Thursday, December 8, 2022

Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC Review: A ‘Marvellous’ but Pricey Port

It’s no secret that Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ arrival on PC was simply a question of “when” and not “if.” In just over two years, co-developers Insomniac Games and Nixxes Software have established a firm footing in the PC market, freeing not just one — Spider-Man Remastered — but both web-crawling odysseys from PlayStation’s exclusivity. Following in the footsteps of his mentor Peter Parker, this spin-off sequel is a natural extension, building on the legacy through Miles Morales’ suave but energetic personality, whilst retaining the same core framework. Its shorter playtime does give the impression of a glorified DLC, but this PC port packs quite a punch, with technical upgrades unfamiliar to the PS4 and PS5.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC review – Gameplay and controls

Left to defend New York City by himself, our titular hero grapples with new responsibilities and insecurities, as he tries earning the trust of Harlem locals. His lack of experience occasionally seeps through in clumsy web swings, failed landings, and amateur mistakes. But Spider-Man: Miles Morales balances things on the combat front, by arming you with explosive jolts of bio-electricity, as you stack up combos and unleash snappy, acrobatic finishers. Stealth segments are also improved, with the covert Camouflage ability turning you invisible for brief periods and opening room for creative takedowns. These can be gradually refined by dumping points into the skill tree, further distancing Miles from the original Spider-Man. This upgrade system fits perfectly with the tightly woven story, which on a thematic level, explores a teenager’s struggle with self-discovery.

Content-wise, you’re getting the same action-fuelled experience with as the 2020 console version of Spider-Man: Miles Morales — the main campaign, a wintry New York to explore, and uninspired side quests. It’s a basic copy-paste PC port that doesn’t include any extra cosmetics or new DLC tailored to the fresh platform. In my Spider-Man Remastered PC review, I mentioned how booting up the title opened a launcher window, where one could configure graphics settings before heading into the actual game. This continues in Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC, but there’s an improvement. Once you’ve found the ideal settings, you can disable the launcher window entirely and skip the extra step. Previously, hitting play in Steam or Epic Games triggered the launcher every time.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales Review: Hanging by a Thread

spiderman miles morales pc gameplay spiderman miles morales pc gameplay

The new Venom strike ability separates Miles Morales from his mentor Peter Parker
Photo Credit: Insomniac Games

That said, the initial setup of Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC was a hindrance for me, crashing several times during the opening credits and loading screens. It was a mundane cycle of restarting the game over and over to trigger the next animation and eventually, progress to the main menu. Post that, it was smooth sailing across the board. The control scheme is quite like that of Spider-Man Remastered, save for Miles’ new shock ability, which by default, is bound to the right-click button. This moves the ‘Aim’ action to the middle mouse button, which, while jarring at first, isn’t a big deal since it can be customised to your liking.

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Sure, there are a few combinations that are awkward for keyboard and mouse players, but accessibility features exist to simplify this. For instance, executing an airborne trick while swinging requires you to hold ‘T’ and press a directional button, which can be difficult to pull off with a single hand. However, these options allow you to map the control to a toggle action instead, so you can easily whiz past skyscrapers in style. Similarly, one could have entire QTE sequences play out automatically or even reposition the camera to a waypoint. Visual aids are also included, ranging from icon size changes to shader and contrast settings, aimed at people with low vision or challenges such as colour blindness.

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Contrast and shader settings add a new filter that helps differentiate between characters
Photo Credit: Screenshot/ Rahul Chettiyar

Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC review – Graphics

Insomniac Games has come in clutch yet again with a new PS–PC port that’s nothing short of a visual feast. Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PC looks marvellous even at the lowest settings, prioritising character models above all else. Much like the recent Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection, loss in visual quality is mainly noticeable in the surrounding open world, though it’s a bit more distracting here. The game carries over the Manhattan map from its prequel, adding a winter coat of paint and a few structural changes. So, when favouring performance over fidelity, it’s no longer a matter of simply blurring textures. The higher the graphics preset you choose, the denser snow gets, even settling between tiny cracks on wall surfaces.

These effects can be seen in real-time, thanks to the menu’s placement which only covers half the screen. Technical jargon is neatly described beside each setting, and there’s no need to restart the game to apply changes either. In addition to textural clarity, cranking the settings to Medium and beyond adds skin texture, increased hair density, and overall depth in images, thanks to areas in black getting darker. Even without ray tracing, shadows behave realistically, for the most part, getting cast in long or short forms depending on lighting, and that doesn’t exclude pedestrians or cars. There were a few moments during combat though, when I noticed some inconsistencies. When shooting webs to plaster foes onto structures that aren’t buildings, I sometimes found the latter behaving like transparent objects. So, instead of forming suitable, geometric shadows, all I could see were enemy shadows floating in the air.

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Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC graphics settings
Photo Credit: Screenshot/ Rahul Chettiyar

While the graphics settings between Spider-Man Remastered and Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC are pretty much the same, I found reflections to be far superior here. Swinging around town through crowds of cheery bystanders feels immersive when you see the reflections of tall skyscrapers passing by. However, they are pre-rendered/ hard-coded into the windows. Similar to lighting effects in interior segments, these remain constant and are unaffected by what presets you choose. With Screen Space Reflections (SSR) enabled, however, material world objects cast real-time reflections, provided they’re close to a reflective surface.

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Crawling on glossy windowpanes as Spider-Man throws up a spitting image of our hero, with accurate depictions of what suit you’re wearing. This is a massive upgrade compared to the previous game, where reflections could only be seen from specific, narrow angles and even then resembled a greyish, translucent shadow. That said, SSR is restricted to the ‘Medium’ preset and above. Toggling it on at ‘Very Low’ or ‘Low’ settings will not create these immediate reflections, causing some areas to appear bland even if well-lit. But that’s the trade-off.

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Notice the change in reflection going from Very Low (L) to Very High (R)
Photo Credit: Screenshot/ Rahul Chettiyar

Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ visual splendour extends to finer details such as real-time footprints and tire tracks in the snow. Christmas vibes are in full force here, with apt decorations and warm lighting that serve to soothe your eyes after intense action sequences. My only gripe with visual presentation would be the erratic snowfall during cutscenes, which I know sounds odd, because cinematics is something these first-party PlayStation games usually have a knack for. At times, when the footage cuts to a different shot, snowflakes would take a few seconds to load, and it was jarring enough to break immersion.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC review – Performance

For being a new-gen PS5 launch title, Spider-Man: Miles Morales performed surprisingly better than I anticipated, on my medium-end rig. I tested this game on an AMD Ryzen 5 2400G 3.6GHz processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU with 6GB of VRAM, 16GB of RAM, and a 500GB SSD. Playing at Medium–High settings, I was able to achieve eye-catching visuals with near-smooth frames that seamlessly transitioned into cutscenes and back. Even as I stumbled into the occasional split second-stutter — due to new assets loading — the heroic background score never cut out, which I appreciate since music is a key component to Miles’ character.

At these settings, Spider-Man: Miles Morales averaged 63fps, with frequent dips as low as 52fps when cycling between moments of calm and interior combat, respectively. When performing at its best with SSR enabled and barely any action on-screen, the game was able to hit highs of 78fps, though it would fall back to 62fps during cutscenes. Some screen tearing managed to stick out during these cinematics, though I caught none of it during gameplay, thanks to motion blur being enabled. While the setting is deemed counterintuitive for most titles out there, as I mentioned in my Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves PC review, Sony never goes overboard with the effect.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC System Requirements Detailed

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Our first encounter with Rhino is heavy on the hardware
Photo Credit: Insomniac Games

A good chunk of world interaction involves swinging around the city at a blistering pace, which understandably caused performance to drop a little. With traffic, crowd density and weather effects set to medium, Spider-Man: Miles Morales averaged 46fps on my PC, before settling at 51fps when coming back to earth and mingling with citizens. During an explosive boss fight against the beastly Rhino, involving a handful of thugs, performance averaged at 59fps, with lows of 49fps, depending on how populated my screen was with artefacts and elemental effects.

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Pushing the game to its limits, the opening chase sequence has you tear through New York City’s Christmas-themed malls and establishments, cycling between spurts of combat and cinematics in haste. At the aforementioned Medium–High settings, Spider-Man: Miles Morales managed to chug out 53fps on average, peaking at 63fps. Thankfully, the developers reduced snowfall during the swinging action, or else my framerate could have dropped way below 30fps. That said, these erratic figures are not representatives of lag spikes. Nowhere in my playthrough did I experience a heavy enough dip to cause me to lose immersion. But still, this game could benefit from a VRAM usage indicator to help you figure out the right settings, so you don’t end up maxing out your graphics memory.

If you’re running a system that’s similarly specced as mine, please refer to the table below to understand how Spider-Man: Miles Morales performs at different presets. Bear in mind, these numbers are the worst-case scenarios based on the aforesaid chase sequence, which is full of epic-scale destruction effects that occupy a lot of screen space. As for general gameplay, at the lowest possible settings, I was able to max out at 116fps. Visually, I also didn’t notice any major disparity between the High and Very High presets — because they’re heavily geared toward ray tracing.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC (all values are in fps)
VERY LOW LOW MEDIUM HIGH VERY HIGH
LOW AVG HIGH LOW AVG HIGH LOW AVG HIGH LOW AVG HIGH LOW AVG HIGH
46 65 105 46 60 80 35 53 63 35 46 55 30 42 50

Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC review – Verdict

Spider-Man Miles Morales might be a shorter experience than its predecessor, but it offers a ton of improvements on the gameplay end, fitting comfortably as an introductory tale in the larger Insomniac universe. With impressive PC performance and the ability to adapt to hardware dating back to the GTX 950 days, this game is an absolute banger to play through. It’s also crazy to think how in recent years, the PC has become the definitive platform to best experience these first-party PlayStation games.

At the same time, the publisher continues to baffle me with its exorbitant, yet inconsistent prices. For a title that launched two years ago and isn’t as long, Rs. 3,299/ $49.99 is clearly on the higher end. In comparison, Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection on PC was priced the same, offering one-and-a-half games versus the “half” that is Spider-Man: Miles Morales. I would suggest waiting for a sale — but please, do not bail on this one.

Pros:

  • Well optimised
  • Superb visuals
  • Intuitive keyboard and mouse controls
  • Motion blur is not obnoxious

Cons:

  • A bit on the pricey end
  • No VRAM usage indicator
  • Shadows can be inconsistent
  • Crashed a few times initially

Rating (out of 10): 8

Gadgets 360 played Spider-Man: Miles Morales on a PC with AMD Ryzen 5 2400G 3.6GHz, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU 6GB, 16GB RAM, and a 500GB SSD.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales is priced at Rs. 3,299 on Steam and Epic Games Store.


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