New York's Only
With Peter Parker out of the picture, an inexperienced hero must save the city and protect the people he loves in Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Read The Entire Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales Cover Story Now!
Many of Marvel’s iconic superheroes are relics from another age.
Captain America debuted in 1941 as a beacon of American pride leading into World War II. Under the creative guidance of Stan Lee, the 1960s delivered the wall-crawling Spider-Man, tech-savvy Iron Man, rampaging Hulk, as well as the super teams X-Men and Fantastic Four. Time has not hurt any of these juggernauts. They all have eternal flames that burn brighter as the years fly by.
These heroes are so popular that the spotlight rarely moves off of them to highlight newcomers. Every week, when the latest comic books hit store shelves, Marvel introduces new characters that could be the next heroes that define a generation. In most cases, however, these spandex-laden figures don’t capture readers’ imaginations, and disappear as quickly as they appear.
Creating a new hero that can stand as tall as Marvel’s legends rarely happens, but each decade brings us a few personalities with varying degrees of staying power. The last decade is proving to be a hotbed for video games in particular, especially for this year’s big releases. Kamala Khan, who debuted in comics in 2013, was the main character of Crystal Dynamics’ Marvel’s Avengers game. In just two months we’ll get the chance to suit up as Miles Morales in Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man sequel. In recent years, Miles has been as prominent in entertainment as any Avengers character. He doesn’t have a storied history like many of them do, and his debut in 2011 occurred in a place where a path of success seemed unlikely.
As it turns out, Miles wasn’t introduced as a proper Marvel Comics character, and was instead born within the pages of a spinoff imprint called Ultimate Comics. In this alternate timeline to Marvel’s main universe, writer Brian Michael Bendis brought readers into the life of Miles, a teenager of Afro-Latino descent who eventually becomes Spider-Man. Ultimate Comics wasn’t bound by the history of Marvel’s long-running Earth-616 universe, so its creators could rewrite origins and tell dramatically different stories, including one where Peter Parker dies.
As unexpected as this moment was, the void Peter left in the universe created a perfect opening for a new hero to step forward. Miles took his place, and was an instant hit with readers. Sadly, his rise in fame happened at the wrong time; Ultimate Comics was on its last leg, and the imprint delivered its final issue in 2015.
Miles’ popularity continued to grow, however, and Marvel knew it couldn’t leave him behind in this dead universe. Through a cosmic event (which comics are notorious for using to rewrite the rules of their continuities), Miles and his supporting cast migrated to Marvel’s Earth-616 universe. With Peter alive and well in this timeline, Miles’ story unfolded in a much different way than fans originally latched onto. And this has been a problem for Miles. In the short time he’s been with us, his origin has been told a number of different ways. We saw this happen twice in 2018, the year that cemented him as Marvel’s next big hero.
He was the lead character in the brilliant Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse animated film, which again shook up his origin story. He was also a key player in Insomniac’s Spider-Man game, which focused on Peter’s heroics, but also told a new origin story for Miles in the margins. Within this excellent game, the seed was planted for Miles and Peter to unite as Spider-Men in a sequel. Within the framework of Peter’s story, we saw flashes of what this dynamic spider duo could be.
Insomniac is delivering on that vision in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, but not in the way you would expect. This sequel is mainly about Miles and his growth as a hero. Peter is not entirely gone, but is mostly in the shadows, playing the role of mentor.
In the first game, players suited up as a Spider-Man in his prime. Miles, on other hand, is just learning the ropes and doesn’t even know his true capabilities. A year after being bit by a spider, his power is still coming online, and he’s starting to figure out what it means to be a hero. He’s eager to impress, but is also prone to make mistakes.
His rise to power and the struggles that come with it create a fascinating narrative web that feels different than the first game. Even though Miles is in the spotlight, Peter’s story also moves forward, giving us a good sense of progression for Insomniac’s expanding spider-verse, much like how the Marvel Cinematic Universe unfolds through the lens of different characters. Insomniac isn’t crafting a side story; it’s a true sequel that will likely set the stage for what comes next – even if it is a little shorter than its predecessor.
I was treated to the opening moments of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales running on PlayStation 5. In this introduction, Insomniac wastes no time raising the superhero stakes and inviting players into a soulful story filled with fascinating characters – some you’ll recognize, others are new creations. The opening sequence is about as action-packed as they come – perhaps one of the biggest to kick off any game – and involves a familiar villain who inadvertently helps Miles become a dramatically different Spider-Man.
Set one year after the fall of Doctor Octopus, it’s the first day of winter break for 17-year-old high-schooler Miles Morales. We first see him on the subway, checking his phone nonchalantly as he waits for his stop. Miles is dressed for the cold weather, wearing a parka with a fur hood that looks a little bit like a lion’s mane. He isn’t heading home to Brooklyn. Following the tragic death of his father, his mother has relocated them to her childhood home in Harlem.
When Miles arrives at his stop, he politely lets other passengers leave before he departs and ascends the station’s stairs, moving from the darkened underground to a vibrant and festive Harlem street. Colors burst from every vector as numerous cultures collide and give the neighborhood the feeling of life and joy in a single frame. The dull brickwork of the old high-rises hides behind giant, colorful murals. Even these works of art are partially obscured by holiday decorations galore.
As Miles steps onto the bustling street, he puts his headphones on and grooves to beats as he looks for a market. His mother asked him to pick up some groceries for tonight’s dinner. In this moment, he can’t escape her presence. Across the street, a folding table is decked out in political propaganda and fliers for Rio Morales, his mother, who just happens to be running for city council. Miles doesn’t bat an eye at his mother’s campaign, and is instead drawn to a multi-story mural that is currently being painted. It’s Peter Parker's Spider-Man. Miles confronts the artist and asks if he’ll be adding the “new Spider-Man” as well.
The artist shrugs and replies “The original is my guy, you know?” Miles smiles, and as he begins walking away, turns, and in jest again makes a comment about leaving room for the second Spider-Man.
Miles is once again voiced by the exceptionally talented Nadji Jeter, who also voices the younger version of the character on Disney XD’s animated Spider-Man show. For this sequel, Jeter has matured Miles a little. “When he is Spider-Man, he is a different person,” a wide-smiled Jeter tells me over a Zoom call. “He’s not that kid anymore. He’s that man. He’s that leader. It was a great transition, but I also needed it to blend everything together, to make it human.”
The amount of detail in Harlem makes you want to stop Miles dead in his tracks to see what people are up to, and to soak in the flow of life unfolding all around him. One particular person is losing the battle of loading a couch onto a moving truck, and Miles is quick to help him. Other people are chatting with one another, selling wares on the sidewalks, or sitting on their front stoops relaxing and doing a little people-watching of their own. Little clumps of snow are tucked into most shadowed areas, and the street looks slick with ice and water. Any hint of liquid pops with realism, thanks in part to PlayStation 5’s new ray-tracing and lighting techniques. You can see the city looking back at you in the puddles or off of a parked car’s shiny steel.
Harlem was featured in the first Spider-Man game, but Insomniac gave it a fresh coat of paint in this sequel. The area players traverse is largely the same in terms of size, but the streets and buildings have taken on a whole new life, both to capture the realism of this location – especially the culture-rich eastern part of Harlem – and also to provide more interesting locations for Miles’ story to unfold. Players will see far more detail than before, with new landmarks and a variety of different architectural features in the same map footprint. Numerous consultants were brought in to help ensure Harlem’s atmosphere was just right.
“I’d like to say Harlem is one of the most important characters in our game,” says creative director Brian Horton. “Harlem really has a pulse, and is what Miles is fighting for. What we decided is Harlem and the people he loves are the heart and soul of this game. Miles getting to know his neighborhood was essential.”
After a short walk, Miles eventually finds the store his mom sent him to – it’s small, but inviting with a bright yellow exterior. Before he can enter, he gets a text message from Peter that informs him the convoy is leaving and he needs to “shake a leg.” Without batting an eye, Miles removes his headphones, transitions from a walk to run, and in the next shot we see of him, his identity is hidden beneath Spider-Man’s mask. Even though he’s training under Peter, he doesn’t have a high-tech suit of his own – only the mask is the real deal, made up of the iconic red color with white eyes outlined in black. His crimefighting outfit is homemade, consisting of a blue winter jacket, red hoodie underneath it, with a black spider painted on it (the head pointing down). His lower body is even less superhero-like with black leggings underneath black athletic shorts. His feet are hidden beneath pristine and electric red sneakers.
In this first web-swinging moment, Miles whips through the sky, looking like he knows what he’s doing, but his motions are not as refined or fluid as Peter’s. Miles is lanky, and it doesn’t appear he has great control of his legs; on most swings, they jet in front of him, extend wildly, and spin slowly in circular motions, looking a bit like a human helicopter. Game director Cameron Christian says this is just one of the ways that Miles is different from Peter.
“We knew he was still learning his abilities and figuring out how he would be Spider-Man,” adds Christian. “We wanted to show that in the animation a lot. If you look at his motion, he’s a little less sure, a little more gangly. You can see that in his swinging and basic attacks.”
Miles swings with urgency, soaring across a festive Manhattan that is ready for the holiday season. He grazes the ground a few times in the openings and streets, but keeps his momentum long enough to glide into a stack of skyscrapers that he uses to reach a safe altitude again.
His mother, unaware of his current acrobatics, calls him, asking where he is and if he has the stuff she asked for. Flustered, Miles lies to her, saying the store didn’t have what she wanted, and he needs to check another one downtown. He then makes a quip to himself about how challenging it is to be a hero and normal person – something Peter continues to struggle with nine years in.
Miles runs up a huge skyscraper, his legs churning fast, and he uses ziplines to pull himself up in big, quick busts. When he reaches the rooftop, Peter slowly slides down on a web line in front of him, his mask half off, almost appearing like he wants to recreate the scene from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film where he kisses Mary Jane. Peter instead lifts a coffee up to his mouth and takes a sip from this odd, upside-down position. Miles is impressed he can drink this way.
After a brief chat about what’s happening, Peter and Miles leap off of the building just in time to join a massive police helicopter called Helix 2. Dangling below it is an equally sizable cargo container. Peter says that a prisoner is inside. Following the breakout at Raft caused by the Sinister Six, hundreds of escapees are being brought back, including Vulture, Scorpion, and “something bigger.”
The giant inmate of note is in the container and doesn’t like being confined in this way, something we learn when he rams the inside of the crate with impressive force. The long, rectangular holding cell swings back and forth violently, so much so that one of the cables suspending it snaps. Miles goes in for the save, despite Peter telling him to stay back. Miles creates a webline to snag the loose end of the container, a play that looks fortuitous at first, but his angle is off and he doesn’t have great control of the line given his odd positioning. As he flips through the air, the line gets caught in one of the helicopter’s propellers. Airborne chaos ensues and the helicopter crashes to the ground with full force, immediately turning into a smoldering heap that slides along the street, taking out police cars, stoplights, and a ground transport that is hauling more prisoners. The container is further damaged, just enough to allow its occupant to punch free. It’s Rhino, looking every bit as massive and angry as he did in the first game. His eyes glow menacingly.
Miles and Peter drop to the ground and stand side-by-side ready to take the titan down. “Hello, tiny spiders,” Rhino says dryly.
The prisoners from the ground transport are also freed. Peter says he’ll handle Rhino, and he does so without beating an eye, leaping to the air and mounting the villain like he’s a bucking bull. Rhino responds by running full tilt into anything he can – cars, walls, nothing stops his rage. Miles says he’ll mop up the inmates, who are rummaging through police vehicle wreckage for any weapons they can find.
This is the game’s first combat encounter; its scale and setup perfectly echo Peter’s from the first game. Miles begins with a few lightning-quick web shots that lift an inmate off of the ground and pin him to the side of a vehicle. Two webs to the feet of another inmate followed by a quick yank lifts the orange-suited foe high into the air, where he hangs for a second before being slammed to the ground. Miles then uses his spider sense to dodge a few incoming shots, giving him an opportunity to lean heavily into his legs to deliver a flurry of attacks that take out the last of the inmates, all while Rhino and Peter rodeo nearby.
Rhino realizes his tactics aren’t working, and decides to take Peter for a ride down the street where he eventually leaps a good five to six stories into the air to smash through the side of a tall building. The amount of destruction delivered in this moment is a sight to behold. At first there’s a puff of smoke, followed by the loosening of a giant holiday sign that crashes to the ground as bricks pour around it like rain. Miles gives chase, jumping into the building’s breezy new opening and scooting quickly through the interior, which is filled with startled people who appear to be at a party given the festive decorations near them. “Sorry! Happy holidays,” Miles says as he flips every which way across tables and debris before emerging through a matching hole Rhino made on the other side of the building.
Rhino now knows the second Spider-Man is in hot pursuit, and rips a parking sign off of a wall to throw at Miles. This brings up a dramatic, slow-motion sequence in which the player needs to dodge to the left or right. The chase leads to a park with a tall Christmas tree sitting in the center of it, which Miles barely avoids, and then continues into a parking garage where cars are knocked every which way. Peter is eventually thrown from Rhino, but Miles is quick to take his spot on the villain’s shoulders, and the player maintains complete control.
At this point, Insomniac turns a sequence that is already roaring with excitement up another notch. Rhino again smashes through a wall, this one leading into the massive Glam Mall, which is filled with highly detailed shops and numerous floors lined with shoppers. Rhino uses a spacious rotunda opening to descend to the bottom floor, and then races feverishly toward Santa’s workshop, which looks a lot like a medieval castle at the far end of the mall.
Rather than smashing through the castle, Rhino eyes a window above it, soaring carelessly into what appears to be Santa’s green room. It turns out this mall Santa is played by none other than J. Jonah Jameson. When Miles and Rhino enter his room, Jameson is screaming about how much he hates Spider-Man. He screams even more when he sees the wall crawler. Jameson was here to record another one of his Just the Facts podcasts, which return for this sequel. The hilarious ranting by Jameson is penned by longtime comic scribe Christos Gage, who was brought on the project just to write this angry reporter’s dialogue. Insomniac says he writes him better than anyone.
Rhino’s trail of destruction just keeps going and getting bigger. Cars, buildings, and everything in his path are knocked out of the way with impressive visuals accompanying each hit. The confrontation eventually leads to a gas tank that Rhino knows could conclude the battle, saying: “Let us raise the temperature.” The gas tank explodes when he collides with it, rocketing both Spider-Men a good distance away. The blast is huge, hitting a Roxxon Corporation factory nearby. Small explosions ripple through the building interior, jetting fire out of its windows. Peter, who is looking a bit ragged with tears in his suit, is left to fight Rhino on his own, and he’s not up for the challenge. Miles can’t help him because more escaped inmates have arrived. Peter is punted violently into a wall and is knocked nearly unconscious. Miles joins him when he can. In a weakened state, Peter tells Miles to leave, but his friend stands at his side.
Miles is angry, afraid, and panicked. His right hand lights up with a golden glow as he walks slowly toward Rhino. He rears back and delivers a massive bioelectrical punch directly into Rhino’s chest. A new ability has awakened within him, and it absolutely clobbers this nearly unstoppable foe. With a newfound vigor driving his actions, Miles confidently approaches Rhino, who is now enraged. This is the game’s first boss fight, and I don’t want to give away what happens next, but it is every bit as big of a set piece as the opening moments of play, which are far larger in scope and more chaotic than anything seen in the first game. Insomniac got its feet wet with Spider-Man in 2018, and it was a hell of a debut, but the development team has learned some new tricks to amp up the action, and the fruits of those labors are fully on display here. You couldn’t ask for a better intro to a game.
A New Threat
In the aftermath of the battle, Roxxon trucks pull up to the nearly demolished factory. Armored guards in menacing crimson colors emerge from these vehicles, all with heavy weaponry, plus pistols strapped to their chests for apparent last stands. A black limousine also arrives; a back door opens to reveal the wide smile of Simon Krieger, the director of Roxxon's NuForm energy project, who just happens to be played by Troy Baker. Simon doesn’t care that the building was destroyed, and instead takes a keen interest in Miles, who looks like he’s been through hell with cotton popping out of exposed seams on his coat and tears on his hoodie. Simon is impressed Miles battled Rhino on his own, and gives him a look like he’ll see him again soon. It’s an unnerving conversation, especially given Roxxon’s rise in New York City, and Harlem in particular.
Roxxon has created and successfully tested a new clean-energy source called NuForm, and is quickly constructing power plants across the city. Its billboards are all over town, as are its soldiers for some reason. In the moment of this demo, Roxxon looks imposing, but has not been established as anything other than an up-and-coming company. Insomniac, however, tells us this corporation is the main antagonist of the game.
“At first [Roxxon] comes in saying they are going to revitalize Harlem using Simon’s PR lens,” Horton says. “There’s an insidious truth behind all of that, and what this story uncovers is what is the truth of NuForm, what is all of that about?”
The world at large has no idea what Roxxon is really up to, but a shadow organization known as The Underground does, and is working to disrupt Roxxon’s operations however it can. Its members have even arranged a hit to rob the NuForm canisters being hauled by a transport truck. The Underground is organized, and its soldiers are equipped with state-of-the-art nanotechnology that can make weapons appear like magic, forming to the arms of their soldiers in a flash. Roxxon’s troops are always decked out in red. The Underground’s are purple. We don’t know who sits at the top of The Underground, but one of the top lieutenants is the Tinkerer, an old Marvel Comics villain created in 1963. Back then, the Tinkerer was an old man who blackmailed politicians by bugging their electronics. Now, the Tinkerer is a youthful, athletic woman who speaks through a modulated voice.
In an alternate gameplay sequence that sees Roxxon and Underground forces squaring off against one another on a bridge, we get a taste of the Tinkerer in action. This mysterious figure ignores Spider-Man’s presence, and wastes no time shooting two tendrils from the wrists to yank the doors off of a truck. The tendrils look a bit like Doctor Octopus’ arms, but much smaller. Spider-Man tries to stop the robbery, but the Tinkerer cannot be deterred, using a nano-powered ability to create a purple electrified shell that bursts with energy and sends Spidey flying.
Insomniac isn’t talking about many villains at this point, which is a much different approach than the studio had with the first game, announcing the Sinister Six well before launch. In not wanting to reveal who Miles will face off against, Horton did smile, and say that other villains from Marvel’s Spider-Man universe will come out of the woodwork, but it won’t be as many as Peter battled.
And Then There Was One
In the aftermath of the Rhino encounter, Peter and Miles take a breather, again meeting on a rooftop where they can safely remove their masks to have a personal moment. Peter is jealous of Miles’ bioelectrical ability and wants to do some research on it.
The act of Peter removing his mask is one of the most shocking moments I saw in any of the gameplay sequences. His face looks completely different, and it’s not because he’s aged one year. Much like Sony moving on from Tobey Maguire to Andrew Garfield, Insomniac turned to a new model to bring Peter’s looks to life in the game.
The reason for the change was to find a better facial match for voice actor Yuri Lowenthal, who reprises his role as Peter. The new likeness belongs to British model Ben Jordan. If you play the PlayStation 5 remaster of Marvel’s Spider-Man, Jordan’s likeness replaces John Bubniak. Insomniac wanted to create consistency between the two games, and that meant making the difficult decision to change Peter’s look. Lining up a better facial fit for Lowenthal helped streamline development since Insomniac is using a new scanning process.
In this slow moment shared between the new Spider-Man and the new-looking Spider-Man, Peter hands Miles a present, and asks him to recite the Spider-Man oath. “I promise to do everything in my power to protect this city,” Miles says back to his teacher, who obviously just made it up as a joke. He then breaks some bad news to Miles, saying that Mary Jane is heading to Symkaria for a few weeks to cover peace talks for The Daily Bugle, and that he is joining her as her photographer. Miles is rightfully overwhelmed by the news, but Peter continues poking at his friend.
Before leaping away, he tells Miles that he’s now “New York’s only Spider-Man.”
Miles doesn’t open the gift before meeting up with his friend Ganke Lee, who just happens to be staying at his house for the duration of the break. Lee is a talented programmer and designer, and he’s even made Miles a handy phone app to keep tabs on crime in the neighborhood.
The gift Peter gave Miles contains a complete Spider-Man suit – Miles’ first. It’s blue and red, but isn’t the most flattering material, looking like it’s made out of cotton rather than an armor or sturdy material. The new suit looks a bit like pajamas ( with solid blue dominating the legs and feet), but is symbolic – a way of Peter telling his student that he aced the test and that he’s moving on to bigger and better things. When Miles puts on this suit’s red mask, a heads-up display ignites. He’s plugged into Peter’s network.
Miles also learns that Peter created a number of challenges that will help him hone his abilities, even though his mentor won’t be around physically. Peter is represented as a hologram at these challenge locations. They come in three varieties: traversal, combat, and stealth. When the player completes these challenges, they unlock skills in a new skill tree.
Venom, Just Not That One
Given where the last game left off, the well-known Spider-Man villain Venom will likely be a part of Insomniac’s Spider-Man story, but we may not see him in this chapter. We asked Horton if the Venom and Green Goblin teases that were left dangling in that game’s final moments would continue into this story. He didn’t outright say “no,” yet made their inclusion sound like a longshot in revealing “the threads from the first game still exist, but we’re really focusing on Miles’ chapter and how he is going to become Spider-Man.”
From that message, we probably won’t see Venom munching on brains, but a different kind of Venom will be onscreen whenever Miles enters combat. That glowing wallop he gave to Rhino is called the Venom Punch. Yes, we know it’s a confusing naming convention, but it comes from the comics and is a big part of what makes Miles unique. In this game’s lore, Venom is a term coined by Ganke when he learns that Miles’ bioelectricity stings. We don’t know how Ganke learns this, but we hope it’s from a test that doesn’t go as planned.
The venom attacks transform Miles into an entirely different Spider-Man. When he’s in the zone pummeling evildoers, he glows and sizzles on the battlefield, sometimes looking like an erratic shooting star that darts every which way.
In terms of controller mapping, to perform a venom attack, the player holds L1 and then taps a face button, each of which executes a different move. For the famed Venom Punch of note, the player hits L1 and square. When this devastating blow is performed on PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller, holding L1 makes the venom charge, and you’ll feel it build up with an increasing rumble on the left side of the controller until the move is completed. At that point the venom flows through the controller to the right side and rumbles again when you hit the square button.
All of these glowing attacks cause something called Venom Stun on impact. Any enemy that is stunned takes bonus damage from additional attacks. The foes light up as an electrical current ripples across their bodies. Given how potent these unique attacks are, Miles can’t perform them on a whim. The player must first fill up the Venom Power meter (which is just like Peter’s Focus meter), thus creating strategies for when and who it’s best to use these attacks against.
James Ham, the senior animator on this project, says that while the Venom Punch is iconic to Miles, he uses his legs more than his fists in combat since he doesn’t have the upper-body strength of his mentor. “Peter likes to uppercut, and we still want the same mechanic of knocking the enemy up in the air, but Miles does it differently,” he says. “I looked up indoor-skydiving competitions. When the skydivers are in the air, and the fan keeps them levitated, they use their legs to kick them around to stay levitated. I wanted to bring a little bit of that into Miles.”
With this visual in mind, one of Miles’ moves is called a Venom Jump, which propels him a good 15 feet into the air, his legs spiraling out violently to clobber anyone that is sucked up in the updraft. Many of the finishing moves also lean into the lower body, like a slow-moving swan kick that launches enemies high into the air and sets them up for a powerful web takedown.
Camera placement in combat is more dynamic than before, giving the player a better look at the cool animations, as well as a better feel for attack impact points. For venom abilities, the camera zooms in and the action may slow to accentuate the strike. Moving the camera may sound like a simple change, but it was something Insomniac tinkered with long into development to make sure the player always felt they were in control and the game wasn’t playing for them.
In all of the combat sequences we saw, Insomniac leaned heavily into Miles’ venom abilities, showing us a quick Venom Dash that sent an enemy hurtling into a wall. We also saw examples of how one Venom Punch can stun multiple foes at once. They just need to be near one another. The player can easily group numerous foes together using a new gadget called Gravity Well, which does exactly what you would expect – any adversary nearby is pulled to the center of the well. Gadgets are handled just like they were in the first game, and yet, Peter clearly doesn’t like sharing with Miles, as many of Peter’s go-to items are nowhere to be found. Miles has instead created his own set of tools.
“Another awesome gadget that we have is a remote mine,” Christian adds. “It’s kind of like an amped-up electric web. It’s a mine that delivers an electric AOE that you can activate when you want. You can just shoot it out and pop it to take someone out, or you might put it on a guy during stealth, and then wait until he walks near some friends, and then blow it up to take them all out. It was something to help complement our stealth gameplay, but you can also use it in active combat.”
The Sneaking Spider
If Miles swings up to an area patrolled by enemy forces and hasn’t alerted any of them, the player has the option to stealthily take them out, one by one. Like the fevered combat, stealth was handled exceptionally well in the first game, and will be even deeper this time around.
In the simplest form of stealth, vertical spaces once again allow for silent takedowns, where Miles lurks above an enemy from a beam, grabs them with a webline, knocks them unconscious with a kick to the face, and then leaves them dangling harmlessly out of sight. When it comes to silently removing foes, Miles is better than Peter since he has the ability to perform takedowns from ceilings and walls; both vantage points deliver unique animations.
If an enemy spots Miles, the stealth sequence ends and normal combat unfolds … if you want it to. This time around, players have the ability to reset stealth using another one of Miles’ unique abilities. He can camouflage himself for short periods of time, disappearing completely from the battlefield. He’s still barely visible to the player as a shimmer.
Camouflage is an innate power that is performed by hitting up on the directional pad, and is tied to a separate power meter that the player need to keep an eye on. It refills rather quickly, but drains even faster.
When camo is initiated, Miles can stand directly in front of an enemy and initiate a takedown. Alternatively, if he is spotted in an encounter, he can activate camo, disappear from view, find a new hiding spot, and then wait for the enemies to stop searching for him. Some adversaries will panic and start firing their guns wildly, or may even throw grenades to flush him out or hopefully wound him.
“The Roxxon enemies have anti-Miles abilities,” Horton says. “They’ve engineered their tech, and have shields that can reflect and deflect your bioelectric venom. They also have characters who have special goggles that allow them to see your heat signature, so your camouflage isn’t effective, and they send out alerts that basically pop you out of camo. We wanted to subvert Miles’ power with Roxxon and that’s really where Roxxon plays a different role from the Underground, which has programmable matter weapons that are dynamic and exciting.”
Both stealth and hand-to-hand combat are supported fully in the skill tree. Applying points in particular fields allows the player to sculpt Miles to a preferred approach, be it offensive with venom attacks or stealthy with camo. Players can also turn camo into an offensive tool; you can use it to get extra hits to build combos.
The Open World
Between story missions, the player is once again invited to explore New York City to take on various activities, hunt for collectibles, and enjoy the thrill of web swinging, which functions just as it did before, but will feel quite different on PlayStation 5. When you shoot out a web, you’ll feel a little rumble in the DualSense controller, and then as you swing, the trigger tightens as Miles’ reaches the end of the swing. Miles also has a wider variety of tricks he can use while web swinging to earn experience points. Many of these moves were inspired by the skydiving techniques mentioned by Ham.
In one open-world exploration sequence Insomniac showed us, Miles brings up his phone to look over his activities. Several are available to him in this instance. Visible on the screen are four activities: Looters, My Car’s Gone, Can’t Find My Pigeons, and Ice Breaking My Crane. Each of these tasks shows the distance that Miles needs to travel to reach them, and also the reward, which just happens to be crafting tech parts for mods. If the player hits L1 on this phone screen, they will highlight potential crimes that can be tackled within the area. New York is once again broken up into districts; each carries a list of things that the player can complete to reach 100 percent. Some of the crimes from the first game return, but Insomniac has also dreamed up new ones that tie into both the story and Miles’ lore.
One of Peter’s stranger side activities had him return to Doctor Octavius’ lab to conduct science experiments. From a narrative perspective, these moments helped establish Peter as a character outside of the mask. On the gameplay front, they provided pace-changing distractions for the player in the form of minigames. For this sequel, Insomniac didn’t want the player looking into microscopes or even moving away from the world. All of the side activities unfold through normal gameplay. In one example that gives us a hint of what we can expect, Spider-Man runs across a mechanical door that can’t be opened because the power is out. After some sleuthing, he realizes a cable running from a generator to the door is severed. Miles reconnects the cable with a long strand of webbing stretching to both exposed ends, and then applies a Venom Punch to the generator. A jolt of yellow energy runs along the repaired wire and webbing to the door.
All missions, whether they are critical path or on the side, deliver experience points that can eventually level Miles up. “Another big push with the open world was making sure there were meaningful rewards, completing all these different activities, you tend to unlock a new suit, which is always awesome,” Christian says.
One such suit involves a third Spider-Man character. Yes, you read that right. A mission takes Miles to a small convenience store where he finds a distressed owner who was just robbed. The perps even took his cat, who happens to be named Spider-Man. The shop owner doesn’t have much faith in Miles, but gives him a shot at saving his buddy. He tells Miles he saw the robbers enter a power station. Miles swings off, enters the station, battles the bad guys, and then is tasked to get his hands on the cat. The latter activity proves to be a little more difficult, as the cat just ran along some pipes and jumped into an elevator shaft. Miles gives chase, and after a battle with more foes, rescues the feline that is carefully placed in a backpack that Miles ends up wearing. On the web swing back to the shop, the cat pokes its head out of the backpack, and appears to be breathing in the wonder of the city. The cat is reunited with the owner, and also secretly becomes Miles’ sidekick.
The cat is a part of one of the suits that the player unlocks, and Insomniac spared no details in making it awesome – the fuzzy companion is wearing a Spider-Man mask over the top part of his head. That’s not all; when Miles performs a finisher, the cat leaps out of the backpack, bares its fangs, and slashes at the enemy with a furious claw strike. It’s a goofy visual, but also a fantastic reward for completing side activities.
A Whole Lot of Heart
Echoing the narrative flow of the first game, Insomniac’s writers says this story will have plenty of slow moments that give us introspective looks at many of the characters close to Miles. In many of these sequences, the Spider-Man suit won’t be worn, and we’ll see Miles wandering around Harlem, getting to know his new neighborhood.
In one such scene, nightfall hits, and Miles returns home, acrobatically descending a fire escape to reach his bedroom window. He sneaks in, throws some clothing on over his suit, and then bolts out the front door to meet Ganke on the street. Miles playfully throws a snowball at his friend, who isn’t as amused. The player has control of Miles as they walk down the street into a pop-up street fair. People are everywhere, enjoying each other’s company, purchasing food from various tents, and are dancing to the music. The atmosphere is festive, and no details are spared in the visuals, making even a slow sequence like this look jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Miles is particularly keen on the music he hears. His father was big into records, and Miles has followed in his footsteps, becoming a bit of a beat maker. He tells Ganke he wants to get back into mixing. One of the game’s collectibles is related to music. Insomniac wouldn’t go into specifics, but did say it involves sampling music. As for the soundtrack itself, players will hear a mix of licensed and original songs coming from such talents as Jaden Smith, Kid Cudi, and Boi-1da. Horton calls the score “orchestral synth hop,” as it blends all of those styles.
As Miles continues exploring, he again shows interest in another giant mural. This one is an illustration of a woman with dangling hoop earrings. Miles confronts the artist, who we learn is named Hailey. She communicates with him through American Sign Language. This isn’t the only time we see Hailey in our demo. She seems to be around a lot, and there’s a clear attraction between Miles and her. Horton wouldn’t go into any more details, and instead urged us to play the game to find out more about her.
After wandering the streets for a bit, Miles runs into his mom, who is about to hold a rally for her run at office. The rally obviously makes Miles a little uneasy given what happened at the last one he attended, when his father was being honored. During a conversation, we hear Miles speak a little Spanish with his mother. Insomniac says they put great care into the different languages and representation of cultures. Jeter says that he took numerous coaching sessions to get a true Nuyorican Spanish dialogue down, which is specific to Puerto Ricans born and raised in New York.
In all of the footage we saw, numerous characters come forward as focuses in this story, and without revealing specifics, Narcisse says Miles’ uncle will be around too (whether not that’s as the Prowler remains to be seen). Unlike the first game, you’ll never see sequences unfold through anyone else’s eyes. Miles is the only playable character.
The Journey Begins
From the moment Marvel Comics was founded in 1939, a fleet of talented artists and writers began telling superhuman stories that were about inclusion. Those stories continue to be told, even in games, whether it’s the journey we just took with Kamala Khan in Marvel’s Avengers or the one we are about to experience in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
With Marvel’s Spider-Man, Insomniac delivered a grand adventure that soared with grace within the densely populated streets of New York City. This sequel appears to be in lockstep with that game, hitting many of the same notes that made it as enthralling as it was heartwarming. Yes, I’m concerned it won’t last nearly long enough, but Horton assures me the campaign is a “satisfying length” and plenty of depth awaits those who veer off of it. I can’t wait to see what villains lurk in the shadows, what NuForm truly is, and above all else, I want to see just how powerful and confident Miles is at the end of his journey.
Cover by Sara Pichelli © 2020 MARVEL
All Marvel’s characters, images and designs are © 2020 MARVEL