At some point since I played Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, a switch has flipped inside me; I went from getting off the MCU train, happy to see it pull away with its remaining passengers, to actively wishing for its violent derailment. I say this to emphasize that I hate to sing the praises of anything even tangentially Marvel-related, without also revealing that I hid a steel chair and a bag of thumbtacks under the ring as a surprise attack on Kevin Feige.
Spider-Man is about as Marvel related as it gets. I said back when the remaster of Insomniac’s first Spider-Man game hit PC that the reason not to buy it was that Miles Morales was coming to PC in a few months. A few months has become now. And I must own this Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a good game. It’s a big, daring action adventure full of heroism and banter, and it’s still the best Spider-Man game. I think that’s largely because it’s shorter.
Miles Morales (the game) has all the good things about Spider-Man – like the swinging and violent criminals to a point that would be considered police brutality if you weren’t an arachnid-themed vigilante, and the fun Twitter-like in-screen menu that responds to what you’re doing in the world. New York is a big playground for superheroes, and Insomniac has perhaps become my favorite style of traversal in games right now. Surfing the web is never fun, and you get the feeling that Miles really enjoys it.
There are also some cool new things, like Miles himself, who is an immensely charismatic young man finding his place in the world and very excited to be a superhero. He has extra outlandish powers that Peter Parker doesn’t have, which in the first place can unleash large blasts of glowing orange that Miles calls his Venom attacks. There are different characters and subplots, you have your Friendly Neighborhood app for locals to ask for help. I even like bad guys and their stupid purple guns.
Do you know what else he has? Less gameplay in the game. If you watch the classic HowLongToBeat Spider-Man, with all the DLC 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 make you run about 12. And look, I understand. When I was a cash-poor, time-rich college student, a game that could provide me with triple-digit hours of entertainment was important to me. I was going into several thousand pounds for six hours of contact teaching a week, what else was I going to do when my interim at Gamestation (RIP) was over?
But Spider-Man: Miles Morales has a lot less bloat, and the story pacing is much better because the progression is much tighter. You consume less of it, but it is of better quality and tastier. The game is just better because it’s shorter. It’s ten times cheaper, which might get you into this swampy calculation of time versus value, but I think overall the Miles Morales experience is more enjoyable. And in this case, I really put my money where my mouth is, because I bought Miles Morales when it came out on PS5.
A really good writing tip I was told over a decade ago is, once you’re done, go back and cut 10%. I think that applies to a lot of things, even big budget games. I understand that creating 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 doing it. I play God Of War Ragnarök and enjoy it, but I don’t enjoy it as much as everyone else seems to because compared to the first one, it just lacks a lot of focus. There are padding. Spider-Man: Miles Morales always has busy work collectathons, but compared to its peers, it’s positively slender.
So if you were to get a Spider-Man PC game (and if we’re excluding cool 00s games with Bruce Campbell), I’d say get Spider-Man: Miles Morales. And hey, it happens over Christmas, so it’s a cute game to play at that time of year. There are lights in the streets and people are wearing big coats and puffy hats, and your mother has the tree at home.