Spider-Man: Miles Morales & The City That Never Sleeps DLC Review – A return to the Big Apple
Hello and welcome back to Galaxy of Geek for another review from Cade’s Arcade, I’m Cade!
Spider-Man, oh Spider-Man. Whatever would I do without my favorite wall crawler on the Playstation? I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not a world I’d like to live in. When Insomniac introduced us all to their interpretation of the character back in 2018, it’s pretty safe to say it was a smash hit from the get go and it’s not hard to see why.
And now Insomniac has decided to bring us back to the streets of New York City once again, only this time Peter Parker takes a back seat in favor of letting new comber Miles Morales take on the leading role. Originally released on November 12th, 2020, Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes us on a journey with the titular character as he gets accustomed to his new found powers.
If you saw my original review of the first Spider-Man game, then it should come as no surprise that I was looking forward this spin-off adventure when it was first announced during the Playstation 5 reveal event in June of 2020. However, my expectations were tempered a bit amidst all the confusion that came from the announcement.
Many people were rather puzzled as to what form Spider-Man: Miles Morales would take. Was it DLC for the original game? Was it a stand alone title? WOULD MILES SAY A SWEAR?!?!? Ok not so much that last one, but regardless there was a lot of confusion surrounding this game.
Before I get into the back story, I want to emphasize that I know Miles Morales is a stand alone game and not DLC, alright? Don’t get all butt hurt just because I put DLC and Miles Morales in the same sentence.
It’s been well documented at this point, but incase you aren’t aware, the back story goes that Insomniac originally planned for the Miles Morales spin-off to be a second DLC expansion of the first game, which would explain a lot but I’ll come back to that later. While it’s not for sure known when the Miles Morales DLC would have originally released, it’s safe to assume we’d see it sometime after the 3rd story pack from The City That Never Sleeps DLC became available, as evidence of the little teaser we were treated to where Peter begins training Miles. I know stating the obvious, but I’m just making sure we’re on the same page.
Anyways, as the team at Insomniac began working on the expansion, they kept getting idea after idea of what they wanted to include in the game. It got to the point where they decided to give it the spin-off treatment and make it a stand alone title, which is akin to games like Infamous: First Light and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy on the PlayStation. Or at least that’s the story we’ve been told about why this game was turned into a stand alone game and not DLC, but I’ll get to that later in the review, because I’m not entirely convinced that’s the real reason.
Due to the nature of this game originally being developed as DLC of the original game, and because I never got around to reviewing The City that Never Sleeps expansion, I decided to review both in this article and draw comparison between the two on what they made better with Miles Morales, and how Insomniac can improve their Spider-Man formula when they come out with Spider-Man 2 and beyond. Provided I can come up with potential solutions.
Also, before I get started, I was only able to play the PlayStation 4 version of Miles Morales due to not wanting to pick up a PlayStation 5 at launch; I’m waiting until May to get one for anyone wondering. It’s mostly to wait out the launch rush and give Sony time to work out some of the issues that will inevitably come up since it’s a brand new system. Plus how ’bout that new Ratchet & Clank tho… looks so good, but doesn’t have a release date yet so I can wait on the PlayStation 5. As such, I won’t be able to comment on the PlayStation 5 specific enhancements. However, from the research I’ve done, most everything I say in this review should still apply to the PlayStation 5 version, minus any potential issues with things that would benefit from the PS5 like load times. And if not, then please feel free to comment and tell me otherwise!
On that note, there are many things that can make a game great, but there’s only one thing that truly matters to me. Can I personally recommend The City that Never Sleeps DLC & Spider-Man: Miles Morales for the Playstation 4? Let’s take a look!
Since The City that Never Sleeps DLC came out first, I’ll start there. While it’s not explicitly said, you can assume it takes place sometime between 6 to 9 months after the main game concluded, or at least it isn’t out right stated in the DLC as far as I’m aware. Due to Wilson Fisk going to prison resulted in a power vacuum, Peter is now left dealing with the different crime families, who breakout in a turf war (hey it’s the name of one of the episodes!) with each other to gain control over the city, with the mob boss Hammer Head leading the charge.
Since this DLC pack has been out for a while, I’m not gonna be as spoiler sensitive, mostly because there honestly isn’t much to spoil here. If I’m being completely honest, I just did not care that much about the DLC’s main story. That’s not to say the story doesn’t have it’s moments because it does, which I will get to in a minute. However, for the most part I thought that everything directly related to the mob story line was a tad on the dull side. But to be fair I’ve never been big into American gangster movies, or really anything American gangster related in any media, so it’s just a personal preference and bias of mine and not a reflection on the quality of the story itself. At best I’ll say that the story is serviceable at fleshing out some of the back story in the Spider-Man universe Insomniac created.
Thankfully, most everything else outside the mob story line was interesting to me. I especially enjoyed seeing how they handled Black Cat in this expansion, it was tastefully done. We even got a stealth segment in the game that was more or less an upgraded version of the one MJ level I actually liked in the main game. As a friend of mine put it, since we are playing as a Peter who has mileage under his belt, it’s awesome seeing these characters be introduced to us with the context that characters like Black Cat and company have history with Peter, because for the fans who are already familiar with these characters, they feel right at home.
Then we got the return of Silver Sable, which was nice seeing the conclusion to her story from the main game where she came back to collect all of the equipment she left behind that Hammer Head began using in his efforts to take over the city. However, I felt her reintroduction in the 3rd episode was a tad contrived. Considering the last time we saw Silver Sable and how both Sable and Peter left on good terms, with Sable even going as far as complimenting Peter on his sense of humor, it feels a little forced for her to immediately return to her shoot first and never ask questions later attitude towards Peter. It’s so out of left field that even Peter was confused by the sudden shift in attitude.
If I had to take a shot in the dark, it almost seems as though Insomniac wanted to implement a Silver Sable fight at some point in the main game but most likely had to shelve the idea until they could use it later. But since they ended Sable’s story in the main game the way they did, there wasn’t any good reason they could come up with that would entirely make sense as to why her and Peter would fight all of a sudden. The fact that Peter makes comments on the situation being kind of strange means Insomniac knew this would be a little out of the blue and wrote Peter to voice what the audience was thinking. I don’t know, maybe I’m reading too much into that. Either way, regardless of what actually happened doesn’t change the fact that the whole fight felt contrived to me.
Now I normally don’t talk much about side quest stories because most of the time they aren’t directly tied to the events of the game, I’m looking at you Screwball… Real quick before I continue, screw the Screwball missions in particular… those challenges can go die in a ditch in New Mexico…
Rant aside, in episode 2: Turf War, it focus’ on Peter’s favorite police chief Yuri Watanabe, and shows the breaking point that caused her to spiral into criminal activity. While episode 2 focused on Yuri’s struggle with her anger, in episode 3 she has fully embraced her alter ego known as Wraith. Throughout the episode you see the result of her handy work strung up all over the city. This was a side quest that sort of gets a conclusion (but not really) because it most likely is setup for what Insomniac has planned in Spider-Man 2, or at least that’s what it seemed like to me. Despite her side quest being fairly brief, I’m excited to see where this story thread leads. I should also add that Wraith was a character I had never heard of prior to this game and I’m glad Insomniac made no mention to her prior in the commercials leading up to the release of the DLC because it was a treat studying up on her after being introduced to the character. Now obviously I could have looked up Yuri prior to this DLC expansion, but at the time I didn’t think Yuri played that much of a role in the comics with Peter. Clearly that assumption was wrong, and you know what? I’m happy I was wrong, take that haters!
Alright, moving onto Miles’ solo outing! The story picks up roughly 1 year after the events of the first game, during Christmas time. Peter went on a working vacation with MJ, leaving Miles by himself while he continues to hone in his abilities. All the while Miles has to deal with the terrorist group known as The Underground who’s hell bent on taking down Roxxon Energy.
First off, Miles Morales is shorter than the first game but not by much. The whole game will take about 12 to 15 hours to complete on your first run, depending on how much of the side quests you do. For reference, the first Spider-Man game takes about 15 to 20 hours to complete the main story. However, why people are feeling like Miles Morales is way shorter than it actually is, I believe stems from the simple fact that there is way less side content to do in Miles, but I’ll get to that later. Simply put, I want to emphasize that the story on it’s own is very similar in length to the first Spider-Man game, give or take a few hours. Now I know there are people out there who have said the story is 5 hours long in length, and if you really push it yes you could technically beat it in that time. But if you’re trying to play the game at that pace then are you really playing the game to have fun?
Now unlike the Spider-Man DLC, Miles Morales hasn’t been out as long. As such, I’m gonna try not getting too spoilery, but if something slips I can’t help it. One thing that became apparent real quick was how the general story beats paralleled the structure of the first game. This isn’t a bad thing, but at the same time there were parts that became a tad predictable. That’s not to say the story didn’t have it’s moments because it most certainly did; just don’t expect the same emotional roller coaster that we were treated to with the original because the twists could be seen a mile away.
That being said, in some ways I like that Miles’ story parallel’s Peter’s adventure in the first game. In a way it’s like it puts Miles on the same metaphorical page as Peter when Spider-Man 2 inevitably releases. I know it hasn’t been officially announced as of yet, but come on, the series is way too popular for them to not be working on the sequel.
Finally, as far as story goes, I did think the pacing of the game was a bit too fast. There were plenty of fun moments in the story where Insomniac’s writing shines. But those moments get heavily outweighed by the pacing as a result because there were several plot points that quite honestly needed more time to develop for anything to leave a lasting impression. I would give some examples of what I mean but like I said I don’t want to get into too many spoilers in the story. But for anyone seeing this review who has played the game, first off I’m flattered you’d even bother to take the time to read this so thanks! And second, you know what plot points I’m talking about.
Spider-Man the cat was pretty cute though.
Alright now time to dive into the bread and butter of this series, the gameplay! Across both games they more or less play the same, but I will say that Miles Morales does improve on many of the aspects from the first.
For instance one of the issues I had with the first game stems from not being able to complete enemy bases completely in stealth. As a quick refresher, in the first game enemy bases were wave style combat challenges, with a total of 6 waves per base. Only the 1st wave could be completed in stealth, but then the enemies automatically spot you in wave 2, forcing you to fight offensively. While that problem persisted in the DLC, in Miles Morales that issue got address and now you can either choose to complete enemy bases in stealth or with combat. I really hope they continue doing this with Spider-Man 2.
This next point I never addressed in my first Spider-Man review because it wasn’t that much of a problem that was worth talking about. However trying to find crimes in the first game did tend to be a bit of a drag when trying to wait around, in my opinion. Granted I’m the type of player that likes to collect everything after the story concludes so I have a reason to keep playing after the story ends. Because of this, when it came time to complete each district, that also included having to do 5 crimes from each of the 4 faction in each district. Due to the randomly generated nature of the crimes, if you’re like me and saved this part as the last thing to do before getting the platinum trophy, then you’d sometimes have to wait 5 to 10 minutes until a crime decided to pop up.
But like I said, it wasn’t that much of a problem that I felt it was worth mentioning in my first review. I bring it up now because Insomniac also improved this little aspect of the game by use of an app that Miles’ friend Ganke creates. I love the inclusion of this app so much because not only does it make finding crimes really quick, but you can also select whatever crime you feel like doing whenever you want. In addition, it also made doing the side quests more streamlined, whereas before you’d have to pause the game to select missions. I felt the integration of the app was a smart design choice, both for gameplay purposes and story reasons.
I also liked how Insomniac actually gave the challenges found throughout the map more purpose. Instead of featuring Task Master or Screwball challenges, they’re used as a means for Peter to train Miles while he’s away, as far as story goes. In the first game, they were just a means to collect extra tokens for upgrades, tokens mind you that you’re able to get in other ways. This time around, to unlock specific abilities you have to complete specific challenges, with each ability unlocked being themed around the specific challenge you’re doing. For instance if you’re doing a stealth challenge, then once you complete the challenge, you’ll unlock a stealth based ability.
Next lets talk about the changes in Miles’ gameplay. For the most part, Miles plays roughly the same as Peter, such as having gadgets and utilizing a meter for special abilities with the changes coming from the different use cases for each. Due to having half the number of gadgets Peter has, Miles makes up for this by utilizing his bio-electric based venom attacks, which is what the meter is used for this time around. Functionally, some of the venom powers work in a similar manner to a few of Peter’s gadgets, but over all they add a nice variety to Miles’ move set that distinguishes himself from Peter. In particular, I liked how they integrated Miles’ bio-electricity with some of the environmental puzzles. The puzzles themselves are pretty easy, but fun all the same.
In addition to his bio-electricity, Miles also utilizes his camo abilities from the comics. His invisibility did take a little getting use to, but I liked the integration of it on some of the side quests. There was one mission in particular that stood out to me where Miles had to investigate what happened to some stolen toys. You’re tasked with taking pictures of the thug’s faces. Through force of habit from playing as Peter in the first game, I was always taking pictures of the thugs from a distance. It was the last guy I was having the hardest time with because I couldn’t get the right angle. It wasn’t until I realized I was suppose to be using the invisibility this whole time that it clicked, and it gave me the biggest mind blown moment for the potential scenarios we could run into in Spider-Man 2. I’d also like to add that at some point you do unlock an ability that automatically turns on the camo if Miles is about to be spotted, and holy crap that ability is a god send!
Now there are plenty of other little changes they made to the gameplay, like how finishers work. In the original game once you built up your focus meter you could use a finisher. With Miles, your finishers are based on your combo, essentially making it work exactly like the Batman: Arkham games with how you activate finishers. Little changes like this are present throughout Miles Morales but I’ve talked about the ones that stood out to me the most so I’m gonna just move on.
Then there’s the side quests, which honestly weren’t all that interesting. To be fair the first Spider-Man game didn’t exactly have the greatest missions either so I guess Miles Morales is just following suit. However, I do believe the amount of content like the side quests is the main reason why people are saying Miles Morales is as short as it is. While yes the story itself is a few hours shorter, both stories very similar length, it’s the side content that made the first Spider-Man so much longer. For reference, I said earlier that Miles Morales was about 12 to 15 hours to complete depending on how much of the side content you did. The first Spider-Man will easily have you playing for nearly 40 hours with all the side content it has.
It’s at this point you might be thinking to yourself “but I played Miles Morales and it did not feel like a 12 hour game”, and that is due to the story’s pacing being so fast, as I said earlier. The game feels way shorter than it actually is because stuff is constantly happening in the story at break neck speeds, but I assure you the game is about 12 hours long if you just mostly stick to the story. Can you beat it faster than that? Sure you can, anybody speed running a game will beat a game quicker than normal.
As far as presentation for The City that Never Sleeps is concerned, it’s the same here as it was in the main story. However, I will say that I was not a fan of the DLC being broken up into 3 parts and how it’s all accessed through the game’s menu rather than the main game’s map, which is something most DLC’s are doing these days. One way they could accomplish that is the DLC story could pop up on the map as a side quest or something once you got far enough in the story to play it. It always strikes me as a tad lazy when developers have DLC story content only accessible through the games menu rather than attempt to creatively integrate it into the main game’s map. Breath of the Wild comes to mind as a prime example of what I mean, by how all the DLC content was integrated into the map itself, no menu navigation is required to access the content.
Transitioning over to Miles Morales, now is as good of a time as any to address an aspect of the game that caused the most controversy prior to the game’s launch, Peter’s plastic surgery; at least it’s not freaking puddles this time. If you aren’t aware (somehow), for Miles Morales Insomniac decided to change the model of Peter for some reason and I could not tell you why. Insomniac says it’s to take advantage of the PlayStation 5 hardware but that explanation does not make sense to me at all. I could be mistaken on that, so if I am please let me know. The new model can be seen on both the PS4 and PS5 versions of Miles Morales as well as the PS5 enhanced version of the original game. The fact that the new model is on the PS4 version of Miles Morales causes Insomniac’s explanation to make even less sense.
Anyways, I’ll be the first to say I do not hate it, and would go as far as saying I actually prefer this version of Peter over the original model. I also know that most people will not agree with me on that, and that’s perfectly fine; we can have different opinions and still be friends. At this point I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that doesn’t seem to hate it, or at least it feels like that with how people keep yelling at me for not agreeing with them.
In fact in my Spider-Man review I actually commented on how I didn’t like the original model to begin with so when Insomniac made the change I embraced it with open arms. At the time however I said that Peter looked a tad vanilla but I couldn’t quite place my finger on why it didn’t look right to me. After I had made the review, it was pointed out to me that the original model, whether it was intended or not, was a combination of the 3 main actors who have portrayed Spider-Man on the big screen, which explained why the design looked a little bland to me. At the same time I wasn’t about to start a riot because I thought his design was lack luster.
A big part as to why I didn’t really care for the design is because in the first game Peter is suppose to be 23, but instead they made him look like he’s in his mid 30’s. It’s like trying to watch Smallville and just accepting that Tom Welling is a high school kid, despite not look like a high school kid in the slightest. I like that the new Peter model actually looks like the age he’s suppose to be. Again I know I’m in the minority on this one, but it’s just how I feel about it.
If I’m being completely honest, I think the main backlash that people are having towards the new model is not because it looks “bad” but rather it just looks different than what they’re use to. Because I guarantee if the tables were turned and the new model was the version of Peter we got first, people would like that model more because it’s what they’re familiar with. In fact I actually tested this out on some of my friends who don’t play video games and haven’t seen the Spider-Man game. I showed them a screen shot of the new model first and then the old one and asked which one they liked more. Every single person all said they liked the new model more. I don’t say that to illustrate the old one is a bad design, I’m just pointing out the fact that as humans we tend to gravitate towards things we are more familiar with, and a big part of that has to do with what we are shown first.
All that said, despite the fact that I do like the new model more… I wish Insomniac didn’t bother changing it to begin with. For starters, the change in model started this whole topic to begin with on whether it’s a good model or not. Yeah Peter might have looked off to me originally, but I had already accept it; plus most of the time he’s wearing his Spider-Man mask anyways so it’s not like I was looking at it all the time. It’s just the whole thing is really weird to me as to why they decided to change Peter’s face all of a sudden. I usually try to play devil’s advocate and try to see things from the developer’s perspective as to why they might have decided to what they did, but I seriously can not think of a valid reason for changing Peter’s model. At the end of the day though, the new model is here and it looks like it’s here to stay, and I’m perfectly fine with that.
Now that we got that out of the way, lets talk about the presentation in the rest of Miles Morales. With the game taking place during Christmas time, we are treated to a snow covered New York City and it’s awesome to look at, even on the PS4. Side note, while ray tracing makes the PS5 version look stunning, there’s no arguing against that, Miles Morales looks just fine on the PS4. The over all aesthetic of New York City during the winter time seriously looks amazing regardless of which version you play.
To go along with the change in environment, Miles even gets some of his own quirks that expands on what Peter could do in the first game. For instance, when Miles pulls out the finger guns, little electric sparks shoot out. Or when you’re on the ground, you can dance with random people. They even expand on what Miles could do with the air tricks, where Miles can make 4 different poses, which are references to Into the Spider-Verse. These get chalked up to those neat little details I keep mentioning.
As we head into my final thoughts, there’s one aspect about the nature of Miles Morales being turned into a stand alone game that I’d like to pick at for a minute. I do find it rather curious as to why Insomniac decided to make Miles Morales a stand alone title over just straight up DLC. While it’s well known that Insomniac apparently had so many ideas that they couldn’t fit it in a DLC, the final product doesn’t exactly reflect that statement. The game really does feel like it was truly intended to be DLC from the beginning that was then spread thin with the lowest common denominator content to make it seem like a big budget title when it wasn’t developed as one.
Alright I’m gonna put on my tin foil hat for a second because I’m gonna run a scenario by you on what I think actually happened behind the scenes which may explain why Miles Morales turned out the way it did. I suspect Sony wanted to try and drive PlayStation 5 sales at launch by featuring a brand new Spider-Man game day one. Not that the PlayStation 5 needed a Spider-Man game at launch to help sales, but you can’t deny that having a new game in the series wouldn’t hurt either. Since Spider-Man 2 is more than likely 1 to 2 years away from being released, Sony saw Insomniac working on Miles Morales and thought “Perfect! Take the DLC and make it a stand alone game!”. Hyperbole aside, I really do think that Miles Morales being turned into a stand alone game rather than the DLC it is clearly intended to be was caused by the higher ups at Sony coming to Insomniac and requiring them to make it a game on it’s own.
From the pacing of the story being rather quick, and to the sheer lack of side content compared to the first Spider-Man, it’s no wonder why people are saying this game is lacking in several areas. I want to stress that Miles Morales is still a really good game, and if you liked the first game then you should definitely pick it up at some point, just not for $50/$70 on the PS4/PS5 respectively. I think it’s really the price where the main issues lie. If this game was $30 or even $40, I think it wouldn’t have been too much to ask. But when you price it nearly as much as the first Spider-Man game, then consumers are going to expect a similar amount of content that reflects the price. Bottom line, prices set expectations.
I know it sounds like I’m coming down hard on Miles Morales towards the end here, but I want to stress that my personal issues mostly stem from the asking price and not form the quality of the game itself, because again the game is super fun, I really enjoyed it.
On the bright side, because this is a PlayStation game, Miles Morales will go on sale sometime in the near future, and frequently once it does begin to go on sale. So keep an eye for them discounts boys!
With all that said, that’s why my personal recommendation for The City that Never Sleeps DLC is: Worth a Playthrough
As for Spider-Man: Miles Morales, I give it: Worth a Playthrough
Despite my issues I’ve stated with either title, I do think they are worth your time, just wait for a decent sale on Miles Morales when it comes time for you to pick that one up.
As always, reviews are opinions that should never be taken as your own. Keep it right here on Galaxy of Geek, and don’t forget to check out Cade’s Arcade for more reviews and videos on all things nerdy. Take care, and I will see you next time!
Console & Version Played: PlayStation 4 Launch Edition; available on PlayStation 5
Time upon completion: Miles Morales – 12 to 15 hours/The City that Never Sleeps – 8 hours
Price: Miles Morales – $50; $70 on PlayStation 5/The City that Never Sleeps – $25
Why you should buy The City that Never Sleeps: Honestly for the price it’s not that bad. Plus if you haven’t picked up Spider-Man as of yet, then the Game of the Year edition has the DLC included.
Why you should buy Spider-Man: Miles Morales: It’s a good title to break in your new PlayStation 5. Otherwise it’s still solid on PlayStation 4, it’s just more of what you love from the first game.
Why you shouldn’t buy The City that Never Sleeps: Unless you just aren’t that much of a fan of Spider-Man and/or this game in particular, there aren’t too many reasons to not pick up the DLC.
Why you shouldn’t buy Spider-Man: Miles Morales: It is short which might turn off some people. I also think it costs more than I feel it should.
Who are these games for: Fans of Insomniac, Spider-Man, and general action-adventure games.