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Andrew Hayward / Lifewire
Tight, excellent campaign
Compelling characters and tale
Fluid movement and combat
Beautiful PS5 showcase
PS5 controller boosts immersion
Some repetitive elements
Not as vast as previous game
Less vibrant on PS4
Insomniac Games has delivered a knockout with Spider-Man: Miles Morales, both as a superhero sim and a PS5 launch showcase.
Our reviewer purchased Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales so that they could do a thorough play-through of the game. Keep reading for their full take.
Peter Parker is the classic Spider-Man, of course, and there have been many, many other versions of the webhead through decades of sometimes convoluted comic book storytelling. Right now, however, Miles Morales is having a moment. Introduced in 2011, the new Spider-Man is a young, mixed-race hero with extra abilities above and beyond Parker’s original version, and he has won over fans first through the comics and then more broadly as the star of 2018’s acclaimed “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” film.
Now he has his own PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 game, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a standalone spinoff of Insomniac Games’ 2018 Spider-Man. While smaller in scope than the original Parker-centric game (which first introduced Miles), Spider-Man: Miles Morales is bigger on heart and personality, delivering a captivating superhero tale with more exciting combat, to boot. It’s also a prime showcase for the new PS5 console, with gorgeous environments and impressive performance.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place about a year after the previous game, with Miles starting to get a hang of his spider powers, even if he’s not nearly as confident or polished as his mentor, Parker. We see the two of them in action together at the start of the game, with a clear contrast between the experienced veteran and the young upstart who wonders if he’s up to the task.
When the original Spider-Man departs town for a trip, Miles must navigate an unexpected new threat—one that hits closer to home than anticipated—while still discovering the full extent of his abilities. Miles Morales: Spider-Man weaves in familiar characters from the comics and films, including his mom Rio, best friend and strategic ally Ganke, and Uncle Aaron in various ways, as well as a new friend, Phin. All told, there’s a real sense of family, community, and history to Miles’ story, pulling you more deeply into his adventure.
Miles Morales doesn’t significantly differ in gameplay from the original Spider-Man game. It uses the same map of New York with mostly seasonal visual differences and has the same core set of combat moves and interactions. It’s more robust than a simple add-on or expansion, yet not significantly changed enough to be considered a full-fledged sequel.
As before, this Spider-Man game takes place in an open-world map of New York City, which you can freely explore on foot or through the air by zipping around with webs. Swinging between the buildings feels fluid and remarkable, with Insomniac clearly paying a lot of attention to the momentum of Morales’ movements and making navigation feel mostly effortless. You may hit a snag here or there, such as running into a balcony or street decoration, but you’ll learn to avoid them before long. You can even climb and run along walls, and the PlayStation 5 controller’s haptic feedback and resistance-providing adaptive triggers help boost the immersive feeling of navigating the city.
The snow-covered, Christmas-set city feels more lived-in this time around, with a lot of very real-feeling interactions with neighbors and appreciated social justice nods.
Outside of traversal, the other big gameplay focus is combat. As before, the game focuses on Spider-Man’s latent agility as well as ability to detect incoming threats (Spider-Sense), making it easy to handle a group of attackers by nimbly sliding between legs and hopping over enemy shoulders as you deliver powerful blows. Finishing moves add a cinematic touch to some attacks, too, with slow-motion animations showing Spidey delivering a smooth beatdown using both his powers and surroundings.
Morales has more tricks up his sleeve than the standard Spider-Man, however. As he discovers over the course of the campaign, he can also deliver an electric-charged Venom Punch that adds a powerful new hook to the melee combat and is especially helpful against boss foes. Furthermore, Miles can briefly turn invisible thanks to an active camouflage trick that gives some parts of the game a stealth element.
While those additions do spice up the combat a bit, the game can go back to the same well a bit too much at times. For example, there are a lot of moments in missions in which you’ll use the Venom Punch to reactivate a dead power grid or terminal as if punching something with electricity can consistently fix such problems with ease. It’s the recycled use of such mechanics that draws more of an eye roll than the suspension of disbelief.
Most open-world games are sprawling monsters, with developers packing in loads of side missions, extra systems, and incentives to keep you playing for ages. Miles Morales isn’t quite that robust, but I think Insomniac played it right here, especially with the lower price point. There’s little padding to Miles’ quest, with the core story missions spanning about eight hours in total and a smaller array of side missions to complete and collectibles to track down.
It’s the rare open-world game that I finished actually wanting more of, but I suppose that’s better than the alternative of trudging to a finale after playing a game for far too long. Even with a lot of the core framework carried over from the first Spider-Man game, what’s here feels more richly developed. The snow-covered, Christmas-set city feels more lived-in this time around, with a lot of very real-feeling interactions with neighbors and appreciated social justice nods.
Morales and his supporting cast bring a lot of heart to the tale. I felt compassion for the loss that he and his family were going through, the strained relationships that exist in the game, and the struggle to do what’s right—or even decide what is right—in seemingly no-win situations. They’re well-rounded characters, expertly brought to life by Insomniac and the voice actors, and I was emotionally invested well before the story came to a close.
Aside from the aforementioned moments of repetition, the campaign delivers exciting moments right from the start, when you’re clinging for dear life on the back of the rampaging villain Rhino and first harnessing your Venom Punch.
All told, there’s a real sense of family, community, and history to Miles’ story, pulling you more deeply into his adventure.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a stunner on the new PlayStation 5 hardware, putting the ample graphical power to use in delivering smooth performance at 4K resolution and dazzling lighting effects. There are multiple graphics settings available. In the Fidelity mode, you see all of the game’s visual tricks in effect, including real-time ray tracing that adds rich lighting and lifelike reflections to the game, albeit limited to 30 frames per second.
A Performance mode, on the other hand, strips out some of the added effects while boosting the frame rate to a smooth 60fps, making the action seem even faster and more fluid. Luckily, since launch, Insomniac has added a sweet spot in the middle: Performance RT, which keeps most of the lighting effects at 60 frames per second while employing dynamic resolution. That means it dips below 4K at times to maintain performance, but I didn’t notice any visual degradation.
The PlayStation 5 controller’s haptic feedback and resistance-providing adaptive triggers help boost the immersive feeling of navigating the city.
From what I’ve seen, the PlayStation 4 version looks and runs solidly enough, but loses the added richness of the lighting effects and isn’t quite as smooth in motion. It’s flatter-looking, but the experience remains intact. If you can play on PlayStation 5, that’s the best way to experience the game.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales also benefits from the PS5’s incredibly fast solid-state drive architecture, flinging you into the city within a few seconds of loading your game from the main menu. It’s a true showcase for how this generation’s new hardware will improve the play experience beyond visual fidelity and frame rate. The PS4’s loading times are much longer, by comparison.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is rated Teen by the ESRB and features some blood and violence, along with a little bit of light cursing. I’d put it on par with the “Into the Spider-Verse” movie, and if your child is familiar with other modern Spider-Man content, then it’s basically in the same ballpark. I let my gaming-savvy seven-year-old son play the game, and he got a hang of it quickly and really enjoyed it.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a stunner on the new PlayStation 5 hardware, putting the ample graphical power to use in delivering smooth performance at 4K resolution and dazzling lighting effects.
At $50 on both consoles, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is $20 cheaper than many PlayStation 5 launch titles, and $10 less than your average new PS4 game. That’s a reasonable price given the reduced scope of this open-world adventure, particularly since the campaign itself is so rich and compelling.
On PS5, there is also a special Ultimate Launch Edition for $70 that comes with a download code for Spider-Man Remastered, a visually-upgraded re-release of the original PlayStation 4 game. It’s a nice treat for anyone who missed the original game or wants a good excuse to revisit it, plus all of that game’s add-on story content is bundled in.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are two of the most-hyped open-world releases of 2020, and both are great—albeit in different ways. The Mature-rated Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is definitely targeted at older players thanks to its gruesome and realistic combat, as well as strong language and sexual content.
It’s larger in scale, with a historical tale that finds you leading the Viking invasion of England. You’ll have a beautiful world to explore with a lot more side content to keep you busy, while Miles Morales keeps its campaign pretty tight by comparison. Both games are excellent and we recommend both. If you have to pick one, however, you’ll have to choose between superheroes and Vikings.
Be sure to check out our guide for the best PS5 games to catch up on the latest releases.
A fun new Spider-Man game for the PS5.
Even if Spider-Man: Miles Morales isn’t quite as huge or ambitious-seeming as its predecessor, Insomniac has ultimately delivered an even better game here. Miles is fully realized as a character, both with and without the mask, and his quest is at turns emotional and exhilarating. It’s a gorgeous PlayStation 5 showcase, too—but even those with last-gen hardware should suit up and experience one of the greatest superhero games to date.
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