Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales improves upon the original Marvel’s Spider-Man in a lot of ways. The side quests are more interesting, the pacing is a lot better, and even the web-swinging is more energetic and engaging. The biggest change, of course, is Miles’ new stealth and venom powers. Peter and Miles are very different Spider-Men with their own individual strengths and weaknesses, but from a gameplay perspective, Miles is just like Peter, just with more powers. I had so much more fun playing as Miles and using his unique abilities in combat. Frankly, I’m not really interested in playing as Peter in the next Spider-Man game, and I don’t know how Insomniac is going to avoid making him feel like a downgrade.
The combat in the first Spider-Man never really clicked for me. The arenas tended to be too big and I often felt overwhelmed by enemy snipers and other enemies that attacked from range. I found myself needing to mash the dodge button as bullets rained down from every direction in most fights. I think the way it forces you to prioritize targets is interesting, and all of the finisher animations are jaw-dropping, but I also felt like a gadgets were unwieldy, the swinging and aerial attacks were mostly useless, and even after dozens of hours, I never quite found the rhythm and confidence in combat that made me feel like Spider-Man.
While Miles Morales didn’t exactly fix all of my problems with the combat, it did make some significant improvements. The ability to turn invisible and escape overwhelming situations or reset back into stealth mode is a godsend, and does a lot to make battles more dynamic and interesting. Even if you don’t plan to make a mistake or go into stealth, weaving invisibility into your combos can just make fights feel a lot more cinematic and fun. I pretty much always activated invisibility on cool-down, either to give myself breathing room or just to confuse the enemies for fun.
The other new mechanic, Miles’ venom attacks, also adds a lot to combat. Not only are they incredibly powerful attacks that can be used for crowd control or taking out mini-bosses, using them also creates opportunities for interesting decision making in battle. The venom charge that Miles uses to activate these powers is the same charge that can be used to heal. By tying these abilities to the same resource, the game forces you to have to decide between attack and defense. It’s a clever system that challenges you in new ways beyond what the original game had to offer. The only problem is that now I don’t want to play as Peter Parker anymore.
In reality, Miles isn’t just Spider-Man with extra powers. Obviously, there’s a lot of difference between Miles and Peter, the problem they have to deal with, and the way they approach those problems. Peter is stronger than Miles in certain ways too. In the comics, he has a stronger connection to the Web of Life, the source of the Spider-Sense ability, and has a much stronger Spider-Sense than Miles. Not only can Peter sense imminent physical danger, his Spider-Sense often manifests as a kind of precognition that allows him to see, or sense, the future.
I’m very interested in experiencing Insomniac’s story about Peter and Miles, but I’m not thrilled about the idea of playing as Peter anymore. The differences between Peter and Miles are narratively important, but when it comes to the type of combat that these games feature, Miles really is just the better Spider-Man.
I expect Insomniac to offer Peter some upgrades to help balance him out so that Peter doesn’t feel like a janky-old hobo Spider-Man, as Miles calls him in Into the Spider-Verse, but I’m not sure what they can realistically give him that can compete with invisibility and venom punch. I suspect that, as a scientist, Pete will get a larger variety of gadgets to work with, but the gadget wheel is one of the weakest aspects of both games. Unlike the Arkham games that allow you to chain gadgets into your combos with button combinations, Spider-Man requires you to essentially pause the game and select a gadget from a wheel, which I hate. Then, when you use up your limited stock of any gadget, you just have to continue fighting and hope that you randomly re-acquire some gadgets by defeating enemies. It’s the most half-baked system in the game, and unless it gets a total overhaul in the sequel, I don’t think giving Pete more gadgets is the solution.
I love these characters and I’m excited to see Insomniac’s Marvel Universe continue in the sequel, but if the studio revealed that Miles would be handling all of the combat in Spider-Man 2, I wouldn’t really have a problem with that. In the comics and movies, it’s easy to represent Peter as the more experienced and confident fighter, but in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, it’s pretty obvious that Miles is better than Peter in every way.
Next: Sunset Overdrive Laid The Groundwork For Insomniac’s Spider-Man
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Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri – Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey…but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.
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