Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the perfect PS5 launch title

Commentary: Miles' friendly neighborhood adventure is exactly what PlayStation needs to kick off a new console generation.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
Expertise Culture, Video Games, Breaking News
Sean Keane
3 min read

Miles Morales' idle animation is one of this PS5 launch game's many delights.

PS5 Performance Mode/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

When I booted up Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5, I felt a surge of excitement I rarely feel at the start of a new console generation. Swinging around a snowy New York City and checking out Miles' new Harlem neighborhood was absolutely wonderful -- this is a launch game with swagger.

Past PlayStation launch games haven't been terribly inspiring -- I remember waiting months for a PS2 game that blew my mind (it was 2001's Onimusha: Warlords), and I held off on buying a PS3 until Metal Gear Solid 4 came out in 2008. By the time the PS4 rolled around in 2013, I accepted that it takes at least a year for a new console to hit its stride.

The launch lineup for PS5, which arrives Thursday and starts at $400, is pretty thin too, but Sony has learned from experience. With Miles Morales, it's found a clever middle ground. It clearly knew developer Insomniacs couldn't knock out a full sequel to Spider-Man PS4 in time for the PS5's launch, so it opted for a smaller, Uncharted: Lost Legacy-style game -- a $50 standalone expansion that satisfies our need for something fresh.


The Spider-Verse costume captures the movie's look beautifully.

PS5 Performance Mode/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

A new Spider-Man

Miles Morales is a breezy game that'll take less than 20 hours for you to get to 100%, but swapping from Peter Parker to his charming young protege opens up a bunch of new storytelling and gameplay possibilities: Miles has his own supporting cast to develop, unique spider powers and new gadgets. 

You can see the framework of the 2018 game holding it all up (along with a few minor glitches that'll likely be patched), but it still feels original and runs like a dream on PS5. It definitely helps that I jumped from a launch PS4 to a PS5 -- I skipped the PS4 Pro -- so it's the maximum possible upgrade to 4K resolution running at 60fps.

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The game also loads astoundingly quickly (when I am supposed to make my cup of tea?!), and the DualSense controller's fancy haptic feedback makes you feel each web Miles swings from. It'll also introduce you to Peter's new face (also seen in the stunning PS5 remaster of the original game that comes with the $70 Ultimate Edition) -- I got used to it almost immediately once he started speaking.

It's also not really a next-gen game, since it's available on PS4. In the midst of a global pandemic that's making people understandably leery about dropping hundreds of dollars on a new console, that's definitely the best move -- why lock the millions of PS4 owners out of the new Spidey adventure? It says "No pressure, get the new console whenever you're ready."


The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild remains the gold standard for console launch games.


The Nintendo Way

In giving such a high-profile exclusive a cross-gen release, Sony is pulling the same move Nintendo did with two Legend of Zelda games -- Twilight Princess came out on GameCube and Wii in 2006, then Breath of the Wild hit both the Wii U and Switch in 2017 (the latter stands as the greatest launch game ever). They're much bigger games than Miles Morales, but the stylized visuals put less strain on the hardware.

It clearly worked for Nintendo, since the GameCube and Wii U were Nintendo's least successful consoles, while the Wii and Switch are just bananas popular. Microsoft had the same strategy in mind with Halo Infinite coming out on Xbox One and Series X, but the 11th-hour delay suggested it was too ambitious.

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So I'm all for smaller, more focused games to kick off a generation. A full-fledged Spider-Man sequel will inevitably come in a few years, when the PS5 is in full swing and more people have made the leap to next-gen. 

If you opt to get a PS5, Miles Morales is enough to dive into, along with the Demon's Souls remake for hardcore players and a massive backlog of PS4 games via backward compatibility. If you're sticking with PS4 for now, the new Spidey adventure is a charming preview of PlayStation's future.

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