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Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: Nov. 12, 2020


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PS4 Review - 'Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales'

by Redmond Carolipio on Nov. 6, 2020 @ 5:00 a.m. PST

The latest adventure in the Spider-Man universe will build on and expand Marvel's Spider-Man through an all-new story.

Buy Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales

The first time you see Peter Parker on the title screen for Marvel's Spider-Man, he's in full Spidey gear, perched on a building and overlooking New York City, fully entrenched in his role as the city's friendly neighborhood guardian. What you see from the titular lead when you fire up Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is different: an unmasked, regular high school kid riding a populated subway, scanning his phone and wearing headphones settled on his neck.

It's an endearing contrast: Pete, casting an eye over all neighborhoods from a classic vantage point; Miles, his protege, among the people on the ground and in the community.

A warm and heartfelt sense of connectivity is what binds the Spider-Man: Miles Morales experience together. It's in the blood of both the gameplay and the narrative, which starts about a year after the events of Marvel's Spider-Man, where Peter and Miles first met after the death of Miles' father, and Miles discovered traces of his own Spidey powers near the end of the game.

He's moved from Brooklyn to Harlem with his mom, who's running for city council. His best buddy Ganke is also hanging with him for a few weeks. Through all of this, Miles tries to maintain a sense of work-life balance, with his "work" as an apprentice to Spidey moving to the forefront.

That brings us to the game's first action, where I got literal chills swinging around as Miles for the first time as he wore his makeshift hoodie/Spider-Man outfit. The chills could be figurative as well, as it's Christmas season in the city, and snow has covered Harlem and the surrounding areas to provide a touch of visual winter beauty. Spider-Man the elder (Peter Parker) asks Miles to tag-team with him on a security escort mission, babysitting a heavy-duty, helicopter-carried cell that's carrying a high-value prisoner to the infamous Raft prison.

That prisoner ends up being Rhino, who of course busts the restraints on his cell and causes it to crash down somewhere in a crowded part of New York. He emerges from the wreckage, and now it's go time for both Spider-men. What follows is a breathtaking corral-and-chase sequence that features Peter trying to rein in the massive Rhino with webs as Miles (and you, the player) re-familiarize yourself with the fast, high-pace combat that made this game's predecessor so alluring. There is a truly awesome moment when Miles must take the web reins of Rhino from Pete and proceeds to "drive" Rhino through a crowded shopping center, inevitably crashing into and through almost everything in front of him. Peter eventually gets incapacitated, and it's up to Miles to take down Rhino.

These two last met in the previous game, where a younger Miles needed to elude and hide from sheer doom at the hands of the Russian wrecking machine. But here, Miles runs from no one. That's courtesy of his discovery of his "venom" ability, where Miles can charge with bioelectricity to get a striking power that can wobble Rhino with one hit and smash away lesser enemies. Miles manages to put down Rhino, save Peter, and meet up with the head of R&D from Roxxon, the energy megacorporation that's been carving out a substantial footprint in the city and comes with its own handy private military.

Before Miles has time to truly absorb what's happened, Peter drops the bomb: He's going on a work vacation with MJ to Symkaria for a few weeks, leaving Miles as New York's lone Spider-Man. After a musical montage that gives off heavy "Into the Spider-Verse" energy, New York truly opens up for Miles, and his real Spider-Man education begins.

If you played Marvel's Spider-Man, then you'll know the bones of the structure: large, open world with plenty of things to see and do to go along with small tasks, side missions and the main story. Taking all of these elements into account, the main story and sheer number of missions is a lot more condensed and doesn't take nearly as long to peel through compared to the first game. I expected that, so I was prepared for the game to crunch a lot of emotion and intensity into those hours.

I mentioned connectivity earlier in regards to both narrative and gameplay. On the narrative side, I won't reveal anything earth-shattering, but Miles' world presented through the lens of his connection to his family, friends and community feels like a celebration of culture and diversity, which makes it especially timely given the politically and socially charged climate we find ourselves in. Miles' side missions, which are accessible through a Ganke-crafted "Friendly Neighborhood" app, can range from finding a bodega owner's lost cat to tracking down thieves who are robbing small local businesses, like the barbershop or a restaurant called "Pana Fuerte," which I wish was real, because it just sounds like good food would be there. Other side tasks dip into Miles' personality, like tracking down sounds around town so he can work on making beats. He also has some of the fun wit that comes along with donning the suit — I chuckled when a terror group called the Underground hijacked an electronic billboard to display its logo, and Miles asks himself, "Why take over a billboard? Intimidation? Are they dropping a new single?"

The presence of Roxxon touches upon classic big corporations-vs.-the-people conflict that both Miles (and his council-candidate mom) find themselves embroiled in. There's also the aforementioned Underground, an anti-Roxxon activist group that uses tech that can change form into a variety of weapons and armor, led by a figure known as the Tinkerer. There's connective narrative tissue here as well, but the conflicts Miles has with both of these groups, along with basic well-armed criminals, serve as a showcase for his new abilities, which, along with his gadgets, can also be upgraded through a slightly scaled-down skill tree.

The game finds plenty of creative uses for Miles' bioelectric "venom" power that stretch beyond the ability to hit people hard. For instance, Miles can jumpstart dormant generators, using his webs to form makeshift conduits from one power source to another. Some of the game's puzzles test this ability. I found the puzzle work to be more active and action-oriented than in the previous game, where Peter fixed circuits and arranged chemical slides for bonuses. Here, Miles does more wheel- and lever-pulling or uses his webs to "freeze" certain gears in place.

That's not all. Miles eventually discovers the ability to "cloak" himself, rendering him invisible to the naked eye, which opens up a variety of stealth and battle possibilities that Peter wouldn't naturally have open to him. I enjoyed occasionally dropping into a group of enemies, taking one out, then turning invisible in front of them, which freaks them out even more and allows you to find a solid hiding/planning spot.

My favorite part of playing the game was probably its tone and feel. "Into the Spider-Verse" is probably one of my favorite movies of all time, and Insomniac has managed to capture that essence and put it into game form. There's a rhythm, musicality and spirit here that not only gave me the occasional chill but also made me smile — a lot. From the English-to-Spanish-to-English phone communication with his mom, to Ganke's constant presence as Miles' "man-in-the-chair" to the little musical cinema montages, there isn't a moment that I didn't enjoy whipping through the city with Miles. I even liked unlocking and collecting suits, one of the coolest being the suit from Spider-Verse, complete with a mod that makes Miles move in that choppy and trippy animation style featured in the movie.

My only real gripe about Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is that I wish there were more of it. Miles and the rest of his circle are absolutely capable of being compelling enough to carry a game for twice the length. I just like this kid, and I think a lot of other people will, too.

Score: 8.5/10

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