Miles Morales may just be finding his footing as a superhero, but his first solo game proves developer Insomniac has comfortably hit its stride as it converts its stand-alone hit into a series. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a flashy starring debut for Miles, telling as engaging a story as the original Marvel’s Spider-Man while simultaneously improving upon pretty much every minor gripe I had with that already great game. It may be smaller overall, but every facet of it feels more essential: the incredible swinging mechanics, storytelling, and animation of Peter Parker’s adventure return, joined by meaningful updates to side missions, Miles’ flashy new moves, and the captivating spirit of New York City.While it can be played on PlayStation 4, this is a gorgeous introduction to the PlayStation 5. Miles Morales takes advantage of improved lighting and particle effects to make this former New Yorker achingly miss the city I once called home, and swinging feels even better at 60fps than at 30.Marvel’s Spider-Man established Miles’ role alongside Peter Parker, and this solo outing makes it clear just how much room there is in Manhattan for multiple Spider-Men to shine. Actor Nadji Jeter returns to the title role and gives the newly heroic Miles a sincerity, heart, and excitement that stands tall alongside other depictions out there – from the Oscar-winning Into the Spider-Verse animated movie, to the original Brian Michael Bendis/Sara Pichelli comic run, and the ongoing Saladin Ahmed comic arc. This version stays true to Miles’ best stories in other mediums – mostly, he just wants to do right by Peter, his family, and his friends – while also making this take on the character feel fresh with something new to say.Insomniac’s Miles stands tall alongside other depictions out there.
That, in part, comes from Miles discovering his way around his new home neighborhood of Harlem, both in and out of the suit. Spider-Man: Miles Morales follows in the smart storytelling footsteps of the original game (and many of the best Spider-Man stories) by making sure the events of life underneath the mask come head-to-head with the webhead’s trials and tribulations. And while on a gameplay level you’re free to explore the full map (which returns largely unchanged from Marvel’s Spider-Man) much of the story itself is rooted in or inevitably returns us to Harlem.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Review Screenshots
Peter had his apartment and Doctor Octavius’ lab, but his connections to the city often boiled down to specific characters like Mary-Jane or villains like Doc Ock and Vulture. Miles, on the other hand gets to keep coming back home as a teenager living with his mom during the holidays would. We get to know his whole apartment, as well as the neighboring blocks around him as familiar shopkeeps pop up in side missions and the main story. And with militaristic tech conglomerate Roxxon building a new plaza HQ in Harlem, this welcoming home neighborhood becomes the center of an engaging struggle as it fights to maintain its identity in the face of corporate takeover.Miles Morales more than lives up to that high bar set by Marvel’s Spider-Man.
Peter’s story did a fantastic job of making his personal stakes as important as the bombastic superhero action, and Miles Morales more than lives up to that high bar. Having his best friend, Ganke, in on his secret identity allows for some amusing chats while Miles is out on missions; his mother’s political ambitions conflicting with Roxxon and the mysterious Underground faction ratchet up the tensions; and that repeated return to Harlem made me care about the neighborhood I visited least in the first game. Hell, Insomniac even finds some interesting new ground with Miles’ relationship with his uncle, Aaron Davis, even though their connection in the recent comics and Spider-Verse lingers fresh in my mind.
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As you explore the city, Miles Morales uses the same trick as the first game to flesh out Miles’ backstory, but to an even more investing degree. A host of time capsules from when Miles was younger offer a peek at his friendships and school life growing up, while an audio-focused collectible shines new light on his family. It’s an idea that feels born out of Miles as a character rather than a need to fill out the world, leading to some quite touching moments outside of the main story.The anticipation of seeing where this series goes next is a thrill in of itself.
Miles is fallible because he’s so new to the gig, and the story doesn’t shy away from his mistakes, like how his interactions with a personal friend can have big ramifications for his superhero alter-ego – but it also continuously shows how working toward something better is a process, one that is stronger when built on trust and community. I won’t spoil where any of the story takes Miles and his impressive supporting cast, but it’s a stirring and gripping Spidey tale that left me with goosebumps in its final moments, and the anticipation of seeing where this series goes next is a thrill in of itself.Of course, Miles’ story is filled with spectacular action alongside that story. Insomniac has found creative ways to work within the same overall setting of the original while not retreading too much of the same ground. Epic showdowns that send sparks flying, between new tech from the Tinkerer’s purples, Roxxon’s reds, and Miles’ own yellow bioelectricity offer beautiful, thrilling battles that range from boss fights that continue the first game’s strong tradition of memorable showdowns to street-level brawls that put Miles’ enhanced attacks to the test.
Spider-Man Miles Morales is available for purchase for $49.99 and the Ultimate Edition is $69.99. For full stock details PS5 consoles, accessories and games check out our launch day buyer’s guide.
What’s Up, Danger?
Slipping back into the swinging and fighting mechanics of Miles Morales was as comfortable as it was exhilarating. Miles controls largely the same as Peter when it comes to the basics: R2 to swing, L2 + R2 to zip to specific points, square to attack, circle to dodge, and triangle for a distance closing web pull. But beyond those fundamentals and some comparable moves, Insomniac has done a flat-out fantastic job of adding depth to Miles’ movement and fighting skills to allow him to stand out as his own character instead of feeling like another cosmetic reskin. On the animation side, watching the less-experienced Miles less delicately swing through the city is a treat. He’ll occasionally spin around on his own web to reorient himself, but he’s also got a style Peter can’t match, including the coolest jumping-off-a-roof animation I can remember from any iteration of Spider-Man.Bioelectrical attacks offer more variety to combat, and look super cool every time you use them.
On the combat side, Miles’ has a few new tricks that mix up the fun – as do enemies. On the one hand there’s Miles’ bioelectricity, which is largely executed with L1 + a combo of face buttons. After charging a meter in combat, Miles can unleash temporarily paralyzing bursts of current that pack a wallop. Some of these Venom attacks (no relation to the symbiote guy) focus on one foe, while others allow for crowd control, and yet more can help get an air combo going while warding off enemies. Mixing them in with Miles’ basics attacks not only saved me in the midst of a packed battle, but also adds so much stylish flair and variety to how I approached brawls.
Those abilities also bring about one of the more fun uses of the PS5’s DualSense controller, as the crinkle of electricity discharging around Miles is simulated via its haptic feedback. You can hold down L1 to prep an attack and start to feel the rumble, while initiating a Venom-ified right hook will send a rumble from the left side of the controller through to the right. And Venom-infused takedown animations are beautiful, with electricity sparking and bouncing around Miles and foes in gorgeous fashion.
Feeling the DualSense
Speaking of DualSense, Spider-Man Miles Morales was my first fully fledged game where I got to use Sony’s new-gen controller and all its new bells and whistles. What excited me most turned out to be the small touches that elevated a scene, or helped root me to a specific location or emotional moment. Take the opening, for example: Miles is on a subway line to get to Harlem, and the thump of the train as it rattles along the tracks rhythmically pulses down the controller as Miles’ traincar approaches its stop. When Miles gets a text, his phone is in his right pocket, so only the right half of the controller buzzes. Little moments like this aren’t necessarily flashy, unbelievable or even essential uses of the controller’s technology, but it instantly has me excited for the potential of story-focused games to offer further immersion through the DualSense.
Another aspect that sets Miles apart is his cloaking ability, which allows him to become invisible for short bursts of time (a power tied to another meter). It can be used in the middle of a fight to confuse enemies or let you slip away to safety for a moment when things get dire. It’s also, naturally, a huge help if you choose to approach a scenario more stealthily. There’s nothing worse in a stealth combat section than being accidentally spotted by an enemy, and Miles’ invisibility can give you the time and space to react to compensate for the fact that you don’t personally have Spidey Sense.
With Miles, I’ve found myself switching suit powers up more depending on the situation.
Finding ways to weave all of these new elements into combat is a joy and kept fights from ever feeling stale throughout the nine-hour campaign, or while tackling side challenges like taking down Underground or Roxxon hotspots. And on top of the added skills and adjustments you can make to them when leveling Miles up, Insomniac actually addressed one of my larger gripes with the first game by making the various powers Miles can unlock with his new suits or for his visor more meaningful and interesting. With Peter’s suit skills, I landed on a couple favorites and used them exclusively throughout the adventure. But with Miles, I’ve found myself switching them up more depending on the situation. I loved the combo of enhancing my perfect dodge window with another powerup that lent me additional damage in the seconds after a perfect dodge for battles. But if I went stealthily, I could pick upgrades that let me scan and auto-identify enemies (rather than the standard of needing to highlight each one individually) and even see when other enemies had a particular foe in their line of sight. Not every powerup got the same love in my playthrough, but I kept wanting to test them out and try them in new scenarios to see what benefits they offered.
When it comes to unlockable suits, Miles has a smaller collection than Peter overall, but there’s still a really solid mix of new, original suits and those inspired by his other appearances. I can’t talk about every suit just yet, but some of my favorites are unlocked via side missions and collectibles, and I’ve found myself switching between as many suits as I do powers, and much more often than I did with Peter’s. In particular, Insomniac nailed the Into the Spider-Verse suit. Easily my most anticipated and hoped-for look for Miles, the suit not only gets across the style of the film well in his exaggerated limbs, but its power to transform his animation style into that of the movie made my jaw go slack for a moment. Animating “on the twos” so that he appears to skip some frames may be out of sync with the rest of the world, but it is such a cool, well-integrated effect. It’s the suit Miles, and the movie it comes from, deserves.
And on the flipside of that, Miles’ foes use a host of new tech to keep your regular brawls more interesting. Yes, the standard Roxxon security force and Underground baddies are fairly simple, at best blocking basic attacks with a crowbar that forces you to dodge under their feet or knock them into the air before beating them down – but as each respective faction adds a new baddie type to its arsenal, it forces you to fight a bit differently. Underground’s shapeshifting tech means their swords can turn into whips that close the distance to you, while their and Roxxon’s lineups both have big-shield enemies but they each have vastly different attacks. A combination of normal, Venom, and sneak attacks are required to survive through the last third of the story’s fights, and that change in rhythm makes the combat fun to master all the way to the end.A combination of normal, Venom, and sneak attacks are required to survive through the last third of the story.
Perhaps most validating are the improvements made to Miles’ side missions and environmental objectives. Much as I loved Marvel’s Spider-Man, its reliance on populating neighborhoods with required crime battle quotas and Ubisoft-like radio towers made the hunt to 100% (or for more tokens to acquire upgrades) more of a slog than it needed to be. Its few bright spots, like a photo hunt mission, were what I hoped would be the norm rather than the exception.
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Thankfully, that is the case with Miles Morales. There are still crimes to stop, but you only really need to beat each type once in the entire city instead of several times per neighborhood, with their optional objectives completed to cross them off your list. The rest of Spider-Man’s neighborly missions are impressively varied – from helping a window washer restore power to his platform to finding a housecat who ran away. There are a few more once-only missions that feel truer to the spirit of a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man than stopping yet another car chase. Again, because Miles Morales is a smaller package overall, there’s not a ton of these, but I’ll happily take this more selective set of missions that let Spidey have more meaningful interactions with New Yorkers rather than repeating the same task 30 times.I’ll happily take this more selective set of missions that let Spidey have more meaningful interactions with New Yorkers.
There’s also a better use of the environment in these missions and collectibles thanks to Miles’ bioelectricity and camouflage. Some missions require you to solve environmental puzzles to get a current flowing between your webs, while you need to go invisible at other times to sneak through a crime scene for clues. And even one of the most plentiful collectibles – Underground tech caches – require you to track them down and then occasionally figure out your way past a bit of drywall or construction equipment to get to your prize. All taken together, they allow for a fun cadence to web swinging, fighting, and puzzle solving that, even when I’m hunting down my 20th Underground cache, doesn’t really grow stale.
Let It Snow
As mentioned, Miles Morales is set in the same Manhattan map as the first game, but this time it’s right around Christmas. New York City in the holidays is something special, with window displays, park decorations, and incredible lights lining the streets. Miles Morales captures that magic in spades, to the point where Insomniac is really just showing off. Beautiful holiday light displays break apart in a cascade of particle effects so gorgeous I forgot to feel bad that I had just demolished some virtual New Yorkers’ hard work. The PS5’s ray tracing truly comes into play when you’re in the heights of the skyline, too, with the grace of Spidey’s movements being reflected on Avengers Tower, the Freedom Tower, and more, all while weather effects from sunshine to snowstorms look beautiful both in the world and brought to life on the reflective windows around you.As one of only a handful of launch PS5 games, the added benefits of native 4K resolution and ray tracing lighting effects provide a stunning take on this already beautiful cityscape. Sunlight cutting through the misty clouds and snow was unexpectedly breathtaking at the height of a swing in the early moments of my first playthrough, and the “Wow!” moments only continued from there. Switching over to the 60fps Performance Mode, however, offers beautifully smooth web swinging and combat without missing out on too much of the world. Lighting is a little flatter and less dynamic, but the swap to 60fps is instantly recognizable and worth doing after you’ve toured and absorbed the city at its most beautiful. And as much as I prefer playing in cinematic modes overall, the smoothness 60fps lends to exploration is tough to give up.The smoothness 60fps lends to exploration is tough to give up.
There are some beautiful indoor locations as well, often just waiting to be the sites for all-out brawls or stealth sections. From office buildings to theaters and beyond, they really seem more replete with detail this time around. Miles’ story took me somewhere between eight and 10 hours to beat, but I’ve spent at least double that taking in the city’s snowy transformation, pausing mid-mission to admire an interior, or chipping away at the plentiful amount of side content.
That impressive level of detail is apparent in the characters as well. The citizens of New York are definitely still less fleshed out than the meticulously modeled main cast (and understandably so), but I did notice a bit more realistic movement and facial animations on them this time around in the side missions. And the work done on the main characters is some of the best real-life approximations I’ve seen from a first-party Sony game outside of The Last of Us Part 2. From the fur on Miles’ jacket hood, to the slight facial changes in a growing smile as he jokes around with Ganke, and more natural body movements in general, the animation really sings both in cutscenes and when swinging, flipping, and zipping across the world.
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Miles Morales on PS5 is as impressive to look at as it is to listen to. While I primarily played using my TV’s soundbar, I did test out Miles Morales’ use of 3D audio while wearing the PS5 3D Pulse headphones, and I found it made things come alive most in the smaller moments. Once I thwipped my way into Central Park and gracefully leaped onto a bridge only to scare away a flock of birds on a frozen pond, and when they shot into the sky and fluttered around me I could hear their irritated caws realistically rising and surrounding me. Car horns and conversations carry as Miles’ position moves and the camera moves around, and you can hear enemy projectiles whiz by in the midst of battle. It’s all fun and engrossing as a good first outing with this fancy new PS5 tech, but not necessarily essential; if you’re playing with TV speakers, a soundbar, or other set-up it’s still great. And even outside of the city’s soundscape, the fantastic, driving score and licensed tracks are an energizing delight – I’d like this soundtrack on vinyl ASAP, please.
And it’s all an open-world city with pretty much no load times once you start up Miles Morales. Fast-travel has no time for a funny subway loading animation like Peter’s adventure, and shifts between indoor locations for story missions to cutscenes back to gameplay is nearly instantaneous thanks to the PS5’s SSD.