Insomniac Games and a PlayStation launch title? Find me a more iconic duo.
The team celebrated as the most versatile developer at PlayStation First Party Studios are about to make their big next generation debut. With a catalogue spanning first person shooters, third person action adventure titles, and open world games; they seem to excel at any challenge set before them.
Through the years, their rich and celebrated IP have given birth to such memorable and iconic characters including Spyro, Ratchet, Nathan Hale, and Fizzy. In essence, when I think of my history with PlayStation, an Insomniac Game is part and parcel with it. Whether it’s 2006’s Resistance: Fall of Man, 1998’s Spyro the Dragon, or 2018’s Spider-Man; Insomniac is a harbinger of quality and excellence.
Today, we find ourselves on the precipice of something quite special. An Insomniac Game’s Launch title for the PlayStation 5. A sequel to the best-selling and critically acclaimed Spider-Man in 2018- say hello to Spider-Man: Miles Morales. So let’s not waste any more time shall we?
This is RemotePlay’s review of Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
Set one year after the events of the first game, Spider-Man: Miles Morales kicks off with you controlling Miles on a subway. Thanks to the incredible SSD on the PlayStation 5, there is no waiting. The title screen immediately booted in-game within a handful of seconds.
The first thing you’ll notice in Spider-Man: Miles Morales, is the game seems more centered around our hero’s new home in Harlem. Harlem is intricately detailed with the theater of Latin music, the hustle of city life, and the panache of a culturally diverse city. It is just as much a character and theme to the game as the ensemble cast.
Before long, our hero finds himself in the middle of a feud between Roxxon Energy Corporation and a terrorist group called The Underground, while Peter is off on a much needed vacation in Europe with Mary Jane. Miles is also accompanied by Ganke, a tech wiz that helps him get a grasp with protecting New York. Also, an old friendship and family resurfaces with the introduction of his best friend, Phin Mason, and his uncle Aaron Davis.
As is tradition here at Remote Play, we are going to refrain from going too deep into narrative beats. So, no spoilers.
While the game’s story, and length, is much shorter than its predecessor, it’s tight packaging and pacing actually benefit the overall package. 2018’s Spider-Man found itself with multiple quests that were effectively padding. By contrast, Miles Morales is jam packed with substance with practically no filler. Each and every mission seems like it moves the plot forward with little in the way of distraction.
As the game gets going, the one thing quickly established is the age related challenges of Miles. Miles is in his teens, attending high school, and coming to grips with his new found abilities. This is a stark contrast to Peter Parker, who has by this time entered early adulthood and looks to be transitioning into a professional life.
Miles himself is such an easy character to like, while he has his doubts and insecurities on holding up the mantle of being a Superhero, he is never whiny or negative. His charisma portends to his larger net of friends (Ganke, etc.). Overall, I had more fun hanging out with a bunch of teenagers in Harlem than I ever did with Peter and Mary Jane in 2018. Who’d have thought?
Gameplay mechanics are similar to the first Spider-man, although Miles comes bearing his own superpowers and gadgets. This puts a really cool spin on combat. Unlike Peter, Miles has Venom technology, which are bioelectric attacks that can stun enemies. This makes fights against a large number of foes rewarding as the AoE effects lend some thoughtful strategy. If stealth is more your kind of thing, Miles can also go into Camouflage mode to be invisible to his enemies. Props to Insomniac for implementing these powers well into the game where you don’t feel overwhelmed with the choices you now have.
In terms of visuals – Insomniac sets an entirely new benchmark. Harlem is a breathtaking display of weather effects, vibrant and masterful use of reflections, and a painstaking attention to detail. Character model textures are the highest they’ve ever been, and Insomniac’s hair rendering system gives characters an almost CG-like quality. Mocap is also class-leading, and the density of NPC bystanders are larger than ever. Did I mention? The web slinging animation on Mile’s is absolutely breathtaking. Mile’s is slightly clumsier, but about a hundred times more stylish than Peter. It felt like I was break dancing through the skies.
On PlayStation 5, the game offers two options. The first, a fidelity mode, running in Dynamic 4K 30 FPS with Ray Tracing and every single bell and visual whistle cranked to the maximum. The second, Performance mode, running in Dynamic 4K with 60 FPS whilst cutting down on the more expensive visual features. Either way the results are BEAUTIFUL. Spider-Man: Miles Morales easily demonstrates the jump in fidelity and the buttery smooth kinetics of 60 FPS. At the end of the day: options are a good thing.
The sound design and music is also something that deserves to be commended. The usage of 3D audio makes the ambient sounds feels like you’re in the game’s recreation of New York, and some good foley work gives things a ‘premium’ feel. There was much said during the PS5 tech reveal about the PlayStation team lamenting the limited audio implementation games usually have. Miles feels like the sound design has matured enough that it meets the quality we only find in major motion pictures.
The soundtrack by John Paesano is a head bumping roller coaster. Whether it’s the title track from Jayden and Kid Cudi, the awesome Spanish Harlem tunes, or the subwoofer rumbling LFE; there is a ton here to make you bop your head. Just truly wonderful stuff.
During my playtime, I spent around 12 hours with Spider-Man: Miles Morales. While the more cynical out there could make a case that the game could be a large one off DLC expansion, the game felt, played, and was just the right length to feel like a standalone game. Insomniac went above and beyond for this half-step before Spider-Man 2. Fans would be missing out if they think this is nothing more than a template change of a DLC, as the developers have made something unmissable, and a worthy follow-up to the 2018 hit.
Before we wrap up the review, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this year. We are living in a year where the Black Lives Matter movement has taken shape, and the cultural identity of mainstream media is being challenged. As a minority, I want to say thank you to Insomniac for taking a risk on a young person of color. Ten years ago, I couldn’t possibly have imagined playing a game with a half Black, half Puerto Rican, Spider-Man protagonist. Thank you for taking Spider-Man in a direction where Harlem, representation, and culture is celebrated. On a personal level, Miles Morales isn’t just one of the best Spider-Man games, it’s the one that I feel most empowered by.
Developer: Insomniac Games / Publisher: PlayStaion Studios
Release date: 12/11/2020
Platforms: PS5 and PS4
Platform Reviewed: PS5
“Miles Morales isn't just one of the best Spider-Man games, it's the one that I feel most empowered by”