This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
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Huh. That’s odd. Records seem to indicate that a new console generation began at some point in the last few weeks, and yet, mysteriously, I don’t seem to care. I just double checked and yes, I’m still mostly just feeling the usual blend of boredom and alcohol-saturated dread. Sorry, Sony and Microsoft, this doesn’t usually happen to me. Maybe I’d get in the mood if the two of you make out while I watch, but you know, it does kind of feel like absolutely fuck all has changed. But hey, there hasn’t been a single console in all of gaming history that wouldn’t have benefited from holding out its release for six months or so. Maybe I’ll feel differently once I actually have access to a PS5 and the console doesn’t exist merely as a glint in an ebay scalper’s eye. Sony’s going to have to do a lot fucking better than a remake of an eleven year old game and an expansion pack sequel if it wants my shiny purple helmet to rise out of the trenches of No Man’s Land, especially since one of them came out on PS4 as well. Sony, I’m not gonna date your spoiled overweight daughter just because your house has a new pool. Your older, more experienced daughter can let me into the pool as well, AND she still has my credit cards.
But anyway. I guess we shouldn’t say “expansion pack sequel” anymore. That’s an old term from back when PC games were sold in cereal boxes and life was good and children still recognised the sound of joyful laughter. I guess the kids might say “DLC sequel” these days in between quoting memes and picking up the pieces of our broken civilization. A DLC sequel is one that mostly feels like the last game but a bit more of it. Some might say unavoidable in the case of a sequel to Disney’s Marvel’s Etc’s Spider-Man. I mean, obviously it’s going to be in the same New York sandbox, Spider-Man’s not holidaying in Cardiff any time soon, and obviously you’re going to be playing as Spider-Man again, hopefully we learned our lesson last time that not playing as Spider-Man in the Spider-Man game is like throwing away the condom and sticking the wrapper on your cock. But wait, Yahtzee Croshaw, you snake in the sock drawer, you don’t play as the original Spider-Man in this game. You play as Miles Morales, did you accidentally cover up the title with spit when all the racial diversity sent you into fits of conservative rage?
Look at it this way, obviously baiting viewer. Spider-Man is about a nerdy teenager who likes science and is a good boy who gets spider powers and a dead father figure and has to balance vigilante heroics with their troublesome personal life. Absolutely bugger all has changed. I know Miles Morales is an established character in the comics because comic nerds will only tolerate permanent change when it isn’t a fucking change at all. Peter Parker takes under his wing a freshly spider-powered up Miles Morales and swiftly forces him to use the same codename and wear the same outfit, which, lets be blunt, is a bit weird and narcissistic and not a little gatekeeper-y. Peter Parker goes on his holidays and leaves his new Mini-Me to defend the city alone, but Miles finally proves worthy of Peter’s crusty Spider-Man pyjamas when half the people he knows turn out to be supervillains. Turns out you can only make it as a supervillain in New York if you’ve been to at least three of Spider-Man’s birthday parties. Nepotism, I call it. These days Spider-Man probably gets more thrown if supervillains don’t turn out to be someone he knows. He wrestles them to the ground and the mask falls off and he goes “Gasp! No, it can’t be! I have no idea who you are!”
It’s tempting at this point to say “If you liked the last Insomniac Games Spider-Man you’ll like this ‘cos it’s more of it”, call it a review and go back to alphabetizing my cum socks, but that would probably lead to the question of what specific parts of the original Spider-Man this is more of, because, like an ill-prepared orgasm, original Spider-Man was all over the place. With swinging and stealth and combat and collectibles and science minigames and puzzles and that afore-hinted-at business where Spider-Man takes five every now and again and you have to play as his fucking roommate trying to knock out a crafty one without the squeaky bedsprings alerting a guard. Well, obviously the swinging is back, as well as the combat and stealth, but where the last game had a tendency to reward you for getting through stealth sections undetected by spawning a bunch more enemies you’re forced to fight head on, the way a retail manager rewards their most diligent employee by giving them the closing shift every fucking night, Miles Morales tends not to do that so much. And even when it does, Miles has a new cloaking power that allows him to turn the combat situations back into stealth challenges.
Which, like a butcher’s end of day clearance sale, does rather lower the stakes, when you can smash the cloak button at any point, piss off, and wait for the usual collective brain aneurysm that makes all the baddies split up to go look for you. You hardly even fucking need stealth at that point. Smash a dude into a drum kit with a howler monkey in front of seven of his mates, who cares, we can fucking cloak. One of the characteristics of DLC sequel is that all the new mechanics and abilities don’t so much put a new twist on gameplay as make it easier, and that’s precisely the issue with the cloak, not to mention the new electricity powers you can use in combat. If you punch dudes a load of times, for example, you build up your enthusiasm for punches meter which enables you to do the super spicy punch, which is like a punch but more so. And there’s a couple of different super spicy punch powers that can be also used in traversal mode to gain height or speed, but then you run out of enthusiasm for punches and have to stop and punch some things before you can do them again.
There isn’t so much of those science minigames or roommate masturbation sections, there are some environmental puzzles based around finding the right line of sight to start flicking webs around but they integrate a bit better with the core mechanics. It’s certainly less bloated than the last game. Funny that, putting less stuff in something makes it seem like there’s not as much stuff in it. So you can call Miles Morales a lesser game or you could call it a more streamlined one if you feel like defending a massive corporate franchise that will never care about you or know your name. I’d say we’re still having trouble figuring out how to get the most out of the unique Spider-Man traversal mechanics instead of just shrugging and spawning more generic thugs to beat up. Take a mission to get a cat down from a tree and chances are you’ll find a pack of generic thugs among the branches scrumping for apples. There’s like one plot mission where you have to chase the main villain through the city that makes the most of the swinging mechanics and it’s really fucking annoying ‘cos the game fails you on the spot if you drift six inches away from the intended route. It’s like trying to locate a vagina in a pitch black bedroom and getting clipped round the ear every time you accidentally fuck the throw pillows.