Spider-Man: Miles Morales

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Photo taken by me, 11/17/2020

Back in 2018, we finally got a new, good, Spider-Man game from Insomniac Games, exclusive to the PS4. It had crisp, clean and satisfying combat, a fantastically personal story, and most importantly: web-swinging was fun again! We also got some promising, but not fully realized stealth sections, and several levels have you playing as Mary Jane, or a pre-spider-bite Miles Morales. While those sections may have been polarizing, I personally enjoyed them as character-driven subplots if not as riveting gameplay.

And now, in 2020, Insomniac has released a follow-up: Spider-Man: Miles Morales, in which we finally get to play as a fully-powered Miles getting caught up in the middle of a war between a criminal activist organization The Underground(led by The Tinkerer), and Roxxon Energy, whose CEO is comic-book Elon Musk Simon Krieger. And that's as far as I'll go regarding spoilers, so let's get into it.

THE GOOD

The basic gameplay is actually improved upon from the first game, especially in the stealth department. Miles has a camouflage ability that lets him reset enemies' awareness of him, and a new remote mine gadget that can KO up to three enemies at a time. There are plenty of stealth missions, to the extent that you could almost call this a stealth game instead of an action/adventure. So if you liked these missions in the first game but wished for more, you'll be very happy here.

Miles has one more unique skill, bioelectricity, which gives him his venom strike ability. In practice, the basic use is pretty much a Falcon Punch, and is extremely satisfying to use on the tougher enemies or bosses in the game. As you progress through the story, you get more venom strike abilities like a dash/tackle, a jump, or a ground pound that all add a new dimension to combat on top of the returning gadget/combo/finisher system.

Miles has four gadgets available to him: the web shooters, holo-drones, gravity wells, and the aforementioned remote mine. In combat, the gravity well is a godsend. You can chain the gravity well into a venom strike to stun an entire group of enemies if you need to escape and regroup. You can shoot the remote mine onto a fuse box to KO any three enemies who enter its radius. You can web up enemies and stick them to walls just like Peter. And the holo-drone... exists. I personally didn't find it very useful. It just creates a holographic crash test dummy to distract and fight any enemies. I think it would be more useful if you couldn't turn invisible. But it is a neat idea, and I hope Insomniac develops it more for the next game in the series.

The game's story is also very good, in my opinion better than the main narrative of the original game's DLC trilogy. It's a fun, if dark, coming of age story for the new Spider-Man as he earns his place while his mentor Peter takes a leave of absence in Europe. He runs afoul of the Underground and of Roxxon Energy, in a war over a new energy source called Nuform, and chases the thread to try to stop both sides from accidentally(the Underground) or intentionally(Roxxon) destroying Harlem. We get a lot of insight into Miles family life, his friends outside of Peter, and his past before the first game which helps to round him out as a character. Compared to Peter, he absolutely holds his own as a protagonist.

THE BAD

One of the villainous factions is a group of young POC activists wearing outifts reminiscent of Antifa protestors, trying to take down a corrupt corporation that doesn't care if they "accidentally" kill all of Harlem as long as they make their bottom line. There's no way to not read into that. And while it is eventually made clear that it's more complicated than that, it's still a bad design choice which is unintentionally equating those protestors(or at least their aesthetic, which to many people are one and the same) to the actively criminal corporate devastation they're trying to stop.

There's not a lot of bad in this game. Other than questionable design choice of one of your villainous factions, the only other major issue I had was the length of the game and amount of things to do, but I knew going in that it was going to be a shorter, smaller game than the first. But it is pretty buggy, which I'll detail in the next section.

THE UGLY

The capstone skills in each skill tree cannot be unlocked in a New Game save, they have to be gotten in New Game +. This might come down to personal taste, but I didn't like that. It felt like I was being artificially locked out of 100% completion and forced to play again. Of course, since it is a very fun game to play, it's not a dealbreaker or anything, but is annoying and I'm not sure why they did it other than for fake longevity.

Miles Morales is a very buggy game. It's perfectly playable, but there were at least ten different instances in my playthrough where I had to load a checkpoint because Miles had started to T-Pose while trying to grapple onto a car, or an enemy clipped inside a wall where I couldn't reach them. I finished the game, and was watching the ending cutscene, and right when it ended my game crashed. Which was, admittedly, pretty funny. But so far, no game-breaking bugs, just some annoying ones.

The new way to access side-quests is the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man app. To bring up the interface, you have to swipe left on the controller's touchpad, every time, and manually scroll through each side-quest with the D-Pad. This is a really cool idea, but implemented poorly in a series where just having them marked on the map for you to find and start was already a perfectly reasonable system. The app is just awkward to use amidst the otherwise incredibly smooth gameplay.

Lastly, I felt like fifty dollars was a little too much to pay for the amount of content I got. Forty would have been a more appropriate price, unless they're planning to release some new content for it in the future.

THE WRAP-UP

Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a great game that stands on its own. I do recommend it despite its price tag and bugs because it's obvious how much heart Insomniac has put into developing it, much like its predecessor. It's more Spider-Man gameplay, and a new story focusing on a character that until recently hasn't really been featured heavily outside the comics.

Besides the bad design choice for The Underground, there's very little not to like in this game. The bugs are the biggest issue, but as of this writing it's been out for less than a week, and there will be future patches to address them.

So in short, yeah, if you liked the first one you'll like this one. It's short, but it's a lot of fun. It's the best Marvel game to come out since Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order in 2019 and definitely worth playing.

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Hunter Wilson
Hunter Wilson
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Hunter Wilson

Actor, writer, occasional dumbass.

Twitter: @melhwarin

Instagram: @myslyvi

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