Spider-Man: Miles Morales – The Harlem Show

Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a third-person superhero action game by Insomniac Games. It’s a spin-off/sequel to Spider-Man from 2018. I’m not much of a superhero fan – you could actually say I kinda hate the genre for the most part, but that is thanks to the movies. However, I do enjoy a few of the more grounded heroes when they are not connected to some greater absurd universe. Batman, Spider-man, and The Punisher are some of the few I can read, watch and play without feeling too much disgust. I decided to play this after enjoying the 2018 release, and what can I say? Well, like much modern-made stuff, the writing is absolutely abysmal, and it’s probably the most on-the-nose game I have ever played when it comes to its divisive politics, virtue signaling, and general “wokeness”.

The story continues where the last one left off, somewhat at least. Instead of playing Peter Parker in this one, you get to play Miles Morales, the young black dude Peter Parker took under his wing in the first game. At this point in the story, Miles is still pretty much a rookie… or well, that is the impression I was getting before seeing him in action. Stuff happens, and as it turns out Miles is really capable, and in some ways, he is even more powerful than Peter, because he gets access to bio-electric powers. These powers are totally overpowered, and upgrades Miles from a somewhat grounded hero to a Marvel tier bullshit god. I can’t for the life of me remember how he got these powers – suddenly during a fight you get access to them, and it’s never really explained. Basically, you can overcharge your hits now when you have collected enough energy through fighting and dodging. These hits will K.O most opponents, and if not, make them weak to any other attack.

Anyways, Peter has to leave New York for a while, which leaves Miles in charge of protecting the city. Here the main story kicks in, and the center of its focus is Miles, his family, and Harlem, where he lives. Harlem gets threatened by a big bad rich white guy that wants to build some kind of weird energy generator in this part of the city. For some reason, he also got a personal army that can move about and do whatever they want in the city. It’s not explained to my knowledge. It’s not exactly told directly that this will be the bad guy, but you can see it coming miles away. However, it’s not the only group of villainy in the city. There is another group wreaking havoc, some kind of anarchy gang that got a feud with the rich white man. You can see where this is going. Miles is thrown right into the middle, and you, aka Miles need to figure stuff out.

Sneaking and stringing up guys with sticky web is something you will do a lot

The story is poorly written, characters are insufferable with constant sarcasm and a quirky way of talking, typical of Marvel movies. Nothing is ever serious, even when stuff should be. Stuff is never explained either, like how characters that got no superhero power can suddenly hit harder than Superman just by wearing a mask, and that somehow can build all this amazing tech from nowhere. I don’t want to spoil anything here, even if most things will be instantly recognized for what it is. But there is so much mind-shattering bullshit in the story, and all this you are just supposed to accept as is. Another problem to me as mentioned is that the story is filled with virtue signaling. It even reaches the point of Miles being made to be Harlem’s spider-man – one of us kind of thing, because as everyone knows, Peter Parker never ever cared for this part of New York… There is even a giant Black Lives Matter mural in the city, and that organization turned out so well in real life. Now, I don’t like to get political in these reviews, but the game is absolutely drenched in it, it’s like someone took a copy of one month of Twitter lefty politics and just pasted it into the story and setting. It’s just painful.

Setting traps for mooks is good fun

Overall, I got nothing against Miles as a character per se, his introduction in the original game is sad, and the loss of his father comes through at times. His focus is on his family and friends and protecting them, which I think is a good message to put across, but that part is just a tiny slice of all the crap you have to go through during the story.

Now over to the gameplay. It’s the same as Spider-man with a few upgrades and changes. You can now do tricks while flying through the city. This gives you XP and refills your energy meter for bio-electric powers. Another is the added powers, which change the fights to be easier. These new powers are also used in simple puzzles (when they don’t bug out). One problem with the powers going by the setting is that they make Peter Parker seem much weaker. I get the feeling that with a fully upgraded Miles, versus a fully upgraded Peter, Miles would win hands down. This leads to another issue, story, and setting again, and that is that everything Miles has, has been given to him. His struggle to become Spider-man feels so much weaker than Peter’s. Back to gameplay. Well, what can I say, the combat is the same, it’s a continuation of the “Batman dance rhythm” style of combat, but this time around in a bigger 3D space.

I played on hard, which leaves very little time for reaction, and the damage is pretty high, however, it felt fair. Even my now slowed-down due to age reactions managed to keep up, even if I got my ass handed to me a couple of times. One problem I have with this way of moving and fighting is that the controls are very imprecise when you are not zipping around or doing moves in combat. I mean, to maintain the feeling of being a superhero and keep the movement fluid animation-wise, you are often locked to certain paths, and at times it’s a real struggle to break free from this. Your character wants to jump up on things, swing over stuff, or get stuck on that wall when you just want to walk next to it. The original game suffers from the same thing, and at points, it drove me mad, but when it works, combat and traversing the city looks and feel great.

In the open-world, you don’t do much beyond going from mission to mission. There are side-quests and collecting to be had, but side-missions work the same – find the mission start and follow the instructions. There isn’t much player expression here, besides how the fights will look. The collecting takes place on the open world map, and the only challenge here is your patience.

Spidey Santa is here!

The graphics are good, and a nice touch to the game, considering we are in December when writing this review is that the game takes place during the winter months. It’s the 2018 New York, but with a Christmas touch, and I got to say, it worked pretty well on me. While the city looks nice and is filled with detail, it’s not much more than a nice backdrop. There isn’t much interaction like you can’t hurt any bystanders or cars. They do react to stuff, but it has a strong “animatronics” feel to it.

In general, the sound is good, but things that didn’t work for me is the voice acting for Miles and having all the music mixed with hip-hop tunes. The music, and everything surrounding it felt a little too typical and try-hard to me, even a bit cringe when one of the missions are to look for “beats” in the city. Especially when the song turns out into a cacophony of sounds. The voice acting is pure suffering – now I don’t want to hate on the voice actor, but having the main character sound like a whiny prepubescent kid was extremely grating for this many hours during play. This combined with the constant quirkiness is almost too much to suffer for long.

That’s a nice Xmas tree

Now, do I recommend the game? No, I don’t. Spider-man from 2018 was pretty good and entertaining, and while this game continues the story, it’s just too much of a pain for not much added to the general narrative. Sure, Miles and his family get expanded upon, but if you don’t care for him, and just want more of Peter Parker then you are pretty much screwed. I couldn’t wait for more scenes with Peter, and unfortunately, they are few and far between. I wouldn’t even recommend the game if you just liked the gameplay, because the added powers change the dynamic too much during fights, and in general, while Miles feels stronger, he doesn’t have access to all those cool upgrades and gadgets that Peter has. So even here it is lacking, and you might as well replay the original if you are only in it for the combat. Not to harp on the woke aspects too much, but it’s another big negative on the game for me. For someone already filled up on virtue-signaling, this game does not help. All in all, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a big no for me. And to add, I played the game on Playstation 4, but both Spider-man games are out for PC now too. You can find them on Steam.

Thanks for reading.

/Thomas


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