Can you say déjà vu? Why, yes, you can.
And as you might expect from a game that’s essentially built on the same platform as 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man, you get plenty of that déjà vu feeling with the new PS4 and PS5 game Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
But in this case, déjà vu is a pretty good thing.
Now, don’t get me wrong: This new game is not a rehash of everything the old game was. This is definitely the story of a guy named Mile Morales. But the great city-swinging and building-leaping mechanics of the previous game are front and center once again. And that gameplay pizzazz gives you the feeling of slipping into a familiar-and-comfy Spidey-suit right out of the skyscraper-scrambling gate.
That means, of course, that a well-crafted, open-world Manhattan is always at your sticky fingertips to explore and defend. But this game focuses more on Mile’s home turf of Harlem as the teen swings in and out of his mom’s apartment there.
So, what is Miles’ tale?
At the end of the 2018 game, Miles Morales’ story was set up. His policeman dad had been killed in a New York City bombing. Then Miles not only became good friends with one Peter Parker, he also ended up being bitten by a radioactive spider himself and gaining similar Spidey-powers.
At the beginning of this game, Miles is still learning the spider-webbing ropes. His costume is kinda pieced together with hoodies and sneakers, and his initial moves are a little watch-out-you’re-gonna-hit-that-dumpster awkward. But since Peter Parker is headed out of town for a while, it’ll be up to Miles (and you) to iron out his maneuvers and step up to being the city’s only Spidey-Guy for a while.
Part of that responsibility involves dealing with a militaristic tech conglomerate called Roxxon, that’s building a new plaza HQ in Harlem. And another part requires facing a highly weaponized underground group of terrorists that has its own dark and destructive agenda.
Frankly, though, it’s Miles’ family dynamic and the supporting friends in his life that really draw us into this story. And the gamemakers at Insomniac have done a great job of helping us care about teen Miles himself, his city councilwoman-wannabe mom, Rio, and the friends and community members around those two. And those acquired relationships help us wrestle with the responsibilities of trying to be a superhero while dealing with personal relationships that sometimes complicate noble ambitions.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Spider-Man game if there wasn’t lots of swing, bash and web-catapult beat-’em-ups in the mix. And there’s plenty of that to go ’round.
Not only are there new Miles-focused moves, but players will find new attacks and discoverable specialty suits, too—such as Miles’ mysteriously acquired bioelectric absorption/zapping abilities, and his ability to cloak himself for short periods. Sparks fly, and the battles between Miles and groups of different-colored bad-guy factions and bosses can range from Batman-like-stealthy to pull-out-all-the-stops bombastic.
Like the earlier Spidey game, combat is generally all about knocking out foes while trying to swing about and avoid their attacks. Players have a growing list of possible web-swinging, punch/kick/throw/dodge moves. And, of course, the big bosses each have specialty moves that you have to diagnose and figure out how to counter, too. All of that adds up to a lot of intricate button-mashing to achieve the desired results.
The baddies many times have automatic and high-tech zapping weaponry which dole out small splashes of blood when they hit the mark. (And there’s one cutscene that shows a bound individual being beaten with a bat.) But all in all, there’s nothing gory in the sometimes intense, swarmed-by-baddies battle action.
There is, however, some T-rated language in the bad guy dialogue. I ran into uses of the s-word and exclamations of “a–hole” and “prick.” (There was one moment when I thought I heard an f-word; but it was never repeated, and the ESRB did not make note of it.)
In spite of those thumping and what-did-he-say bits, I must report that I actually ended up enjoying this game a bit more than the original.
Yes, the battling can sometimes feel repetitive and the quests a little typically grinding, just like any game of this stripe might. But there was something fun in helping Miles improve his initially clumsy skillsets. And something inspiring about watching this likeable teen try to do what’s right, protecting his loved ones and shouldering the heavy mantle of a hero.
There’s also a nicely crafted world here—from the dinners with mom to the snowy Harlem city streets to the recognizable Spider-Man tunes with a hip-hop beat underscore—that helps define who this hero named Miles really is.
And who is he? Well, Miles Morales is a guy many players will want to, justifiably, see a lot more of.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.