the games final act Miles has evolved into a brawler who sets the screen alight, and who can soar through city streets with an almighty leap. This journey is mirrored in a warm-hearted story, which is inclusive, optimistic and raises more than a few smiles.
A strong supporting cast also joins our new protagonist and, thankfully, there are no missions where you have to play as them this time around. Miles’ mother - Rio Morales - brings maternal warmth, while his nerdy best friend - Ganke Lee - is the perfect voice in your ear throughout the campaign. There are other members of Miles Morales’ world that help bring everything to life but, I’ll remain spoiler-free.
Sadly but understandably, the stakes are set a slightly lower than last time around. Miles isn’t a well-established web-slinger yet. he doesn’t have an extensive rogue’s gallery hell-bent on world domination to choose from. Insomniac have crafted an excellent, albeit short, story, it doesn’t leave you hanging at the end. But it is clear that they are just getting started with a series that could become one of Sony’s killer apps.
A Bug in the System
At the time of writing, I’ve encountered a couple of glitches on PlayStation 4. On one occasion, after stealthily defeating a group of thugs, the game refused to progress causing me to reload a previous save... three times. I eventually gave up on the sneaky approach and dove straight into combat. This triggered a scripted event of more goons showing up, allowing me to continue. I also lost sound and subtitles during a cutscene. Oddly it didn’t happen on my second playthrough - that’s right I played it through twice, back-to-back, all for delicious trophies. Speaking of which...
Back to Formula
As with most of Sony’s recent first-party title releases, this one comes with a rather simple trophy list. Almost everything involves simply playing the game. Completing the story and side missions will not only give you a lot of the list but will also give you enough items and experience to unlock all of the alternate suits, gadgets and upgrades, bagging you a few more trophies. It’s not even a very time-consuming list - I managed to bag the platinum trophy in under 16 hours, which includes the required second completion of the game. This runtime would’ve been shorter but, for some unknown reason, not all cutscenes can be skipped.
Usually, I play a game through to the end, then return to it to mop up any outstanding trophies. But in the case of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales I opted for the reverse, and for good reason. There are some fantastic alternate costumes for Miles to wear, which help keep the unskippable cutscenes fresh. But the best, by far, is the one for completing the side mission “Looters” and then completing the game. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Considering the dumpster fire of a world that Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales has released into, it’s heartening to have a story that’s so eager to see the best in everyone. It strives for unity in a world divided. Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ message of hope is very much needed right now. Insomniac’s second outing keeps the intoxicating energy of the original in every aspect. And like Miles himself is full of character - and a wonderfully likeable one at that.