Saturday, 23 January 2021

Game Review: Marvel's Spider-Man – Miles Morales

After the success of Oscar-winning animated film Into the Spider-Verse, it should come as no surprise that Miles Morales would swing into the spotlight and play protagonist in Insomniac's Spider-Man series on the PlayStation. 

Set not long after the first game, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales sees the titular hero tasked with defending New York from Roxxon, a nefarious tech conglomerate, and a flurry of foes, including Tinkerer, Rhino and Prowler, during an especially snowy and wintery Christmas holiday.

Released last November as a launch title for the PlayStation 5, the scaled-back sequel (it's nowhere near as big as the first) is a welcome return for this world and its characters, with familiar gameplay and mission variety. The core principles are the same; a detailed open world where players can swing through Manhattan and stop crimes, frenetic button-mashing action centred on combos and gadgetry, and slick linear storytelling anchored by blockbuster set pieces. 

Where Miles Morales deviates the most from its predecessor is its combat mechanics; unlike vanilla Spider-Man, Miles has the power to attack enemies with a powerful electric charge, called his Venom Powers. The game integrates these in a number of ways; Miles can punch, leap and lunge at goons with surprising force; he can harness an electrical current to open doors and solve puzzles; and he can turn invisible, giving him an edge when operating covertly. 

As a result, it feels like this game packs more of a punch and possesses more variety than the first; Miles can cut through enemies with ease, particularly if you can string together a sophisticated combo that rolls on and on. There are still some new enemy variants towards the endgame that reign Miles back in, but I never felt challenged through the combat in this game like I did in the first. 

The combat controls do have a fluidity to them; an undeniable flow that is extremely satisfying to sink into. The same goes for the game's traversal controls (however, these remain largely unchanged). Swinging through New York, leaping over tall buildings and darting through tight gaps is a joy – and really simple to pick up again for returning players.

The puzzles are interesting too, but can be a little repetitive – they're all variations on a theme of 'open a door by reconnecting the power'. 

I'm a big advocate for succinct games that don't run on and on and on; there's nothing worse that grinding through a stream of dull side missions or a storyline that doesn't know when to wrap it up. Thankfully, Miles Morales is short and sweet, with the main story only taking somewhere in the region of eight to 10 hours to complete.

That's not to say there's not plenty of supplementary stuff to occupy completionists; like the first game, the large open world is littered with little things to see and do. There's time capsules, weapon cases and postcards to collect, enemy bases to battle, music samples to seek out and side quests to complete through an app Miles and friend Ganke have developed. 

The good news is, most of this is optional – the side quests are hit and miss, so pick and choose wisely, and I didn't find collecting the time capsules and music samples too laborious. But I had no desire to grind through all the little bits and bobs in pursuit of that coveted 100 per cent. 

And while the game's costumed foes are great (this rendition of Tinkerer is especially interesting), the primary antagonist – a corporate suit called Simon Kreiger – is the blandest man alive. He isn't imposing, menacing or even threatening – just boring to look at and listen too. Bleh. 

The Verdict: 8/10

A solid sequel that makes enough tweaks to feel like its own thing, rather than a retread. That said, performance issues on the PlayStation 4 were a big bugbear for me – from dips in frame rate and janky cutscenes, to more serious issues that required me to quit and reload from the home screen. 

Marvel's Spider-man: Miles Morales was reviewed on PlayStation 4. 

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