With everything going on in 2020, there’s just something refreshing about seeing a Black, Puerto Rican superhero headline the flagship launch title for Sony’s brand new Playstation 5. And while “Spider-Man: Miles Morales” isn’t a full-blown sequel to 2018’s “Spider-Man,” there’s enough new content here to make returning to the experience a total blast. This standalone adventure is a must-play for anyone who owns a Playstation console.
As I mentioned before, “Miles Morales” is not a sequel in the traditional sense. Think of it as “Spider-Man 1.5.” The new version reuses the same great open-world recreation of Manhattan that the first one had, but presents an entirely new campaign and side-missions with Miles as the protagonist. The setup for the story is simple but effective. With Peter Parker away for the winter holidays, 17-year-old Miles is tasked with watching over New York by himself for the first time as the only Spider-Man in the city. With the veteran Parker out of the picture, things quickly unravel and force Miles to grow both as a hero and a person to save the people he cares about. Thanks to a great performance by Nadji Jeter as the titular hero, Miles himself is as likable a gaming protagonist as there’s been in recent memory. The character dynamic between Miles and his best friend Phin, along with his uncle Aaron, are the highlights of the campaign, with some great action set-pieces along the way. It’s not quite a classic superhero tale, and it’s a little cheesy at times, but the six to eight hour adventure is much more focused and briskly-paced than that of “Spider-Man.” Meanwhile, the brief scenes where Peter and Miles appear alongside each other hint gleefully at the future of the franchise.
Though the story largely delivers, any Spider-Man game will sink or swim based on the quality of the gameplay, and in that respect, “Miles Morales” is a triumph. One of the highlights is no doubt the combat. After a brief and exciting tutorial, you’ll be well on your way to feeling like a true Spider-Man, combining backflips, web-strikes and spider-gadgets with some flashy finisher moves that make combat endlessly fun and stylish. What sets Miles apart from his mentor Peter are some of his new spider powers. The ability to turn invisible at any time and take out some unsuspecting enemies coupled with his bio-electric “venom” attacks gives Miles a welcome sense of identity in combat. With an easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master style of gameplay, “Miles Morales” combat is as deep as it is fun, which is to say, extremely.
As you’d expect, the real star of the show is web-swinging across a fully realized open-world Manhattan. The fluidity of animations are dazzling to look at, and the excellent sense of momentum with each and every traversal swing is a constant joy. Even after over a dozen hours or so, I was still swinging by Madison Square Garden, Avengers Tower and Grand Central Station just for the joy of it. It was also a nice touch that compared to Peter Parker, Miles’s swinging animations were more frantic and out-of-control, giving the player the sense that Miles still has a thing or two to learn about being Spider-Man. And though it is essentially the same map as the previous game, the holiday theme and different objectives give it new life.
The only question mark I had about “Spider-Man: Miles Morales” was whether or not the new features would be enough to justify the $50 price-point. I think the answer is yes. The story itself took me six to eight hours, while the rest of the fun (but somewhat repetitive) side objectives will easily take me another 12 to 15. And with a New Game+ feature that adds some new suits and gadgets to unlock, I expect 100% completion to take between 20 to 30 hours, so there’s a lot of great content here. That being said, if you didn’t like “Spider-Man,” “Miles Morales” probably won’t change your mind. But, if you never played the original, “Miles Morales” is a great package for newcomers. And personally, I was more than happy to jump back into the Spider-Man experience, even if it’s not an entirely original one.
“Spider-Man: Miles Morales” adds a great campaign and some new and exciting abilities to what was already a fantastic superhero experience. The flashy combat and brilliant web-swinging are some of the most fun I’ve had with a Playstation controller in years. Whether you have a PS4 or PS5, the game looks great and plays even better. Compared to “Spider-Man,” “Miles Morales” represents a refinement in nearly every way. Trust me, you want to play this one.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5- Excellent