Whenever we hear of a cross-gen game, it’s pretty safe to assume that the current-gen version of the game will be missing a bunch of features and enhancements. In fact, we wouldn’t even be wrong in calling it an inferior way to experience the game. So here we are, just days away from the launch of a new console generation, playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales on the current-gen PS4 Pro. But here’s the thing. Miles Morales is an amazing experience on the PS4. It’s so well optimised that not once did I find myself regretting my decision to play and review the game on current hardware instead of waiting for the PS5 for the “full experience”. But how is Spider-man: Miles Morales as a stand-alone game? Let’s jump right in.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place close to a year after the events of Marvel’s Spider-man (Review) game. As a new Spider-man, Miles seems to have been a good student and is well versed with most unlocked moves that Peter Parker’s Spider-man had in the course of the original game. But at the same time, he’s learning new capabilities that make him different. This includes his bio-electrical power that’s referred to as ‘Venom’, and invisibility power that’s aptly named ‘Camouflage’ – both of which we first saw a glimpse of in the Brooklyn Bridge sequence of the gameplay trailer.
The new abilities add enhancements to the gameplay in a way that I never realised I needed in a Spider-man game. The electrically charged Venom Punch and Venom Stomp are especially helpful when fighting against large groups of enemies and can get you out a tight situation fairly quickly. Invisibility is a boon in both action-based and stealthy situations where you can do surprise takedowns or save your skin when your health dips a little too low. Honestly, if I ever decide to replay Marvel’s Spider-man again, I will miss not having these abilities. They are that good!
Spider-man: Miles Morales has similar emotional ups and downs in relation to the protagonist’s responsibility towards family, friends and community as the original one did though on a smaller scale. Still, it’s a complete story in itself that doesn’t seem rushed or conveniently bandaged on to the original. The underlying plot has been well written to talk about issues faced by the minority community in New York who feel they have no representation, but it never gets preachy or forced upon in the course of the game. It’s the evolution of a Spider-man that represents Harlem.
The diversity also brings in a different soundtrack to the game. While Marvel’s Spider-man had very cinematic superhero score, Miles Morales has some amazing hip-hop beats as the score. The overall soundtrack is much better this time and I found myself looking up the track names on Spotify once I saw them in the credits. If you liked the soundtrack of Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse, expect something similar here.
What’s also done well is that a lot of missions that seemed to slow down the pace in the first game – like the stealth missions, or the innumerable yet similar Fisk property missions – are either taken off or heavily cut down here. Even with a decent amount of side missions covered, I managed to finish the main story with close to 75% of overall completion in a little over 10 hours. It’s a bit on the shorter side, but you’re encouraged to play again in the New Game Plus mode which unlocks additional skills for Spider-man and power-ups for gadgets that are locked in the first playthrough.
Side missions have been given a new structure with a clever app interface that you can bring up by swiping left on the controller’s touchpad. This is a really nice way to list these out without flooding the map with icons.
New York City is open right from the get-go, along with some enhancements. Through some very impressive optimisation magic, you no longer encounter loading times when going from swinging through New York and jumping right into an indoor enemy base or hideout. There usually is a vent or a closed area that you encounter in many of these situations, but it’s still very impressive to see what Insomniac Games has achieved on existing hardware. The only time you encounter a break in gameplay (aside from cut-scenes of course), is when you lose all your health or use the fast travel.
All the swinging mechanics that felt great in the first game are here along with the unlocked upgrades, so you’re not unlocking the same abilities all over again. Starting the game and taking control of Spider-man brought back all the muscle memory that I had built with the previous game and it felt great. For new players, the game does a pretty good job of presenting tutorials and tips as situations requiring them present themselves. There’s even a recap video that you have the option to watch when you boot the game for the first time, in case you need a refresher on Miles Morales’ origin story.
The original game had an incredible variety of costumes to unlock and choose from, and it seems like a lot of thought has been put into the costumes here as well. The costume from Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse movie is here, along with an animated one, and many more. Of course, they all come with strategic perks that you can use to enhance your gameplay. There are new gadgets as well as visor upgrades here that play out quite differently from the original game, which I found refreshing. Insomniac has been extremely careful to not make Spider-man: Miles Morales feel like a glorified DLC, and the effort shows across the board.
So, should you play Spider-man: Miles Morales on your PS4, or should you wait to get the PS5 first. I’d say go for it, especially if you already have a PS4 Pro. It’s an amazing experience even on the current gen hardware that doesn’t seem like a compromised or lesser version in any way. Sure with the PlayStation 5 you’ll have access to ray tracing, higher crowd density, higher fps, and if you’re getting the console at launch (whenever that is), then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The point is — do not deprive yourself of this great experience just because you can’t play it with additional bells and whistles.
In Miles Morales the experience is unique in many ways. You’re clearly not playing with Peter Parker here thanks to Miles’ unique persona and enhanced abilities. New York has a very different perspective and even time of year from the previous game that makes it feel new. The overall fighting, stealth missions, boss fights, and many other aspects of the game feel like a brand-new experience that only adds on to the things you loved about the original. There’s clearly no denying the quality that the ‘PlayStation Studios’ badge brings to games, and this one’s another massive notch to it’s already impressive 2020 line-up.