Puddles. Remember when everything kicked off in 2018 because of puddles? That was a fun time to be on the internet, wasn’t it? Well, I’m pretty sure there won’t be any complaints this time out. After we caught a brief glimpse of Miles Morales in Marvel’s Spider-Man, people were wondering when we’d get to take control of Harlem’s very own webslinger. With the launch of the PS5, we’ve got our answer. Of course, it’s not quite as straightforward as that. Spider-Man: Miles Morales launches in a cross-gen state, with the PS5 version also launching with a deluxe edition containing a remaster of one of the PS4’s shining lights. As things currently stand, we only have access to the PS5 version of Miles, but not the remaster. As such, this review will be focused squarely on that.
The game opens with not one, but two Spider-Men. Peter and Miles have been working hand-in-web since the events of the first game, fighting crime across NYC and putting away as many criminals as they can. After a chaotic opening scene battling yet another super-villain hell bent on destruction, Peter decides that it’s probably time to take a bit of a break, and heads away on holiday. He does so, as you’d expect from a mentor, with the strict instruction to stay out of trouble. Fortunately for you, that lasts all of about 5 minutes before all hell starts to break loose.
One of the best things about 2018’s Spider-Man title was that Peter Parker was introduced as an established character. Someone who was assured in his role as Spider-Man, with plenty of confidence and ability to do what he does best. It strayed away from the “origin story” traps, and really helped ground the character in the game world without feeling the need to over-explain everything. Thankfully, Miles Morales continues that trend, although it is picking up Miles’ story at a significantly earlier point than 2018’s Peter Parker. Miles is a much younger, and therefore more naïve Spidey, but unlike the webslinger who came before him, he has an immediate mentor. Someone who’s been there, done it and got the spandex. It’s a really interesting dynamic that’s carried out pretty well throughout the story. Miles spends much of the game learning about, and coming to terms with, some new powers that simply didn’t exist for Peter Parker, and the addition of bioelectric powers make for a couple of genuinely cool gameplay moments. It wouldn’t be a Spidey tale without some drama from family and friends either, and the cast of characters is rounded out nicely with enough faces that fans of the series will be familiar with.
The main premise of the game centres around the Tinkerer, a sort of tech wizard who’s hell-bent on overseeing the demise of Roxxon Energy. Roxxon have developed a new type of fuel (called NuForm), and the Tinkerer wants to claim it for “The Underground”, a well-funded band of hackers, brawlers and thieves who have a tendency to dress in dark clothes with neon highlights. Much like Martin Li’s band of criminals in the 2018 version, The Underground will stick together in bunches as they take over areas of the city, in order to cut the power and generally cause a bit of havoc. All the while, Roxxon’s CEO Simon Krieger is up to something, and it’s down to Miles to figure it all out. What a time for “the real Spider-Man” to up sticks and go on holiday, eh?
It’s the “Left to his own devices” attitude that really makes Miles shine in this game. While on the surface it could be easy to dismiss it as a re-tread of some of the same mission types and collectible hunts as the first game with slightly more colourful enemies, the activities and fist fights really do take a back seat to the journey that Miles is on as he begins to find out who he really is. It’s a trait that’s filtered down into every pore of the game as well, whether it’s in the animations that show just how awkward Miles can be while swinging around NYC, or whether it’s in his faux “Superhero voice” when he clears out a building of enemies and reports back to the person who set you the mission, the personality is on display here in abundance. It also handles social issues delicately as well. At times when trotting around his Harlem neighbourhood, you’ll hear shouts of “He’s our Spider-Man” and the like, showing just how important it is, even to fictional characters, to have positive role models and people looking out for them. There is also an extremely touching moment where Spidey takes on a mission brought to him by a deaf girl, and he signs back and forth with her in a way that doesn’t scream “Look, we’re being diverse”, it just happens, and it’s wonderful.
While we’re on the subject of things being wonderful, let’s just dive right into the technical stuff, shall we? Spider-Man Miles Morales looks absolutely sensational. The 2018 game wasn’t anything to sniff at, but there are points in this sequel that honestly make the differences look night and day. Whether you want to play it in performance mode and get a near-as-dammit locked 60fps, or if you want to play it in 30fps and get your 4k on with some truly beautiful real time ray traced reflections (including, yes, puddles), you’ll not be disappointed with what Miles Morales has to offer up. For anyone who’s had the privilege of playing ray traced games on PC over the past couple of years, you’ll know just how difficult it is to keep performance at a high level with these effects turned on, but Insomniac have managed it, with a beautiful looking title from start to finish. It’s also impossible to talk about this version of Miles Morales without mentioning the, quite frankly, insane loading times.
From a cold boot, with all apps quit and the PS5 unplugged, I was able to get into actual gameplay in Miles Morales in under 30 seconds. To get to the game’s main menu from the PS5 dashboard takes around 7 seconds (again, from cold, not quick resuming), and to get into gameplay from that menu is under 3 seconds. Fast travel from one side of the map to the other only takes a couple of seconds, and there are seemingly no loading times between indoor and outdoor environments, disguised by a very clever transition as you fly out of a vent or window. If this is the kind of speed that developers have to work with on the PS5, then I have to say I’m not expecting to see another loading screen ever again. It is absolutely jaw dropping the first time it happens. If this generation is going to anything, I strongly suspect it’s going to curb my social media addiction as I’m so used to scrolling through the hellscape that is my Twitter feed during lengthy loading screens.
Miles Morales also makes fantastic use of the DualSense. In addition to the rumble that builds up as you prep for a big jump from the ground, the adaptive triggers add a bit of agency and weight to your swinging, as well as being used for other scenes in the game where they’ll fight you back. I keep saying this, but I honestly hope the use of these becomes a standard feature in games going forward.
If I had any complaints about Spider-Man: Miles Morales, it’s that some of the side quests and collectibles felt a little bit superfluous. I collected everything in the first game, got all the backpacks, visited Uncle Ben’s grave, the whole works. Miles Morales does feel a little bit like some of the open world stuff is a bit cookie-cutter, but when the core mechanics and story are as good as they are, I genuinely couldn’t give a toss.