Representation is a powerful force in comic books. It makes a community feel seen, it reinvigorates superhero franchises, and it opens doors to new audiences. Marvel has found success by making its heroes more diverse with Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel and Riri Williams as the successor to Ironman.
The most popular of these new additions has been Miles Morales, the biracial teenager who took on the role of Spider-Man. Despite the initial aversion from the likes of Glenn Beck, Morales has been embraced by Spider-Man fans. He found success as the protagonist of “Into the Spider-Verse,” and now he stars in his own video game, “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” which is launching alongside the PlayStation 5.
Bitten by a genetically modified spider, he gains abilities similar to his mentor, but he also has bio-electrokinesis, which lets him stun foes, and he can turn invisible through camouflage. The developer, Insomniac, leverages these abilities to produce a game that has its own identity. A lot of that has to do with the PlayStation 5, with its much-hyped ray-tracing technology that provides realistic reflections and more accurate lighting.
Miles’ “venom strikes” let him stun opponents, enabling him to crowd-control swarming thugs. Venom strikes have variations with a dash, slam and jump attack. The one caveat is that these attacks require players to build up a venom meter by pounding enemies, so they can’t just use the powerful move over and over.
Miles’ camouflage is useful when picking off squads one by one in missions that need stealth. It’s also a great escape mechanism when being overwhelmed.
Supplementing those powers are four gadgets — web shooters, holograms, gravity well and shock mines. These limited-use items again help Miles against enemies — the holograms are a particularly good distraction item. Players can further tweak Miles by mixing and matching different suits and modifications that help Miles in different scenarios.
With that gameplay foundation established, “Miles Morales” tells a different type of Spider-Man story. It’s one rooted in family dynamics, friendship and a diverse Harlem community. It’s one of the rare games where the cast is dominated by people of color.