An early unmasking twist will be called by most a mile away, but as with the original game it’s not the identity of the villain that makes things interesting but their motivations and the deeply personal stakes that develop for our hero. The performances here are all top notch, and even when you’re taking a break from the main story Morales’ monologues and podcasts that play in the background add a heap to the game’s character.
When you’re not chasing the main story or revelling in the sheer exhilaration and acrobatics of swinging around Manhattan — which is familiar but now covered in ice, snow and Christmas decorations — there’s plenty of time for diversions. And like the game overall, these are less substantial but pleasingly more personal and interesting than in the original.
From stopping random crimes in the street to being a good samaritan via help requests lodged in your app, and from tracking down collectibles and backstory items to recording city sounds to mix into songs, every little bit gets you loot you can trade in to gain gear, upgrades and suits that channel Morales’ distinct style. Meanwhile the same superb heroic score fades in and out as you scale buildings and engage goons, but this time with an element of hip hop drums and synth chords.
Morales has a few extra tricks up his sleeve when it comes to combat too, with his bioelectric powers giving him the ability to zap foes with “venom” or turn temporarily invisible. It adds a satisfying new element to the already slick and flexible fighting system, with new types of goons to force you to switch things up between stealth, swinging and all-out brawls, and puzzles have some interesting new twists thanks to the electricity as well.
On PlayStation 4 the presentation and performance is very similar to that of the previous game, but Miles Morales is is also one of two launch-day showpieces for the new PlayStation 5, and on that system there are some added benefits.
Most notable is a total absence of loading screens throughout; even when fast-travelling, the screen simply goes black for less than two seconds before Morales appears on the other side of town. You also get a choice between increased fidelity or a faster framerate versus the PS4 version. The fidelity option shows a clearly higher level of detail to the city and some impressive lighting and reflection effects, but in a game this fast I’ll take performance every time and everything here just feels so great at 60 frames per second.
With more complex combat, a slimmer and harder-hitting story, more interesting characters and better performance (on PS5), this is a superior game to its predecessor in every way except for the fact that there’s less of it. A perhaps unintended consequence of this is that I find myself caring less about a full-fledged future sequel following the adventures of Peter Parker and his rich friends. I’m really hoping we see more of Morales.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is out now for PlayStation 5 (reviewed) and PS4.