marvels spiderman review lead
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Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is less of a sequel to Spider-Man on the PS4 and more a spin-off. Rather than focusing on Peter Parker, it concerns the name in the title. It’s also a shorter game at around eight to 10 hours for the main campaign. But fear not, as Spider-Man is kept busy with side missions and, of course, being the friendly neighborhood hero.

And as much as this is a standalone title, it builds upon what Spider-Man did for the PS4. It’s also the flagship and flashy game that’s launching for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 on November 12 for $49.99. To some degree, it’s a working example of what the PlayStation 5 can do: fast frame rates with ray tracing and loading times a thing of the past, thanks to the solid-state drive (SSD) and central processing unit (CPU).

Most importantly, though, you can still web-swing through Marvel’s NYC swiftly while also taking in dramatic visuals. The story also spends less time wondering about Peter Parker whereabouts and more about what Miles Morales takes on.

We won’t spoil it, but if you’re getting a PlayStation 5, this is the ultimate way to break in your new console. Let’s break down why.

Part coming-of-age story and part comic book adventure

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Most of the introductions and storyline around Peter Parker have been flushed out both cinematically and with the original game. This spin-off picks up shortly after, with Miles Morales undergoing training with Peter. After all, they were both bitten by radioactive spiders, and learning complex superpowers is, well, complex.

After the first mission, in which you play as Miles and work alongside Peter in a New York City that is primed for the holiday season, you’re set down back in Harlem — Miles’ new adopted hometown — rather than Brooklyn. There, you understand that family and friends will fill a big part of this story as well as the ever-changing dynamic of Harlem. The citizens are looking to keep it the way it is, while a new company is attempting to build a massive HQ.

We’re not going to spoil it, but let’s just say it’s a pretty classic comic book adventure that unfolds. And it intertwines with the characters you meet from the start pretty eloquently. Peter Park goes on a vacation — or rather a “work trip” — at the start of the game, leaving Miles Morales as New York City’s Spider-Man.

That means a hero who needs to get caught up with training — and, luckily, Peter left some training sites on rooftops. These are essentially enemy holograms that you can practice on as Miles to learn the ways of the spider. Think sneak attacks in which you jump down, shoot webs and wrap up enemies before fading back into the darkness. Remember that Spider-Man doesn’t really use weapons; it’s all his tactics.

Miles Morales isn’t just a cookie-cutter replacement. You’ll see he sports a different suit and has some specific electrifying powers. Namely, the addition of energy to his attacks, which makes it a dynamically different experience than playing as the classic Spider-Man. Excuse the pun, but it adds some electricity into the gameplay. There’s also a skill tree in which you can upgrade powers and gain new abilities. It will be critical to upgrade these skills as you progress.

And, as we teased above, it’s not a long campaign like Uncharted or Grand Theft Auto V — you won’t find yourself shoveling hours into the escapade in order to be done with the title. Of course, there are side missions to tackle and even scavenger hunt-like adventures.

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A personal favorite is an app that allows the citizens of New York City to ask for Spider-Man’s help. At one point, there’s a quick sound bite in which Spidey and his comrades contemplate adding advertisements to the app as it reaches No. 1 in the New York Metro. Very meta — and we’re here for it.

The core missions themselves are made different by the bad actors you’re taking care of, everyday citizens you’re helping or cats named Spider-Man that need saving. You’ll be tasked with thinking like Spider-Man to complete these missions — like, for instance, by perching on a telephone pole and sneakily tying up an enemy with webs to that pole without anyone noticing. This is called a “Perch Takedown,” and it’s a favorite move by Miles Morales.

And you won’t just be left with tying up enemies — at times, it’s completing puzzles and making connections with webs. For instance, do you know that Spider-Man’s webs can let electricity flow through them? You’ll have to think out scenarios and sometimes use the less-is-more approach to finishing it off. At times, it can get repetitive, but that’s mostly later in the title.

Plus, if you get bored with the main missions, you can also jump into a side hustle. And if you’re like us, you might just swing up and down Broadway from tip to tip of Manhattan.

Web-swinging is swift and NYC looks great

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Marvel’s variant of New York City has a few additions of its own — mainly an Avengers Tower which, admittedly, is a very fun building to run up and swing off of. But let’s make something very clear: Graphics were great on the PS4, but the PlayStation 5 really takes this to the next level.

Insomniac Games, the publisher behind this title, paid close attention to details. And the best example of this would be the dynamics of the changing season. Miles Morales takes place during the holidays in NYC. In fact, the opening missions show off the holiday windows and Christmas setups around the city, including snow-covered Central Park.

It looks stunning, with details like footprints in the snow when on the ground and realistic cloud formations as you’re standing on top of the building. There’s also no latency or load times with elements in this game, at least on the PlayStation 5. That’s thanks to an SSD for storage and a faster CPU and GPU with an ample amount of horsepower inside. Ray tracing, a technique for more realistic lighting, is in full force if you select that mode at the start of your game. With this, it defaults you down to 30 frames per second and enables HDR, among other graphics tricks.

If you’re more focused on looks, we’d recommend this mode, as 30 frames per second still feels swift for Spider-Man, and on several TVs we tested (Sony’s A8H and X900H, LG’s CX and Vizio’s OLED) it looked smooth. Even in missions at night, it added another layer to the darkness.

Opting for 60 frames per second does provide a pretty compelling experience with still-solid graphics. You really feel as if you’re in a theater watching Spider-Man — there’s a certain swiftness and smoothness to web-swinging through New York City at 60 frames per second. It just all feels more instantaneous.

The choice is ultimately what you prefer from the graphical standpoint, but know either way you’ll take in compelling gameplay. We’d also just like to call out the haptics, like we did in our PS5 review, of the DualSense. It’s just an energizing experience, especially to feel the tension in the triggers as you’re running or swinging around New York City as Spider-Man.

Bottom line

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It might be a relatively small campaign, but you didn’t want another rehash of the original Spider-Man, right? We thoroughly enjoyed learning about Miles Morales, his history, his family, his Harlem, his New York City and his powers. It makes for a compelling story that, at times, might fall into classic tropes, but is engaging nonetheless.

The additional missions found via an app are quite fun and ensures that a hero like Spider-Man is always needed in New York City. If you’re getting a PlayStation 5, this is a no-brainer first game to go with it.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales lands November 12 for PlayStation 4 and 5 with preorders open now.