There’s nothing quite like a console launch to soften the blow of paying nearly full whack for an expansion pack.
Miles Morales is superb in many ways, a gentle iteration upon the already delightful gameplay loop of the first Spider-Man. Yet, inescapably, it’s also short and a little empty.
The first game introduced Miles with a few playable sections, but this time round he’s the player character, having moved into Harlem with his mum who’s now running for the city council. With Peter Parker away in Europe on holiday (yep, really), the time comes for Miles to fly solo and protect the city from a newly-escaped Rhino and a newer technological threat.
The story is bog-standard superhero fare, but a lively protagonist and young supporting cast sees it clip along nicely, albeit with a shortage of surprising or inventive beats. There are shadowy threats, conspiracies to be unpicked, and thug after thug to beat and/or web up.
Simple combo-based combat returns with a few more powers to juggle, making up for a narrower range of gadgets to employ, and it’s once again shallow enough to enjoy without requiring must investment. That does limit its reward, but higher difficulty settings can mitigate that if you’re a masochist.
Just like last time, the real star here is the movement set – swinging around the city is just as effortless and satisfying as ever, with a new range of animations making Miles’ personality obvious at every moment, or at least underlining that he’s a different man, at minimum. Slipping between buildings, parkouring at breakneck speed through fire escapes and free-falling to build up pace, it all comes together stunningly again.
Miles Morales also looks simply beautiful, a holiday setting making for snow-covered streets and a frosty, postcard New York. In the shadow of the first, longer game, though, that city is largely unexplored – if you’re coming back to it after a long while, you’ll almost be surprised by how many areas are left unused, most of them because they featured more heavily last time round.
In fact, taking around 8-10 hours to get a practically 100% completed run showcases just how modest Miles Morales is content-wise. On the one hand, its digestibility and lack of padding is hugely welcome. On the other, a little more breathing room would have helped certain segues in the story feel less jarring, and made Manhattan feel a mite more rewarding to explore.
Which is to say that in a year or so, when its price has fallen a chunk, this will represent some of the best next-gen value around, a tight and rewarding superhero yarn. For now, it’s a slightly extravagant but nonetheless enticing prospect regardless.