SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES (2020)

Oh, I loved this. I wrung every bit of web-slinging joy from Insomniac’s prior Spider-Man game, but never quite loved the story, given that Peter Parker was basically re-enforcing a New York City police state.

SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES takes everything that’s great about Insomniac’s prior SPIDER-MAN game and improves on almost every facet of it. The mechanics are just as silky-smooth, if not better, than the prior game. However, what really makes the game shine is the writing which, for a triple A blockbuster superhero game is a minor miracle.

(I’ll quickly note that I’m not at all familiar with Miles Morales apart from INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. I’ve read zero of the Marvel Ultimate comics.)

Miles (now a younger Spider-Man) and his childhood friend Phin are teenage nerds. Not contemporary nerds, but old-school smart nerds who get excited about science and space and tinker on projects together! They’re still struggling with finding their space in the world — as teens do — but they’re not too terribly awkward, and they have a very tight brother/sister dynamic. But really, these two are unapologetic brilliant nerds, it’s the springboard for the game’s arc, and I love it.

There’s also an earnestness and idealism that I adore about the game. Yeah, there’s a lot of overwrought conflict that wouldn’t feel out-of-place in a J.J. Abrams work, you have to suspend disbelief for the sheer amount of tech created within such a short period of time, and I’m a bit shocked at how some of Miles’ moves would -definitely- induce death — for example: you can turn human bodies into bombs — but overall it’s an extremely playable game about biological and adopted family and the love for your original and adopted boroughs.

Did I mention that the game is goddamn gorgeous?! Insomniac also lets you tweak what you prefer from your visuals. Want high-end visual fidelity? You’ve got it, locked at 30fps! You demand 60fps? You can have it with a few downgrades you’ll never notice! Want it to look like INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE? No problem, just make sure to bank some activity tokens first.

If there’s one flaw, it’s that Miles’ powers seem far too powerful, and the game occasionally tries to course-correct this with power-negating guns and/or throwing waves and waves of criminals at you, invoking occasional frustration, but that doesn’t last long. Eventually you’ll suss the proper rhythm.

This is blockbuster gaming done right and I hope other studios learn from it, and I’m very happy that I waited for a PS5 to play it. In fact, I’m still playing it, because I love the bodega cat costume so much, which is only available after starting New Game+.