Through Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales electricity flows, providing a powerful charge for the web slinging action and warmth for the family-oriented story. While this sequel is roughly half the length of Peter Parker’s 2018 adventure, it is consistently engaging and powerful, and it falls short when it comes to the bad guys’ influence on the entire experience.
Miles is Peter’s understudy, and while he’s learning what it means to be a hero, he takes the opportunity and stands on his own. His actions aren’t as subtle as Peter’s, but he’s weaving a more complex web on the battlefield that splendidly combines punching and stealth to decimate his enemies. Miles is brilliantly brought to life by actor Nadji Jeter who gives him an innocence that anchors most of the scenes and makes him a character to put down roots for. Miles is just getting to know his new home in Harlem, a beautifully realized place with a multitude of cultures, languages and festive Christmas decorations.
Through Miles’ first days of Spider-Man unfolding off-screen in the first game’s DLC, Insomniac bypasses some of the uncomfortable growing pains of a new hero. From the moment you take control of him, he’ll feel like a seasoned Spider-Man. He swings dangerously over crowded city streets, shooting belt straps to stop the speed of cars, and using his spider sense to slide through bullets. In those opening moments, Miles’ moveset feels a bit like a copy of Peter, but that changes quickly once he gains access to his new powers.
Miles differs from his mentor in two ways. The greatest is its ability to disguise itself and completely disappear from view. This technique not only makes stealth easier and more satisfying, it also provides the ability to reset encounters. Opponents can lose sight of Miles and revert to their patterns so you can try and silently pick them up again. This eases some of the difficulties, but Camo amplifies those conflicts very well and also makes Miles feel like a very different kind of hero than Peter.
His second unique power is called Venom, with which he can electrify punches, strokes and jumps. The Venom maneuvers are incredibly fun and will make you think differently in combat as you always try to squeeze enemies together so that the Venom’s electric jolt immobilizes numerous targets at once. Insomniac also zooms in the camera to give those devastating blows a more satisfying wallop. However, this also leads to the problem that the player’s view is restricted, which leads to problems in detecting enemies. The closer view isn’t a huge setback, but I felt like when I was in control of Peter in the first game, I had better visibility and awareness.
Plus, battle scenarios never escalate to the insane levels Peter struggled with. You won’t see any air units or really massive waves of enemies. Most encounters end quickly, but are always exciting and well sewn into missions. The open world activities are better designed this time around with an emphasis on limiting repetitions. You don’t have to commit a lot of crimes at all and just need to complete the missions and find all the collectibles to get 100 percent completion. Having all the activities close at hand in the handy phone app developed by Miles’ friend Ganke Lee can streamline the process and spend less time on the menu screen. You still have to go there after leveling up to get the significant skill tree upgrades and purchase new mods for your suits, but the focus is now more on the pure gameplay which is great.
As you explore the open world, Miles’ bioelectric skills improve his web swinging as well. A burst of poison sends him higher up in the air or in a quick shot, and both of these add a little extra superhero power to exploration. Using these skills forces the player to perform aerial tricks to fill their poison meter, which makes your time in the air more active and fun again.
Everything you do branches beautifully from the central narrative arc, which is intensely focused on Miles and his family. The slower moments are sure to be the best of the game, some even come as fun musical montages. Insomniac has put a lot of heart and soul into these sequences, and they go a long way towards making the big revelations and dramatic moments click.
All of the story-focused missions and side activities are well designed and often result in great offset moments (the introductory Rhino fight is mind-boggling) and rewards that come from new suits or additional online activities.
I really enjoyed the way Miles’s story unfolds, but she hangs her mask on some clichéd coming-of-age hooks. Outside of his personal and family turmoil, he is not exposed to any defined threat. Roxxon is billed as the evil presence, but you won’t see a lot of bad guys – a tremendous change from the first game. The rhinoceros is most pronounced and the first you see. Some others are teased, but they never materialize into anything other than cameos. Roxxon and The Underground fall a little flat, but the emotional ties they have with Miles pay off in a satisfactory way.
For a second act, Marvel’s Spider-Man satisfies: Miles Morales. It’s just as exciting as it was to go online and soar over a wintry New York skyline, and Miles is becoming a fantastic hero. This follow-up doesn’t have that much of a sinister punch, but it does deliver some great plot twists and turns, ending with another eye-opening post-credits sequence that teases an exciting future for Insomniac’s Spider-Man series.