Cross-generational games are what I would call “compromise titles” because devs and publishers would want to make a splash in the new generation of consoles without looking like they’re leaving the soon-to-be last gen out in the cold. In many cases, the titles ended up running poorly on the old hardware while not really representative of what the new gen can offer.
Spider Man: Miles Morales is thankfully not one of those titles. More like a spin-off than a true sequel, it has enough identity to differentiate it from its predecessor while expanding the Marvel Gaming Universe in surprising ways. It’s as fun a game as you would expect from your friendly neighborhood Spider Man.
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I always felt that Miles Morales was a standout in the first game. While I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed his gameplay sections, I liked him as a character and the fact that you get to see the events of the game from the point of view of someone personally affected by Spider-Man’s actions. Developer Insomniac did Peter Parker good in the first game, and I’m happy to say that they did the same for Miles as well. His character is not only likeable, but loveable. While he is going through the same challenges that Peter did in the first game, the way he handles them is what sets him apart.
Both Spider-Man games are as “colorful” as you would expect from a Marvel property. But as a person of color, Miles Morales adds to it a new context, and the game does reflect real-world issues in its graffiti. It does not rub it on your face, but the game does show – through its story and its presentation, that this African-American/Latino kid is a good person, a role-model, and a true hero. Its cast of characters are pretty diverse with white, black, asian, and Latin-American from the mains to the sides and down to the NPCs.
Miles’ journey is full of obstacles as he tries to live up to the responsibility of being Spider-Man. Being a hero isn’t all just about web-slinging, and fancy heroics, but a lot of hard, punishing, sometimes thankless work. Peter Parker tries to assure Miles that it’s okay to screw up every once in a while, a fear that the kid seems to have during the early part of the game. It’s part of the journey, part of the process, as being a superhero also means doing things nobody else would and could do, and often you’ll have to figure out on your own. A lesson clearly demonstrated in the first game.
This is something that I really like in the more recent action games where it’s not all about superhero derring-do, but also their personal stories, struggles and growth. Miles isn’t only adjusting to life as Spider-Man, he is also trying to fit in a new neighborhood, along with the usual struggles of growing up. Peter Parker was an adult in the first game, so while it showed the delicate balancing act in keeping up the Spider-Man act while being Peter Parker, he also already figured it out by that point. With Miles, he’s still a kid, with a parent at that, so the challenge was different. What comes out is a game where you don’t just beat the bad guys and save the day, there’s a wonderful story about family, friendship, responsibility, and courage underneath it.
On the technical side, Spider-Man: Miles Morales retains the same graphic fidelity as its predecessor on the current-gen consoles (which are about to become last-gen in a few days time). The next-gen version will always be superior in terms of visuals and performance, but Insomniac made sure the current gen version isn’t garbage. This is where the game’s similarity to the first one works in its favor. If you cannot transition to either the PS5 this year or in the foreseeable future, you won’t be left behind. Not unless you are uncompromising on things like 4K resolution and high framerate.
The game performs pretty well on my base PS4. I experienced only one freeze when Miles received a call post-swing, but the game quickly recovered. Other than that one time, it runs as well as the first game with no crashes as of writing.
The game isn’t just a copy-paste from the previous one either. Although Miles and Peter share some basic animations, Miles moves quite differently from Peter plus he has unique abilities. And while the game has the same combat and progression system, the skill and gadget tree are tailored to Miles’ personality and abilities. It’s a good example of keeping the core intact while making it feel fresh and unique.
With regards to gameplay, Miles Morales plays the same as the previous game, and while that can be construed as a negative for some, I don’t think it’s the case here. Everything really comes down to the details and presentation, and even with the same mechanics for combat and traversal, it is tailored to fit Miles perfectly.
That said, I’ll just mention some minor hiccups. Besides the above-mentioned freeze, I did encounter several pop-ups, like vehicles suddenly spawning during combat in the street. There are also some frame-rate drops as I transitioned from cut-scenes to gameplay, but nothing particularly game-breaking. The NPCs also vary in quality, but it’s something that is present in the previous game, and given the fact that this game is running on old tech, I hardly expected to. Some NPCs look detailed durinh specific missions so it’s easy to overlook. But I would say that if I was reviewing this game on the PS5, it would definitely be a point of criticism from me.
Also, I’m struggling quite a bit when Miles does a web-crawl. It may be the camera, or the controls just feel clunky during those times when I had to do it. The camera can also be atrocious during combat with large numbers of enemies, but it’s something that the player can easily adapt to. Not game-breaking, but it’s something I feel worth noting.
This is one of the easiest reviews I ever made for the simple reason that there’s not much to criticize about it. It plays just as good as the first game, with an arguably better story. It keeps a lot of the same features and mechanics but recasts them in Miles Morales’ image. A notable example of how reusing assets and mechanics don’t need to be a bad thing.
While the next-gen version is definitely superior in the technical department, the current gen version is still well optimized. It’s a win-win for both, and another victory for Insomniac, Sony, Marvel, and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.