'Spider-Man: Miles Morales' is A Must-Buy

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   Insomniac’s Spider-Man is one of my favorite games of all time. Snappy combat, phenomenal web-slinging, excellent character work and world-building--it’s the total package. I was beyond excited when a pseudo-sequel, Spider-Man: Miles Morales , was announced a few months ago… especially when the release date was for this year! The game released last week, and it dominated my weekend. So, how does it stack up against its predecessor?
   I mean, you already saw the headline up there, so you know what I’m going to say: it stacks up very well. This game is… well, it’s amazing. Spectacular. One might even call it the ultimate Spider-Man experience!
   Seriously, though, this game just blew me away. It has garnered a few criticisms, and I want to address those out front; some are fair, but others… not so much.
   First off, there are some complaints about the game’s length. It’s true that it’s on the shorter side. However, the developers were clear that would be the case from the jump, and the game is a little bit below full price to compensate. While I can understand why that puts people off, I think it’s still well worth the asking price of $50.
   Second, some folks feel that it doesn’t innovate enough over the previous game--it’s more of the same Spider-Man. I have two responses to this: number one, Spider-Man was awesome. Frankly, I’m happy to have more of it! As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it--and Spider-Man was far from broke. Number two, while the changes and improvements
aren’t massive, they are there. Miles’s Venom powers (his bioelectric blasts, that is, not to be confused with the symbiote-wearing villain) are a welcome addition to the gameplay and have a notable impact on combat. There are also several quality-of-life updates that I appreciated, such
as the ability to manually spawn the ‘crime in progress’ activities instead of waiting for them to randomly occur.
   Finally, there’s the criticism that for a story that centers on a person of color (Miles is Black, with Puerto Rican ancestry on his mom’s side), the game doesn’t do enough to address the social unrest that occurred this year, or even course-correct the problematic portrayal of the New York Police Department from the last game. I would agree with that; there’s a lot of dialogue that insinuates issues of prejudice and systemic racism, but the narrative never deals with it directly.
   Okay, with that out of the way, I’m going to get back to gushing about the game.
   Like the first Spider-Man , this game is set in a beautiful rendition of New York that is immensely satisfying to swing through. This time, though, you’re slinging around as the young Miles Morales on his first solo adventure as a new Spider-Man (Peter is off in Europe helping
Mary Jane with something). The narrative explores Miles coming to terms with his new status as a hero; it affects his relationships and his neighborhood, and the responsibility threatens to overwhelm him at times.
   Luckily, he has a great supporting cast to help him through. It’s here that the story really shines: exploring MIles’s friendships and familial ties. I particularly love his relationship with his mother. Both Miles and his mom, Rio, are still struggling with the death of MIles’s father in the previous game, but their own relationship is a powerful part of the narrative. The game makes it clear that she is a strong role model for Miles; she’s running for city council throughout the game, and her dedication to community involvement is clearly reflected in her son.
   Miles himself is also a beautifully realized character. He embodies all the selflessness of Spider-Man (especially late in the game, as things escalate and he has to face the idea that he might die protecting Harlem) without feeling like a carbon copy of Peter Parker. It’s a comparison the game gets a lot of mileage out of drawing, given the mentor/protege relationship
the two share; in one memorable scene, his friend Ganke points out that “whenever you [Miles] say ‘Spider-Man,’ you always mean the other guy,” but the core theme of the story is that Miles finds a way to be his own kind of hero, effectively breaking out of Peter’s shadow.
   It’s a heck of a journey, and one I was happy to go on. I really can’t wait to see what’s next for Miles--I hope he has a substantial role in the next game!
More articles and reviews by Ethan McIntyre can be found at rollwithit.blog.