'Spider-Man: Miles Morales' Review - a Short, Satisfying Showcase for PS5

7.5

Spider-Man: Miles Morales has been billed as the premier launch title for Sony's PlayStation 5, but gamers at large have long been confused by the nature of the title itself. Is this just an expansion to the first game, or is it a full-blown sequel? While the game's publishers have marketed more towards the latter category, we're inclined to lean closer to the former. That being said, Miles Morales is still a fun, exciting and visually dazzling expansion while it lasts.

Starting with the bad news, it's well worth mentioning that Spider-Man: Miles Morales is indeed a very short game. While being offered at just $50 on PS4 and PS5, the main campaign only lasts about 10 to 12 hours including casual engagement with side activities along the way. In our playthrough, which now has an 87 percent total completion percentage, we began on a Saturday and had wrapped up the bulk of our time by Monday. There's additional content for true completionists to dive into, of course, but Miles Morales will boil down to one weekend of play for most folks.

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'Spider-Man: Miles Morales' is a fun time, but it's very short and occasionally repetitive. Read our review below. 'Spider-Man: Miles Morales' is available November 12 on PS5 and PS4. Sony Interactive Entertainment

As brief as the adventure may be, there's no denying it's an engaging journey nonetheless. The game takes place shortly after the events of 2018's Marvel's Spider-Man, as Peter is hauled away from his superhero duties on a globetrotting assignment with Mary Jane. In the absence of the OG spidey, it's Miles' job to keep an eye on New York while his mentor is away. Needless to say, this seemingly simple idea devolves into chaos when it's discovered that energy conglomerate Roxxon, and its smarmy leader Simon Krieger, are leveraging Nuform energy reactors in a way that could lead to the destruction of Harlem and NYC at large.

But Miles' confrontation with big tech is just one facet of the story, as he also has to deal with the Underground, a roving band of anarchists hoping to stop Roxxon to control the Nuform for their own bidding. This group is led by a reimagined female version of the Tinkerer, who develops into a truly awesome villain thanks to her lightning-fast movements and awesome use of electrical powers.

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This new version of the Tinkerer offers a great remix of a classic villain. Sony Interactive Entertainment

Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, the Tinkerer also provides some emotional resonance for a narrative that could desperately use some. Aside from a short Christmas dinner sequence and a few poignant moments with Miles' uncle Aaron, there just isn't much to prompt a serious level of investment. Compared to the simple deadly virus plot of the first game, this tale of corporate intrigue and corruption didn't hold our attention as much as it probably should have. At points we honestly weren't quite sure what we were even fighting for.

Thankfully, the fighting and moment-to-moment action in Spider-Man: Miles Morales is flawless enough to make up for any of its potential narrative shortcomings about ten times over. For those who played the 2018 predecessor, the Miles Morales combat system is largely identical to the first, but just as deep and satisfying to remaster. There will almost assuredly be a learning curve for newcomers, but varied difficulty settings allow newbies to overcome that hurdle at their own pace. The only truly new additions to the roster are Miles' Venom Powers. These boil down to a series of attacks that feature an electrical charge capable of stunning clusters of enemies at once. Taking advantage of Camouflage, the Venom Punch and Venom Charge eventually becomes a thrill, but these moves don't really come into their own until after you've upgraded and leveled your Spidey quite a bit. By then, you probably only have about a quarter of the campaign left.

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Venom Powers are a neat but underutilized addition to the game's combat formula. Sony Interactive Entertainment

This focus on electricity also highlights one of the campaign's biggest weaknesses, and that's the recycled "generator wire following puzzles." Over the course of the story, you'll be asked to use spider sense to track wires that lead to a power source about a dozen times. These activities are fine, there's just too many of them. This campaign is at its best during major set piece moments on bridges and during the small number of boss battles you'll encounter with Rhino, the Tinkerer and more.

When not taking down dastardly foes in main missions, you'll spend most of the game swinging around various boroughs to complete side activities. The excellent movement mechanics have migrated from the first game to great effect in Miles and are even improved thanks to 60fps support on PS4 Pro and PS5. This might be the only open-world game you don't want to use fast travel for, because the base traversal system is so darn strong. In the event you do take advantage of the subway, though, instantaneous loads on PS5 make the feature more seamless than ever.

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Spidey's awesome web swinging mechanics get even better in 'Spider-Man: Miles Morales.' Sony Interactive Entertainment

As for the side missions themselves, they're all designed for fast, short-term engagement to keep the main plot moving. Even though Peter is away, he's set up a series of tiered stealth, traversal and combat simulations around the city for Miles to complete. If working around a timer gets too frustrating, you can take the far easier collectible route to seek out Underground Chests and Time Capsules marked on the map. Do you have an ear for music? Help uncle Aaron record some new sound samples for a mixtape. For those who prefer combat, marked hideouts, crimes and energy facilities are yours to stealth or punch your way through. None of these activities take more than a few minutes each to complete, which makes cleaning up the streets an addicting loop of near-instant gratification. This pseudo-sequel encourages being a completionist just as much as its predecessor, and that's a big bonus.

All things considered, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a great experience that's too short for its own good. Even though it changes very little from the 2018 formula, there's no denying the two-year-old recipe is still plenty effective in 2020. What you're left with, then, is a graphically strong product that offers a little more Spider-Man action for fans of the first game who might be eager for more. Its narrative also develops Miles enough as a character, which allows whatever comes next to better focus on Peter without sacrificing his mentee's importance. We'd be hard pressed to recommend Spider-Man: Miles Morales as an entry point to the PS4 and PS5 series based on its brevity and occasional repetitiveness, but it's a strong companion piece to one of Sony's best exclusives and its new console.

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'Spider-Man: Miles Morales' review score Newsweek

Spider-Man: Miles Morales is available November 12 on PS5 and PS4.

Are you excited to try out Spider-Man: Miles Morales? Is this game worth the purchase of a PS5? Tell us in the comments section!

Spider-Man: Miles Morales and the PS5 were provided by Sony in advance of this review.