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The flagship launch title for the PlayStation 5, "Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales," is an impressive evolution of the bestselling PS4 game, and a wonderful demonstration of how the PS5's next-gen hardware will benefit major releases in the years to come.
In 2011, Miles Morales debuted in Marvel's "Ultimate Comics'' line as an Afro-Latino replacement to that universe's Spider-Man. In less than 10 years, the character has become a core part of the Marvel Universe, starring in the 2019 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature, "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."
With new powers, a different origin story, and a healthy respect for the original hero, Miles and "Into the Spider-Verse" helped Spider-Man evolve for a new generation of fans. As the headliner of a premier launch title, "Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales" is designed to show players how their games will evolve in the coming generation too.
"Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales" will be released on November 12 alongside a remastered version of " Marvel's Spider-Man" for PlayStation 5. The game costs $50 on its own, or $70 with the remaster. "Miles Morales" is also available on PlayStation 4 for $50, and there will be a paid upgrade option if you decide to buy a PS5 later.
"Marvel's Spider-Man" is the bestselling PS4 game of all-time, so there's a good chance that most PlayStation fans and PS5 early adopters are familiar with the original game. "Miles Morales" demonstrates just how the next-gen PS5 hardware can improve a game's performance with upgrades that go beyond graphics alone.
The visual improvements are immediately noticeable, with the PlayStation 5 delivering a higher resolution, new lighting and reflection effects, and a higher, more stable frame rate. Loading times improve greatly with the PlayStation 5's solid state drive — 30 to 60 second wait times from the PlayStation 4 "Spider-Man" are cut down to under five seconds in "Miles Morales."
PlayStation 5's power boost delivers tons of small enhancements to "Spider-Man" too; you'll find the streets of New York bustling with more cars and people, Spider-Man can swing through the city even faster because the streets take less time to load, and the environments show sharper detail in general. Overall, "Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales" showcases how PS5 can render a beautiful, busy, open world at 4K without hiccups.
"Miles Morales" might be the best looking game we see during this initial run of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launch titles, thanks to its expert implementation of real-time ray tracing; a premium graphics feature that's meant to be one of the PlayStation 5's hallmarks.
Ray tracing allows objects within the game world to create their own lighting effects, leading to more realistic looking shadows, reflections, and color shading. For "Spider-Man: Miles Morales," this means that Miles's bio-electric powers, the reflective glass covering New York's skyscrapers, and the glowing neon billboards of Times Square all create their own unique lighting effects while you play.
Ray tracing is taxing on the PS5, however, slowing the game's animations down to 30 frames per second when the graphics are set to fidelity mode. In performance mode, "Miles Morales" runs at a full 60 frames per second, and the image quality is just slightly below 4K, though few people would notice at a glance. Performance mode does disable ray tracing effects, though.
Personally, I find myself switching back and forth between fidelity and performance mode based on whether I'm checking out story missions and cutscenes, or just casually fighting crime and exploring. Ultimately, I feel like ray tracing gives the game a wonderful level of depth, so I'd recommend using fidelity mode to start and switching later if you want a smoother experience.
The game's character models are also tremendously detailed, with facial motion capture helping characters communicate with feeling during cutscenes. If you've played the original "Marvel's Spider-Man" you'll notice that character faces are a bit more detailed, and Peter Parker has a whole new actor.
"Miles Morales" is set shortly after the events of "Marvel's Spider-Man," continuing the story with a teenage Miles stepping into his first days as Spider-Man. The story lasts about eight to 10 hours with cinematic cutscenes, making it about half as long as the first game. As someone who felt like "Marvel's Spider-Man" should've been a bit shorter, I find Miles to be a much tighter experience.
Though Peter Parker makes an appearance early on, Miles is left to defend the city on his own after a few quick lessons and training exercises. As a young hero, Miles has to learn to fully control his powers and strike a balance between his new found responsibilities and his personal life.
A growing clash between the Roxxon Corporation and the Underground, a street gang with futuristic weapons, forces Miles to intervene as Spider-Man to prevent New York from being destroyed. He battles supervillains, like the Rhino, the Prowler, and a new version of the Tinkerer, as he fights to protect the city.
The story in "Miles Morales" succeeds in separating the hero from Peter Parker; making him independent by highlighting his identity as an Afro-Latino New Yorker and focusing on the relationships that make him different from the original "Spider-Man." There are still plenty of superhero cliches to be found in the world of "Marvel's Spider-Man," but this version of Miles feels like one of his most satisfying incarnations to date.
"Miles Morales" doesn't do much to change the basic formula of "Marvel's Spider-Man," adopting the same open-world gameplay based in New York City. The map has been slightly expanded to include Miles' hometown of Harlem, and weather effects, like snow and rain, add lovely detail to familiar scenery.
Between story beats, Miles will find different crimes and neighborhood missions spread across the city. Combat is a mix of basic button presses with timed dodges and gadgets for extra flair. Miles' cloaking ability also adds an extra layer to stealth sequences. As you progress through the story, you'll unlock more moves and tools to use in fights.
In contrast to the car chases and shoot-outs Miles encounters, the neighborhood missions bring context and character to Miles' adventure. Answering requests on the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man app leads to Miles tracking a bodega cat, helping subway workers, and other complex side activities with fun rewards. Exploration is also essential, with hidden collectibles calling attention to the tremendous amount of detail within the city landscape.
The game has multiple difficulty settings and plenty of accessibility options to make sure that anyone can have fun, regardless of their age or prior experience with video games. Having completed "Marvel's Spider-Man" on advanced difficulty levels, I hopped into "Miles Morales" at the harder than normal "Spectacular" difficulty without issue, and I'm looking forward to starting a New Game+ on "Ultimate" difficulty — but not until I complete the PS5 remaster of "Marvel's Spider-Man."
Buying the ultimate edition of "Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales" is the only way to get the remastered PS5 version of "Marvel's Spider-Man" right now. That $70 version will also give you access to the game on both PS4 and PS5, if you want to play "Miles Morales" on PS4 first and upgrade later. The standard version of "Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales" costs $50.
In my mind, the ultimate is the better choice, since the remaster of the first "Spider-Man" will provide dozens of hours of extra gameplay and a visual overhaul of an all-time classic game for about $20 more. If you're planning on buying the $50 PlayStation 4 version of "Spider-Man: Miles Morales," Sony has promised an upgrade option for gamers who buy the PlayStation 5 later on, though the price isn't known just yet.
"Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales" is a must-have game for all PlayStation 5 owners, and I would say that includes the remaster of "Marvel's Spider-Man," since the PS4 version won't look nearly as good on PS5.
As a comic book fan, longtime Spider-Man fan, and black person living near New York City, it's lovely to see Miles get the space to shine in his own game, and to see such care given to recreating the diverse neighborhood that gave birth to such a fun character.
If you haven't been able to find a PS5 yet, you might be disappointed to pay $50 for an experience that isn't nearly as optimized as the PS5 version of "Spider-Man." However, the story and gameplay additions that "Miles Morales" brings to the table absolutely warrant the $50 PS4 price tag.