A STATEMENT OF INTENT
Right from the moment you boot up Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5, the game demands your immediate attention. If the lighting-fast loading speeds don’t impress you, then the game’s glorious visuals and chill Hip-Hop infused soundtrack certainly will. These opening moments are a very definite statement of intent from Sony and developer Insomniac Games. It’s a confident response to the question of what PlayStation gamers can expect of this console generation. Much like the story’s lead character, the game bears a heavy burden of responsibility; being the system’s spotlight launch title. Similarly, it also has to deal with the insane levels of hype and expectation given the success of its predecessor.
In a similar vein to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, the game is a standalone story, that expands upon the universe established in the critically acclaimed Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PS4. Set in a wintry, festive New York, we meet Miles one year along his journey into the Spider-Verse. After a spectacular battle against Rhino alongside the OG Spidey, Peter Parker, the task of protecting New York falls squarely on the relatively inexperienced, but capable shoulders of the games’ titular character.
WITH GREAT POWER…
The technical aspects of the game have already garnered much adoration and praise, but its tightly woven narrative is every bit as impressive. It is closer in tone to an origin story, and we see how the pressures of becoming Spider-Man impact Miles’ relationships. Through his connection to the supporting cast of characters we see what defines and distinguishes Miles’ from his more well-known counterpart. Themes of responsibility; the use of power; and the delicate balancing of relationships, are all thoughtfully explored from Miles’ unique viewpoint. It’s all underpinned by a story of a kind-hearted teen on the cusp of manhood, trying to do his very best.
It not just about family and close friends, either. It’s also his relationship to the people of New York, who are unsure if this new kid on the block is up to scratch. What immediately draws you in about Nadji Jeter’s performance as Miles is his natural likeability, his humility, and his genuine desire to help anyone in need. From simple conversations to larger set-pieces, each interaction improves the public’s perception, making those normally mundane and plentiful fetch quests an actual joy to pursue.
REFINING THE EXPERIENCE
The flow of the narrative is enhanced by an intuitive and pleasingly familiar control system. Insomniac clearly took an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the core gameplay, with only a few noteworthy tweaks to speak of. Traversal, for example, is almost identical, and since it’s the thing you’ll be doing most of, it’s imperative that it be fun, engaging, and doesn’t quickly become repetitive. Thankfully, swinging through the city at speed, tricking your way across rooftops, and point launching through impossible gaps is just as satisfying as ever. Miles has his own distinctive style that looks overzealous, almost clumsy at times; perfectly in keeping with youthful exuberance of the character. The DualSense controller’s impressive haptics enhance the experience, too, adding a feeling of tension and inertia to your web-line as you swing around the city.
Combat is also very familiar, but Miles’ arsenal is vastly improved from the previous game. The addition of bio-electrical “Venom” attacks provides players with formidable crowd control options; hugely useful in gaining some much-needed breathing space when swarmed by enemies or halting a powerful foe in their tracks. Perhaps the biggest upgrade, though, is in terms of stealth. While cloaked, it is possible to take out an army of enemies silently and quickly in several creative ways, albeit within a limited window before upgrades. It’s also a fantastic tool for vacating a hot spot and relocating, allowing time to rethink a flawed strategy.
VISUAL SHOWCASE FOR PS5
Perhaps the most talked about aspect of the game is its visual presentation. This latest console generation has heightened awareness of the various technologies employed to create such impressive images. These days, even casual gamers are familiar with the terms: framerate, dynamic resolution, ray-tracing, and volumetric shadows. It’s so easy to become bogged down in details, numbers, and stats. Ultimately, it’s about how it looks and plays on your chosen display.
Quite simply, Spider Man: Miles Morales looks jaw-dropping. Whether playing performance mode or fidelity mode, the game looks and plays amazingly well. Insomniac’s proprietary engine delivers smooth, detail-packed performance, with some outstanding particle and elemental effects. The crisp winter wonderland of downtown New York is accurately and beautifully rendered. Character clothing, skin, and hair textures genuinely look photo-realistic. Swing around the neighborhood and you’ll find plenty of fun easter eggs that’ll keeping you searching for more.
SOUNDS OF THE CITY
John Paesano’s vibrant and exhilarating cinematic score adds another layer of continuity to the game universe. It builds on themes established in Spider-Man PS4, lending drama to combat and cut scenes, and providing a laid-back groove to accompany swinging and wall-crawling. The soundtrack also features specially produced tracks by Hip-Hop artists Jaden and Lecrae, which touch on important character themes, whilst being fun, inspirational, and reflective of the character’s cultural background.
However, the game is certainly not without its problems. There are several graphical and functionality issues which need to be patched; ranging from the hilarious to the hugely frustrating. Videos on social media showed Miles transformed into a lamppost or a wooden box, and the game has also been known to crash during chaotic combat sequences. Physical disc installations have mysteriously disappeared due to a concurrent download issue. Not exactly the experience you’d hope for after shelling out over £60 for a game. In fairness, though, these are incredibly early days. At the time of writing a new patch has been released which will hopefully address those issues.
Those relatively minor hiccups aside, the game is a triumph overall for both Sony and Insomniac. To match its wildly successful forebear was a big ask, but Spider-Man: Miles Morales goes one step further and improves upon it. A wonderfully engaging storyline, stunning visuals, and ice-cool soundtrack elevate it to ‘must-play’ status. Miles Morales is the Spider-Man the world needs right now. On this showing, it looks like he’s very much here to stay.
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