A few months after the release of Insomniac Games' Marvel’s Spider-Man, whose PC version received excellent reviews and great sales, Sony has decided to bring its little brother to the Mother Platform. A move that does not surprise us at all, considering the recent policy of the Japanese giant. We're talking about Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which isn't exactly a sequel to the original game, but also not some kind of DLC.
It's a completely new story, starring the other, eponymous, Spider-Man, that works perfectly well as a standalone (you don't need to have played the first game, that is), but by no means is it that long in length. In fact, that might not even be such a negative, considering that the first Spider-Man was sometimes a bit of a slog, especially with the dozens of quests (random and otherwise) and the plethora of icons that filled the map.
Here, things are clearly more concentrated. Without completely straying from the missteps of open-world games, with their many "fatty" gameplay, Miles Morales offers an extremely meatier experience. Particularly on the plot front, the game does a great job, provided we are aware beforehand that we are playing a game based on Marvel's paper characters and not a work by... Aronofsky.
The story begins with the inexperienced Miles being trained as Spider-Man by Peter Parker and together they fight the increased crime in Manhattan during the Christmas season. Miles, despite his young age, proves to be a worthy student, which allows Peter to accompany Mary Jane on her trip to Europe, rest assured that he leaves behind a worthy replacement. Of course, the peace couldn't last too long, and soon Miles finds himself at the center of a vast conspiracy involving the Roxxon Energy Corporation, which claims to have discovered an energy source with nearly inexhaustible reserves, and a "resistance" group calling itself the Underground.
We won't reveal much of the plot, which is quite well-written, entertaining and sufficiently interesting, although it lays all its cards on the table rather quickly (such as who the real "villain" of the story is), which leads us to follow the events without any particular surprises. Nevertheless, the relatively short duration of the campaign (around eight to nine hours) does not have time to become tedious, and Miles Morales is a very likable and down-to-earth character, with the evolution of his personality, from a "newbie" to a fearless hero, being portrayed in an excellent and convincing way.
As for the main course of the game, the differences with the original game are not many, but they are notable. The city and its layout is, of course, the same, however the choice of the Christmas season as the timing creates a different feel, more glamorous and more impressive we would say, with all those snow-covered buildings and hundreds of lights. Beyond the visuals, the core gameplay hasn't changed. The web swinging is so enjoyable (we even have the ability to perform stunts during it), to the point that fast travel becomes almost redundant as a feature.
Of course, the map is still full of activities, which, aside from the random crimes that happen every now and then and collecting items, can be undertaken through the phone app developed by our nerd buddy Gankee Lee. The Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man app, as it's called, practically puts the game's side missions in order, where we can take them on at will, and offers intercom capabilities both with Gankee himself, who advises us on almost every step of the way, and with Peter Parker, who frequently calls in to check in on how things are going in New York City - at least in the early hours of the game. It goes without saying that there are no shortage of humorous moments with JJ Jameson's quaint radio broadcasts and his unparalleled obsession with Spider-Man, let alone now that there are two of them!
The upgrade system is along the same lines (ability points in skill-tree, unlocking uniforms, gadgets), but on a smaller scale, and this time we noticed that it's easier to increase Miles' powers at a high level, as most missions generously provide the items needed to do so. The need for grinding is therefore shown to be significantly reduced, which is entirely welcome. Where Miles Morales deviates from its predecessor is in the combat system.
Without the attack/dodge/deflect mechanics being differentiated, they exude a more robust feel, while Miles' ability to use Venom (bio-electricity in essence, not regular poison) introduces new tactical factors to an already exciting combat system. In particular, there's the relevant Venom bar, filled with successful strikes against enemies or by maneuvering, where Miles can unleash blistering attacks that stun or even completely annihilate any unlucky ones in their path. As we progress through the campaign, Venom attacks become increasingly powerful and exuberant, making them ideal for crowd-control and, obviously, the various boss-fights.
We would say that the level of difficulty in the battles is increased a little bit, mainly due to the very dangerous weapons wielded by the Underground, but also due to the high frequency of the battles, but nothing that will really trouble the player. On the contrary, the battles quickly become so enjoyable and entertaining that we often longed for them, even when it was preferable to go the stealth route, which, in the vast majority of cases, is optional. The extra ability of Miles' suit to make him invisible for a limited amount of time, along with some very interesting gadgets for remote takedowns, make the stealth tactic an equally worthwhile option, beyond the merciless punching.
As such, the experience that Miles Morales can offer is very strong, comparable to the first game and definitely leaves us on pins and needles for the upcoming sequel. And Nixxes' port is amazing, having learned from the mistakes made in the first Spider-Man, and we didn't notice the slightest problem throughout our engagement. On our test system, the graphics card is a bit old (1660 Ti), so it wasn't possible to test its raytracing features, however its performance on a 1080p monitor was excellent, with minimal compromises on the visuals, which remain gorgeous and impressive.
In terms of sound, the soundtrack consists mostly of melodies and rhythms that you would hear in a Harlem neighborhood, while the voice-over is, as always, flawless. It's worth noting that Miles Morales also features an option for Greek subtitles (no voice-over), which do a decent job of rendering the English text.
To sum up, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a game of rare quality, which you should own if you are a fan of action/open-world games and even more if you are a fan of Spider-Man and/or Marvel. Especially if you played the first game and liked it, then you already have it and you don't know it yet...
Thanks to Playstation Greece for providing the review code.