What’s Up, Danger!
To say Insomniac struck gold with 2018’s Spider-Man on PlayStation 4 would be an understatement. Released just a few months after the monumental Avengers: Infinity War hit cinemas, Spider-Man took a superhero-hungry world by storm, breaking PlayStation sales records and earning praise from critics and players alike. I have been playing PlayStation games for all my life, and Spider-Man was the first game I ever put in the time to Platinum – such was its appeal. A gripping story, incredible performances and super-satisfying swinging mechanics made Spider-Man one of the most notable titles released this century. And while people were hungry for the next chapter in Peter’s story, the moment it was revealed that Miles would take over in the next iteration, players lost their collective minds.
While only around 8-10 hours long, the initial reviews for Miles Morales have been extremely positive, with many outlets saying it improves on the original not only in graphical performance but structurally, especially in the case of side-quests and crimes. Its story is also gaining praise for adding a lot to the main game’s plot while remaining true to itself.
Let’s have a look at what makes Miles Morales much more than just a glorified expansion pack.
What’s Your Name, Kid?
One of the unique elements of Peter Parker’s story in the 2018 Spider-Man is that the game begins eight years after he gained his powers, so we didn’t have to tread through the same origin story for the millionth time. I really don’t need to see Uncle Ben get got again. Peter was adept and confident, already an established hero, which worked with an audience well versed in his troubled past and his superpowers. Miles is a different situation though, with a lot of people only becoming aware of him due to his roles in Spider-Man 2018, and the excellent film, Into The Spiderverse (2018 was a damn good year for the web-crawler). As such, it makes sense for his story to start fresh, giving us a chance to see a new take on a well-worn tale.
In a post on the PlayStation Blog, Insomniac Creative Director, Brian Horton explains how the story of Miles Morales brings the Spider-Man universe into the uncertain times of 2020, with many references to real-world social and political upheaval. “As we continued with the Marvel’s Spider-Man universe, we knew that Miles’s origin story as a Spider-Man was something that needed its own game,” said Horton,” Miles’s multicultural background reflects a more modern, diverse world and we wanted to give players a new story”. With the game already receiving reviews, I have seen quite a few journalists point out little nods to movements like Black Lives Matter, gay rights and especially racial equality, with a big focus on representing Miles’ Puerto Rican heritage.
These smaller details don’t mean the game will be a small adventure, though. Miles’ mission to save Harlem from a new tech-company leads him all across a beautiful recreation of a snow-covered New York City, with set-pieces “far larger in scope than anything seen in the first game”. And although we may not see the whole sinister squad of villains from Spider-Man 2018, the Rhino, The Tinkerer and Miles’ uncle, the Prowler, will surely be formidable foes. From what we have seen so far from initial reviews and impressions, the story in Miles Morales doesn’t disappoint – so be sure to avoid spoilers on release day.
Spidey Is Lookin’ Fly
One of the big aspects of Spider-Man that I didn’t expect to love so much were the different suits. Not only did they serve a purpose, from the extra-combat strength of the multi-armed Iron Spider to the considerable damage increase of the Fear Itself suit, but they also looked amazing. I can’t count the hours I spent flicking between suits to get the perfect Photo Mode shot. Seeing the cel-shaded Vintage Suit swinging around New York for the first time gave me the dumbest smile, and judging from my social media erupting with photos and videos of it, I wasn’t alone. The Spider-Man brand is so synonymous with unique suits that it is only right that Insomniac continues to add to the list of new ones.
In Miles Morales, we will be given an extensive roster of new suits, each with a unique style and abilities, but right now I want to focus on two of them, the Vibe the Verse suit and the Spider-Cat suit, both of which look fucking sick. The awkwardly named Vibe the Verse suit is inspired by Miles’ from Into The Spiderverse and comes with a unique animation style that mimics the framerate of the suit from the film. The jittery effect looks terrific, especially when everything else is moving at a smooth 60fps. The Vibe the Verse suit even creates comic-book style onomatopoeias, so that every time you punch a Roxxon goon, it is matched with a satisfying “BONK” or “ZOWCH” on-screen.
The Spider-Cat suit, like the Iron Spider, will add some additional punishing power to Miles, but instead of wailing on bad guys with extra robotic limbs, the Spider-Cat suit will give Miles one of the most formidable weapons – a bodega cat. Tucked inside the backpack of the suit hides an adorable orange tabby cat that Miles saves in a side-quest. When attacked, our feline-friend will viciously swipe at enemies, creating new finishing moves and combos. These are just two of the unique suits we will have on launch day, but if Spider-Man 2018 is anything to go by, we will see a slow trickle of new suits added in the months to come. Fingers crossed for more Into The Spiderverse inspired ones or an Italian Spider-Man suit!
Break His Legs, Bonesaw!
Swinging in Spider-Man 2018 is one of the great feelings in gaming, akin to throwing the Leviathan Axe in God of War or jumping into a new D.Va mech straight after a successful self-destruct in Overwatch. It even surpassed the silky-smooth swinging of 2004’s Spider-Man 2, a mechanic I had talked up for years. It was perfect. Yet, from what I have seen, Miles Morales is subtly improving on that perfection.
It is a minor touch, but when you watch Miles swing, keep an eye on his body contorting. In some of the early mission footage released, you see him flail around, still coming to grips with his powers and low on confidence. But in other trailers and teasers from later missions, Miles is pulling off aerials with dash and flair, giving his movement a distinct flavour, different to what we have seen before. It is clear that Miles growing into the role of Spider-Man, will not just be contained to story-beats. Running at 60fps in Performance Mode on the PlayStation 5, this is by far the best we have seen Spidey move, and it is breathtaking.
This flair continues when it comes to combat, with Miles utilising new Venom techniques to charge his body with bio-electricity (spiders can’t do that!) and unleashing high-damage attacks that shower the screen in impressive lighting and particle effects. The visual display is clearly just showing off the power of the PS5, and I ain’t mad about that. The crackling charge of the Venom attacks can also be felt in the triggers of the Duelsense controller, with certain moves causing sensations to be translated to the player.
If swinging and electro-punching isn’t entirely cutting it against enemies, Miles has one last trick up his lycra-sleeve: invisibility. Using a cloaking ability (what type of spider was he bitten by?!), Miles can slip past enemies, causing confusion in melees, or allowing you to avoid them altogether. With combat and traversal at the heart of the Spider-Man gameplay loop, it is great to see some meaningful changes made to give Miles his own distinct feeling and vibe.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales releases this week on November 12th for both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, with the Ultimate Edition including a remastered version of Spider-Man 2018.