At some point since I played Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, a switch has flipped in me; I have gone from having stepped off the MCU train, content to watch it chug off into the distance with its remaining passengers, to actively wishing for its violent derailment. I’m saying this to emphasise that I loathe singiing the praises of anything even tangentially related to Marvel, without also revealing that I have stashed a steel chair and bag of thumbtacks under the ring as a surprise attack against Kevin Feige.
Spider-Man is about as Marvel-related as you can get. I said back when the remaster of Insomniac’s first Spider-Man game came to PC that the reason to not buy it was that Miles Morales was coming to PC in a few months. A few months has become now. And I must own that Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a good game. It’s a big, bold action adventure full of heroics and quips, and it’s still the better Spider-Man game. I think a large part of that is because it’s shorter.
Miles Morales (the game) has all the good stuff from Spider-Man – like the swinging, and the battering criminals to a point that would be considered police brutality if you weren’t an arachnid-themed vigilante, and the fun Twitter-analogue in the menu screen that responds to what you do in the world. New York is a big superhero playground, and Insomniac made possibly my favourite traversal style in games right now. Web-swinging is never not fun, and you get the sense that Miles really enjoys it.
It’s got cool new stuff too, like Miles himself, who is an immensely charismatic young man finding his place in the world, and who is very excited to be a superhero. He has extra spidey powers that Peter Parker doesn’t have, which, in the first instance, can trigger big explosions of sparking orange that Miles calls his Venom attacks. There are different characters and subplots, you’ve got your Friendly Neighbourhood app for locals to ask for help. I even like the bad guys and their stupid purple guns.
You know what else it has? Less game in the game. If you look on HowLongToBeat Spider-Man classic, with all the DLCs as in the remaster, will take you about 30 hours if you do the story and a decent number of side bits. The same proportion of Miles Morales will run you about 12. And look, I get it. When I was a cash poor, time rich student, a game being able to provide me hours of entertainment running to three figures was important to me. I was going thousands of pounds into debt for six hours of contact teaching a week, what the hell else was I going to do when my temping at Gamestation (RIP) was over?
But Spider-Man: Miles Morales has much less bloat, and the story pacing is way better because the progression is much more tight. You consume less, but it’s better quality and more flavourful. The game is just better for being shorter. It’s a tenner less expensive, which might get you into that swampy calculus of time vs worth, but I think as a whole experience Miles Morales is more enjoyable. And in this case I really have put my money where my mouth is, ‘cos I bought Miles Morales when it came out on PS5.
An extremely good piece of writing advice that I was told over a decade ago is, once you’ve finished, go back and cut 10%. I think this applies to a lot of things, even big budget games. I understand that making and then cutting something in a video game takes more effort than pressing delete in a word processor, but my suggestion would be to cut it before you start making it. I’m playing God Of War Ragnarök and I’m enjoying it, but I’m not enjoying it as much as everyone else seems to, because compared to the first one it’s just lacking a lot of focus. There’s padding. Spider-Man: Miles Morales still has busy-work collectathons, but compared to its peers it’s positively svelt.
So if you were going to get one Spider-Man game on PC (and if we’re excluding the cool 00s ones featuring Bruce Campbell), I’d tell you to get Spider-Man: Miles Morales. And hey, it’s set at Christmas, so it’s a cute game to play at this time of year. There are lights up in the streets and people wear big puffy coats and hats, and your mum has the tree up at home.