Insomniac’s PlayStation 4 mega hit Spider-Man ranks among one of the best-selling titles of the eighth generation of consoles – and for good reason, too. With its emotionally-charged story and outstanding gameplay, which earned itself nearly universal praise from critics, the developers managed to tap into and expand on exactly what has made Peter Parker and his web-slinging alter ego so beloved by comic and movie fans for nearly six decades.
Its new sequel, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, is a fun but unsurprising journey worth picking up if you just snagged a PlayStation 5 at launch and want a graphical showcase with flashy combat. But if you’re new to the series or simply want to relive the first story in Insomniac’s universe, the $70 Spider-Man: Miles Morales Ultimate Edition includes Spider-Man Remastered, which as the title suggests, grants some snazzy upgrades to the phenomenal original game – as well as its three comparatively mediocre DLCs – for only twenty more bucks. It’s a hell of a deal for such an impressive overhaul, though it is frustratingly unavailable to purchase separately.
One of the first things returning players are sure to notice in Spider-Man Remastered is the controversial decision to replace Peter’s original face model, John Bubniak, with the face of newcomer Ben Jordan. And though it’s a little strange how Jordan’s youthful appearance makes Peter look much younger than he’s said to be in the game, I found it to be an inoffensive alteration that was easy to adjust to, and there’s no denying how much his face resembles that of the MCU’s Tom Holland – a choice that somehow doesn’t feel accidental.
But more importantly, the facial recasting is just a small part of Insomniac’s overall goal of reworking character models as a whole with more detailed hair, skin, eyes, and teeth that add significant layers to their performances. And such improvements unsurprisingly help to further sell a compelling tale that sees Peter trying to find a balance between mentoring a young Miles Morales, navigating a rocky relationship with Mary Jane, and spending time as Spider-Man tackling the many familiar villains wreaking havoc around New York City. This remains an exciting and upbeat superhero story that also manages to tap into the sacrifices one often makes to protect both the people they love and the city they’ve sworn to protect.
And saving NYC is definitely the primary focus from a gameplay perspective as well, so it’s where you’ll spend the majority of your time swinging about and tackling missions, which ultimately vary between captivating set piece thrill rides and generic open world side quests that can occasionally drag down the pacing. But even if some of the optional tasks may be a little mundane at times, the near-perfect mechanics involved in swinging through the city ensures that there’s always a sense of speed and excitement to keep you from getting bored too often.
And it helps that New York has received a big visual revamp as well, with updated models and textures which drastically enhance the experience of exploration. But Insomniac went above and beyond with the implementation of ray-traced reflections and ambient shadows that now provide superb depth and realism to the city, and though it’s still a relatively early vision of what can be done with this technology, it’s nonetheless a damn stunning sight to behold – if you’re willing to sacrifice the framerate, that is.
See, I’m one of those rare people who prefer graphics over performance, so I didn’t mind the 30 frames per second lock to get all the next-gen bells and whistles. But for those who value performance, you can easily toggle off some of the flashy new stuff to make use of the Performance Mode for gorgeous, silky smooth 60 FPS. Of course, if all of that fluidity is really your thing, you’ll also be incredibly happy to know that the PS5’s solid-state drive has sped up load times to the point that they’re virtually non-existent, keeping you invested in beating down baddies and swinging through the city.
Meanwhile, an updated photo mode offers plenty of cool new touches, like the ability to swap suits mid-shot or alter the lighting to make your pictures truly stand out. This is made even more fun with the addition of three brand new suits exclusive to the remaster, which are included alongside the existing awe-inspiring collection from the first iteration of the game. I’ve never cared much for photo modes, but there’s no denying that those who do will find themselves with a suite of options here that exceed expectations.
It’s also awesome to see that Insomniac went the extra mile to make use of the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller to immerse players further in the moment-to-moment action of Spider-Man Remastered’s energetic combat and compelling movement mechanics. Engaging in frenetic battles using a flurry of punches and kicks mixed with Spider-Man’s massive array of useful gadgets is made all the more impactful when you can feel every bit of it with unique sensations channeling into your hands, and the adaptive triggers make the process of slinging webs to swing through New York City enthralling.
When putting all of this renovation together, Spider-Man Remastered takes an already spectacular accomplishment for the superhero genre and makes it truly look and feel next-gen in ways that remasters have rarely pulled off. Though the game maintains its smattering of imperfections, and it’s admittedly a little disappointing that this updated adventure is stuck behind the paywall of the sequel, fans should find it nevertheless worth it to gain access to the definitive version of Peter Parker’s initial outing as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
This review is based on the PlayStation 5 version of the game. A copy was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Spider-Man Remastered is the absolute best way to experience the original's engrossing gameplay and emotional story beats. Even its occasional banal elements are overshadowed by the immense improvements made to almost every aspect of the visual and tangible experience.
Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered