With the success of Marvel’s Spider-Man which released back in 2018, most fans expected another Spidey game for the PS5; though probably not this early. Enter Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a follow-up to the first PlayStation Spider-Man game that releases in just a week. While ‘Miles Morales’ is set a year after the events of 2018’s Spider-Man, it’s not exactly a direct sequel. It also isn’t a “full-fledged” entry into the series, at least based on its smaller scope and slightly lower price tag compared to typical triple-A releases. In a way, you can call it a standalone expansion akin to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.
Despite its smaller scale, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is still noteworthy as it is cross-gen release, meaning it will launch on both the PS5 and the PS4. While Sony has been touting the game’s graphical fidelity for the PS5, we have yet to see how good it looks and how well it runs on the current-gen PS4; until now that is.
So, is Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales worth a buy for PS4 owners? And is it a good game in its own right even with its status as a standalone expansion?
Refinement over Evolution
Given that ‘Miles Morales’ isn’t a full sequel to the first Spider-Man game on the PS4, I didn’t expect it to deviate much from its predecessor’s formula in terms of combat and general gameplay. And while I was right in my assumption, the game does bring some new things to the table that add to the overall gameplay experience.
One of the biggest additions to combat is Miles’ new abilities, one of which is his bioelectric powers (aka Venom Skills as he likes to call them). These powers range from punch, dive, and smash attacks that stun and damage enemies, making them perfect for crowd control. In order to use them though, you must first fill up Miles’ “Venom Bar” by attacking enemies or dodging their attacks; this can also be used for healing. Essentially, it works like the Focus meter in the previous Spider-Man game, but instead of using the bar to perform knockout moves, Miles can use his new Venom Skills .
Miles can still perform knockout moves on enemies though, but they are now tied to combos. Specifically, you must get a 15-hit combo before being able to knock out an enemy. This makes for a combat system that rewards players for timing dodges and attacks perfectly.
While his skills may seem OP at first, Miles’ kit is balanced by the fact that he has less Spidey gadgets to work with (only four instead of eight). Then there’s the fact that Miles’s suit power aren’t as strong as Peter’s. And finally, enemies are a bit tougher this time around.
I wouldn’t call the 2018 Spider-Man game easy, but I didn’t really die much, if at all in my first playthrough. In ‘Miles Morales’ though, I faced a bit more of a challenge. This is because Miles encounters way more armored enemies which can only be defeated with the use of Venom Skills. In a certain boss fight for instance, I found myself struggling to build up my Venom Bar for skills as I was being swarmed by enemies. The fight did not feel unfair though, instead it forced me to time attacks and dodges better which led to a nice feeling of satisfaction when I finally was able to beat the boss. Even with the added challenge though, ‘Miles Morales’ isn’t a particularly difficult game, at least on the Normal difficulty setting.
Aside from bioelectric powers, Miles also has the ability to go invisible. Thanks to this, the game’s stealth encounters are way better when compared to the previous Spidey game. Before, when Peter gets discovered, he pretty much has no choice but to fight head on. But with Miles’ camouflage skills, he can re-enter stealth even if he’s spotted. This makes stealth more viable, and more fun to use in enemy encounters as you can pop in to take down an enemy then go invisible and hide until you can pick off another one.
That’s not to say that stealth in the game is amazing though, enemies are still dumb and too easy to trick, much more so with Miles’ invisibility power. So it’s a good thing that stealth isn’t mandatory in most of these sections. And before you ask, no, there aren’t any forced stealth sections like MJ or Miles’ parts in the 2018 game.
Whether in active combat or in stealth, missions in ‘Miles Morales’ have a lot of action, though they do provide players with some time to slow down with some environmental puzzles. These puzzles aren’t head-scratchers, but they do fit the game better compared to the puzzle mini-games in the previous entry.
While story missions are the main way to experience the game’s combat and puzzles, you can also get your load of action via the various activities and side quests available in the game’s open-world setting of Manhattan. Aside from sharing the same map as the 2018 Spider-Man game, ‘Miles Morales’ also has a ton of side activities for players, including base clearing, challenge missions, hidden collectibles, and more. None of these activities are groundbreaking, but they at least give players more chances to enjoy the game’s fun combat.
Looks Great, Even on Current-Gen Hardware
Spider-Man: Miles Morales may be a highlight launch title for the PS5, it’s still a visual treat even on the PS4. Sure, it may not have fancy features such as ray-tracing and DualSense haptic feedback, but it doesn’t feel like PS4 gamers are getting shortchanged with this version of the game given how good it looks.
The PS4 did show its age though (at least the base PS4 did) when playing ‘Miles Morales’. For instance, I saw some framerate drops in some boss fights and when using certain abilities with a lot of effects. While noticeable, these dips in framerate did not happen often enough to be annoying. Plus, when they do occur, they don’t really affect gameplay all that much; I didn’t find myself dying or making a mistake purely because of FPS drops.
Miles’ flashy abilities and colorful boss fights stand out as the visually stunning parts of the game, but the open-world setting of Manhattan is also great to see. Sure, it has pretty much the same map as the last game, but the winter setting and festive lights make the familiar city a welcome place to explore again. The hip-hop-infused soundtrack also helps give the game a more distinct feel, at least compared to the 2018 game.
A well-crafted Story
Insomniac’s first Spider-Man game has a great story that I’ll say rivals that of live-action Spider-Man movies. So how does ‘Miles Morales’ compare? Well, the story of ‘Miles Morales’ is also quite gripping, even though it doesn’t land as strongly.
Without getting into spoiler territory, the game follows Miles Morales as he takes on the role of Spider-Man while Peter Parker is away for a while. As the game progresses, Miles must face off against two opposing factions, the Roxxon Energy Corporation and the Underground, a gang that wields high-tech weaponry led by the Tinkerer.
While these are the main players in Miles Morales’ story, other characters also play a big role in the story, some of which are close to Miles himself. In fact, I’d say that the story has a lot of personal stakes for Miles, much in the same way as the events of the 2018 Spider-Man game was tied directly to Peter Parker’s persona life.
Even with some similarities in themes, ‘Miles Morales’ isn’t just a retread of its predecessor’s story. It does manage to tell a well-constructed story that has enough unique elements to make it feel fresh.
My main gripe with the story though is that it doesn’t land as strongly as either the previous Spider-Man game or Into the Spider-Verse (a movie that’s a major inspiration to this game) in terms of emotional impact. Sure, its story is tight and well told, but the events do seem to happen in a bit of a rush. The game could’ve used more time to breath so as to make the major story events hit harder.
Fun, but it ends quickly
Since this is more of a standalone expansion than a full-fledged series entry, I expected ‘Miles Morales’ to be a bit on the short side. When I played it, I found that it really is a quick game for open-world standards. In my (slightly rushed) playthrough, it took me a bit under ten hours to finish the game. That’s with 74% completion, meaning I still have some side quests/activities to finish along with numerous collectibles to a find.
A longer game isn’t always better, though I would’ve preferred a slightly longer main story for ‘Miles Morales’. That’s not to say the game should’ve been padded, but I think a longer story will give the story time to breath, as well as let characters be more fleshed out. Plus, some gamers might want a ‘meatier’ experience, especially as it is only USD 10 cheaper than a full triple-A title. On the flipside though, the short main story means ‘Miles Morales’ does not feel bloated with needless activities like what other open-world titles tend to do.
Final Verdict – 8/10
Even though it’s not the sequel that fans are clamoring for, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is still a fun game that’s more than just a glorified DLC pack thanks to fun combat additions and well-crafted story. To top it all off, the game even looks and plays well (for the most part) on the PS4.
There are some issues with the game though, such as the short length for its USD 50 (PHP 2,499) price tag, as well as some framerate drops on the base PS4. Plus, the story, while good, is not as impactful as the previous Spider-Man game. In spite of these, ‘Miles Morales’ is still an easy recommendation, especially for those who loved the first Spider-Man game for the PS4.
*This game was reviewed using a PlayStation 4 Slim via a review copy sent by Sony Interactive Entertainment Singapore.