Sunday, January 31, 2021

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

SPC closes out the first month of 2021 with one final review. It's for a launch game for the PlayStation 5, but we're actually going to take a look at the lesser-reviewed PlayStation 4 version. It's Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and without further ado, let's swing into action with the SPC review.

Miles ahead of other superhero video game sequels

The PlayStation 5 launched with not one, not two, not three, but four first-party games. An impressive lineup and accomplishment if there ever was one for a console's launch. However, two of these first-party games were also released on the PlayStation 4, same day and date: Sackboy: A Big Adventure and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales. While most of the attention regarding both of these games was heavily focused on the PlayStation 5 versions, I wanted to devote some time to looking at the previous generation versions. You might have already seen my Sackboy: A Big Adventure review, but now it's time for Insomniac Games' cross-gen superhero action game to get its turn under the microscope. 

The entirety of Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place over the Christmas holiday.

Coming off the original Marvel's Spider-Man's ending, Miles Morales has his newfound powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider similar to the one that gave Peter Parker his powers. Over the past months, Miles has been in training under the tutelage of the O.G. Spider-Man. With Peter Parker leaving the country to go on a trip with Mary Jane that means that while the Spider's away, Miles will... well, not so much PLAY as he takes up the crimefighting burden in Parker's stead. What follows is a personal struggle between living up to Spider-Man's legacy while carving his own path. This is all in the middle of a corporate conspiracy that delves deeply and blurs the line between Miles' private and superhero parts of his life along the way. 

When a standard, trademark Spidey quip won't do, Miles lets his feet do the talking.

Miles plays similarly to the original Spider-Man--after all--he was trained by Peter--but there are various key differences. While Miles' mobility options are mostly unchanged from the Peter's from the first game--what, with the web swinging, web rushing, climbing walls, running up walls, hanging from ceilings, etc.--this new Spidey has some new tricks of his own. These are Venom powers: electrically charged moves that deliver heavy damage to surrounding enemies. As you progress through the story, more become unlocked. From a Venom Punch that sends an electrified fist directly into the faces of foes, to a Venom Jump that sends surrounding foes in Miles' immediate radius up into the air, these moves stun and bring a whole world of hurt onto the new webhead's repertoire of baddies. Each Venom power uses up a section of a special orange gauge that refills as Miles attacks enemies and successfully evades attacks. 

With the Venom punch and other Venom powers, Miles can really send shocks to his enemies' systems!

And that's not all the new tricks that Miles has in his arsenal. Around the midpoint of the game he earns the ability to temporarily camouflage, offering a way to stealthily sneak up on unsuspecting enemies and take them out, or utterly bewilder and confuse foes as he disappears right in front of their faces--a perfect move for getting the heck out of dodge in a flash. There's a cooldown period in between camouflage uses, so it's not something you can just cheese on and off at any time to make encounters easy.

While a lot of times stealth will work--taking down enemies silently from walls, ceilings, perches, and directly from behind--sometimes Miles will just have to get his hands (and feet with regard to kicks) dirty. There are a great number of options available to players in combat situations. Everything from web powers to Venom powers, to gadgets like Miles' web shooters, remote mines, or gravity wells that act like a vacuum to baddies, are all available and fair to use. It's a ballet of carnage, and with enough practice, you can battle even the biggest of baddies with elegance and grace as you evade enemies and cycle between fists, kicks, webbing, Venom powers, and gadgets. This is all as your combo multiplier soars to impressive heights. 

Have a nice trip, see you next fall.

Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a shorter game than Insomniac's original take on Spidey, clocking in at just under ten hours to beat. However, that is partly due to a lot of the fat from the original game being cut out. There are no stealth missions with powerless playable characters to concern yourself with, which was a major sticking point for this reviewer--among many others players out there. That said, there is an ample amount of side activities to participate in to beef up the playtime of the game. For one, there is checking a helpful "Friendly Neighborhood" app with a quick swipe of the Dualshock's touchpad. This brings up a list of what are essentially side quests to take on from citizens around Manhattan. These range between finding lost pets to more involved scenarios, such as cracking down a crime ring that is stealing from the local F.E.A.S.T. shelter from the first game. 

Miles' friend, Ganke's helpfully designed app allows you to select from a myriad of missions.
These can even be replayed at your leisure for extra experience and activity tokens.

Then, there are fun side activities like holographic training missions set up by Peter Parker before his trip out of town, involving everything from combat to stealth. There are also enemy bases to enter, dispatch all enemies inside either stealthily or not, and complete a specific task in each. Whether you're simply completing side missions, stopping the abundance of crimes that pop up in the city, or gathering collectables like weapons caches and time capsules, you earn experience to learn new abilities via skill tree, and goods that can be used to buy and upgrade various suits, visors, and gadgets. 

Even after the credits roll, there is plenty of post-game content to have a reason to continue shooting webs and swinging around Manhattan. Unlike the original Marvel's Spider-Man, which received a New Game+ option after release in a post-launch patch, you can enjoy a new game with all of your stats, suits, experience, and more already included with the game. Plus, if you so wish, you can take on the Ultimate difficulty, where enemies are ruthless, damage is high, and your Spidey skills have to be of the utmost quality to survive. Even still, we're talking about 16-20 hours of playtime to complete everything both in-game and trophy-wise for Miles Morales. Not bad at all, considering the shorter playtime encourages more play-throughs. I know at least I'll happily return to Harlem and Manhattan as Miles. 

That said, as a shorter sequel to Marvel's Spider-Man, there are some glaring issues I have with the game. A major one is how lesser polished of an experience the entire package feels as a whole. There were multiple occurrences of enemies phasing through walls--out of reach of Miles' attacks, resulting in having to reload a previous checkpoint--instances of falling and clipping through geometry, and various visual glitches. The frame-rate of the PlayStation 4 version isn't the most impressive when things get busy with obvious slow-down at times. I say "obvious" because even someone like myself who usually isn't bothered by or notices such issues had problems with the frame-rate in this game, especially during some cut-scenes. That said, I was impressed with the PS4 version's loading times. While nowhere as instantaneous as the PlayStation 5's, fast traveling around Manhattan (once that option unlocked) was relatively quick, taking about ten seconds to do depending on the distance being traveled. 

While not as impressive of a looker on the PlayStation 4 when compared to the new hotness of the PS5,
 Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales still impresses on Sony's older hardware.

Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales was given a bit of a disservice pre-launch for coming off as but a short expansion to Insomniac Games' original web-slinging adventure. However, Miles' game is so much more. It offers a greater amount of combat options, improved mobility, and a story that I was eager to press on and find out what was going to happen next. Technical bugs and glitches do bring the overall experience down, at least on the PlayStation 4, but overall, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales swings with the best of them and is a worthy follow-up to the original Spider-Man.

[SPC Says: B+]

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