Goondu review: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

February 5th, 2021 | by Yap Hui Bin
Goondu review: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Gaming
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Need some decent Marvel action since there were no Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies in 2020? You’ve got Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales to the rescue.

Developed by Insomniac Games, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a third-person action adventure game where you play Miles Morales as the new friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

It is a PlayStation exclusive, which means those lucky ones who possess the PlayStation 5 can play on the brand new console. 

I’m happy to report that I managed to complete Spider-Man: Miles Morales on the regular, non-pro version of the PlayStation 4 successfully.

Although it didn’t have terrible performance problems, there were occasional slowdowns and glitches, such as map markers for quests disappearing or quests not activating – restarting the game was an easy fix.

The biggest issue I encountered, and that was only once, was when the game crashed to the PlayStation menu screen during a snowy cutscene.

So if you are wondering if you need to hold out until you get your PlayStation 5 before playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales, just know that you won’t – you can still enjoy the game on the older PlayStation 4. 

New kid on the block

If you have watched the animated movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, or played the first Marvel’s Spider-Man game in 2018, the main characters in the game will be familiar to you.

But in case you didn’t, Miles Morales is a 17-year-old high-schooler of African-American and Puerto Rican descent, who is fond of music, science and geeky stuff.

He was bitten by a radioactive spider and developed superhuman abilities, much like what happened to Peter Parker. But Miles has additional special abilities including bio-electricity and invisibility, which make him an outstanding character to play. 

When the mentee outshines the mentor – Miles Morales stands firm as his own superhero and not just as a shadow of Peter Parker. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

At the beginning of the game, we see Miles understudying Peter Parker, helping him out on a mission and getting ready to step in as Spider-Man while Peter takes a vacation with MJ.

We don’t see much of Peter Parker in this game except at the beginning and the end, so it is crucial that Miles can stand on his own as a character as well as the new friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. 

Fortunately, Miles is a very likeable character, barring his occasional cringe-worthy cheesy jokes. He’s a nice friend and a good son, and a helpful presence around the neighbourhood.

He volunteers at the Food, Emergency, Aid, Shelter and Training (FEAST) homeless shelter where Aunt May used to work. He’s genuinely a nice person even without his superpowers. 

His overwhelming desire to help people makes it very hard to get from place to place without stopping to help people along the way, as established in the introductory cutscene, which shows us what a nice guy he is.

The game does a good job in balancing all the intense crime-fighting that Spider-Man does with Miles’ personal struggles which jolt us back to the fact that he’s really just a boy with real-life, regular teenager problems.

Being a minority also gives this game a different perspective, and there are also strong characters in the game from different ethnicities.

Just like in the Spider-Man: Homecoming movie where Peter has his friend Ned as “the guy in the chair”, Miles also has a nerdy Asian friend – Ganke Lee – behind the desk who helps him out remotely in his missions.

Besides obtaining information to update Miles, Ganke also keeps Miles posted of crimes, hacks security systems and unlocks facilities to help Miles out.

Ganke is also the developer of a smartphone app for Miles known as FNSM, which stands for Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man for New Yorkers, to call on their favourite superhero to help them out.

It’s nice to have a good friend to watch his back and banter with, offering many opportunities for Miles to show off his cheesy humour.

Same same but different 

If you enjoyed Marvel’s Spider-Man, you will likely enjoy Spider-Man: Miles Morales too.

Just like its predecessor, Spider-Man: Miles Morales excels in fluid web-slinging action for moving from place to place as well as innovative combat and satisfying combos with his special powers.

The game mechanics have also been improved, which makes chaining combos much smoother and more enjoyable to execute. 

Spider-Man: Miles Morales makes a statement for the minorities and disadvantaged, and does so without being preachy. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Spider-Man: Miles Morales strives hard to differentiate between Miles and Peter, since playing Spider-Man in a suit can sometimes make you forget who is the guy inside.

One of the most apparent differences to me is the musical score throughout the game, which is heavy with hip-hop elements, even for the heroic Spider-Man theme.

There is also a strong sense of inclusiveness for minorities, which brings about a lot of cultural vibrancy in the game.  

Another distinction is that Miles’s suits are more bold and daring in their designs, which I thought are way cooler than Peter’s (sorry, Peter!).

My favourites are the Purple Reign suit in beautiful iridescent purple, the Programmable Matter suit with glowing hands and feet, and of course, the adorable Bodega Cat suit that has Miles carrying a masked cat in his backpack!

Who wears it better? Sorry Peter, but Miles’s suits are way cooler than yours. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

I do feel that the gameplay for Spider-Man: Miles Morales is more forgiving and simplified than its predecessor.

His powerful Venom moves are really useful against bosses and tough enemies, and Camouflage lets him evade hostiles stealthily.

But it doesn’t mean the game is easy, especially in the beginning when Miles has not fully unlocked his abilities.

Bosses in epic battles tend to have some tricks up their sleeves that require some practice and good reflexes to beat them, which adds to the challenge. 

The map is the same size since it is still based in New York, with the same districts like Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen and Greenwich. For variety, New York is now covered in snow instead of the clear and balmy scenery from the first game.

Overall, the game looks really good with great visual detail including accurate reflections off windows, stunning effects for Miles’s bio-electrical powers and realistic snow falling from the skies. I’m sure it looks a lot better on a PlayStation 5, but it looks pretty good on the PlayStation 4 too! 

In the beginning, it took me a while to get into the swing of things and brush up on my rusty web slinging skills, but soon it all came back and I soon had Miles traversing smoothly and even doing aerial stunts to score achievements.

Let it snow! It is constantly snowing in New York, which creates a whole different feel in the game. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Itsy busy spider

What fun is being a superhero if there aren’t any super villains to beat? Spider-Man: Miles Morales introduces a super cool new villain known as the Tinkerer, the leader of a gang known as the Underground.

Members are armed with powerful programmable matter weapons such as impenetrable gauntlets and shields, stretchable swords and even boots that enable them to leap up buildings, taking away Spider-Man’s height advantage.

The Underground gang is hell-bent on taking down the Roxxon Corporation, which is bringing in Nuform, a clean energy source that was allegedly making the citizens of New York sick.

Being a superhero means fighting super villains, which is challenging but fun. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Roxxon Corporation, on the other hand, has mercenaries who are armed to the teeth with powerful military weapons like rocket launchers, batons that disable Venom attacks as well as devices that can detect Spider-Man even under Camouflage.

Often, Spider-Man is caught in between the two groups and has to fight both parties in a three-way battle.

Apart from the two major gangs, Spider-Man also has to contend with a group of escaped convicts terrorising the city, as well as random thugs committing crimes against civilians. There’s no rest for the weary Spider-Man!

As Miles moves from place to place, random encounters often force him to stop and help, and also the FNSM app will have requests from people who need help in the city.

This adds to the tremendous burden on Miles in trying to save his neighbourhood. Despite all the things Miles has to do, I felt that this game is much shorter than the original Marvel’s Spider-Man.

Also, the mission variety for both the main story as well as optional side quests are rather lacking and can get repetitive compared to the earlier game.  

Even after the main missions are completed and the credits are over, there is still more to play. Miles is rewarded with a rather emotional scavenger hunt around the city that his father has set up for him.

Crime never sleeps, so the random crime challenges will still crop up. If you are game to replay the story missions again, there is also a “New Game +” mode that lets you start the game with all the moves, abilities, gadgets and suits unlocked, and offers additional suit mods, skills as well as gadget upgrades.

For me, what sweetens the deal is the suit with the cat in the bag that accompanies and helps Miles fight crime! 

My personal favourite suit for Miles – the Bodega Cat Suit that comes with a kitty companion wearing a Spider-Man mask! SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Spider Powers

What makes Spider-Man: Miles Morales so enjoyable are the powerful abilities that Miles possesses. Miles’s bio-electricity skills, or what he terms “Venom”, can be activated to pack a serious punch to his adversaries, even those behind heavy shields and gauntlets.

His Venom Punch is also a useful puzzle-solving device as Miles can power up generators and create an electrical circuit with his webs.

Apart from adding an extra punch in his attacks, he can also charge generators up by hitting them with a Venom Punch. What I really enjoy is Miles’s Camouflage ability that turns him invisible temporarily, giving him an edge in stealth missions.

There is even a useful upgrade that turns on Camouflage automatically when Miles is in danger of being spotted – great for those heavily guarded strongholds!

Amazing combos and abilities make Spider-Man: Miles Morales a lot of fun! SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

To counter his foes, Miles needs to upgrade his skills and equipment. For Combat, Traversal and Stealth skills, he attends virtual hologram training classes from Peter, while he levels up on his Venom skills by spending Skill Points that are earned through completing missions.

To upgrade gadgets and mods for his suits, as well as to unlock new suits, Miles needs to collect and spend Activity Tokens and tech parts. 

Miles can select different suit mods to be equipped for different abilities. Unlike the original game where the choice of suit determines what abilities are bestowed on Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Miles Morales lets you pick the suit purely for aesthetic reasons and the suit mod which determines the abilities is selected independently. I prefer this.

Although Miles has much fewer gadgets than Peter, he does have access to some new ones, such as summoning Holo-drones to help him out in combat, Remote Mines that are useful in stealth missions for shocking enemies remotely, as well as a Gravity Well that causes all enemies in the vicinity to fall down. 

Now you see me – Miles’s camouflage ability is useful in stealth missions. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

New York, New York

In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, we see New York during winter, which is a nice visual change from the first game since the map is pretty much the same. It is hilarious to hear the tough crooks complaining about how cold it is and how much they hate it!

Like in the previous game, people on the ground are reactive to Spider-Man – some are genuinely star-struck, some are rude and put him down, while others cheer and thank him for helping out.

Seeing how they react to Miles’ presence makes the city feel so interactive and realistic. With Miles being part of a racial minority, the game also takes the opportunity to be inclusive without being preachy, which is a welcome effort in games.

Despite being based in New York City,  which is not very large, the game’s design is still able to offer a decent area for exploration as it takes advantage of Spider-Man’s abilities to traverse across rooftops and vertical spaces.

And if you are tired of swinging from place to place, Spider-Man can also fast-travel by taking the subway to various stations across the map.

Clearing out enemy hideouts was fun in the beginning but it got rather repetitive after multiple times. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

When you are taking a break from the main story missions, Spider-Man can check the FNSM app to see who needs his help, and also take down various Roxxon labs and Underground strongholds.

While swinging around New York City, Spider-Man will also encounter frequent and random occurrences of crime happening around the city.

However, some are rather repetitive and seem to keep occurring even though I had played through them a few times already, so I had to go against Spider-Man’s good nature sometimes and just ignore them.

The upside is that doing all these activities rewards Miles with Activity Tokens for unlocking items.. 

The many collectibles scattered around the city also encourages you to explore the city.

Some are practical and useful, like the Underground caches that contain tech parts needed to upgrade Miles’s gadgets and unlock suits. Others are sentimental collectibles like time capsules that offer a glimpse into the relationship that Miles has with his friends.

Much later in the game, there is also a side quest where Miles has to record sound samples around the city and shed some light on the history between his dad and his uncle.

Besides the musical score that infuses hip-hop with the Spider-Man theme, the airwaves are also livened up by J. Jonah Jameson’s podcasts, which constantly puts Spider-Man down.

Thankfully, his negativity is balanced by a pro Spider-Man podcaster, Danika Hart, who collaborates with Spider-Man in doing an investigative piece on the Underground.

But a lot of times, I cannot hear most of the dialogue during battles as the action is too intense and I don’t have the bandwidth to read the subtitles either. I wish they saved the dialogue for cutscenes instead, since I’m sure I have missed a lot of discussion while beating up the villains.

TL;DR

Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an enjoyable web-slinging action adventure game that is a treat for those who enjoyed the 2018 Marvel’s Spider-Man.

However, with a smaller variety of missions and a shorter story, Spider-Man: Miles Morales felt like a lesser game than its predecessor.

With Miles Morales being such a likeable character with a good story and really cool Venom powers, it seems a pity that he isn’t able to show his full potential in this game which seems dumbed down from the previous title.  

Nonetheless, the improved game mechanics makes Miles’s special Venom attacks and combos so satisfying to unleash in combat. And his Camouflage skills add another dimension of gameplay in the stealth missions, which is plenty of fun.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is available at the PlayStation Store for the PlayStation 4 and 5 at . If you don’t have the first game, you can consider getting the Ultimate Edition at S$97.90, which includes Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered.

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