Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is Spider-Man’s finest hour since Spider-Man 2 (2004). Shaba Games has taken over the helm from Treyarch with the hopes to erase our minds from the atrocious outing called Spider-Man 3. As Spidey takes a break from Hollywood, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows steps away from recycled themes and concentrats on a new unique tale, and what a wonderful tale it is. Stan Lee would be proud. Caught in the web, here is our review of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows.
As advertised Spider-Man: Web of Shadows deals with a symbiote threat that invades NYC (New York City). However, you’re not going to jump right so called “Web of Shadows”. First you will have to work your through the storyline saving the city from a highly coordinated plot of thuganomics. The first few hours of Web of Shadows is played fighting two altercating gangs... you could call it Spider-Man vs. The Saints (from Saints Row the game) as one gang colours are purple like the row.
By the Books
Each segments is layout the same which can get a little tiresome as you play through the game, thankfully working with the the different cameo characters makes this a little more interesting. Basically you will do a bunch of beat em’ up missions until you get further instructions from the Marvel cameo. The first character you will meet is off and on Avenger member Luke Cage, the badass super-hero gangster who is working to clean up the streets. After an hours or so of mindless fun it is onto the next drop-in which is the sextacular Felicia Hardy, better know an as the seductress Black Cat. This continues right until your caught in the web itself, I'm won't ruin anymore of the storyline, but in general this is how the formula works.
As I pointed out the mission structure can get highly repetitive, however all the Spider-Man games except Ultimate Spider-Man (2005) has been this way. Truth is there is nothing really wrong with beating up wave after wave of bad guys, after all this is what Spider-Man does in the comics. In the past Spider-Man games events and enemies had more space between their occurrences, well in Web of Shadows the action is fast paced with gangs of enemies lurking around every corner. Unless you abandon the action you will have no time for resting or slowing down the action, it is that relentless. In the thick of battle I can’t think of a game in recent history that puts the numbers against you in some many unique ways.
Red or Black?
Making things interesting is the early encounter with Venom whose symbiotic suit latches onto Spider-Man giving him the option to instantly switch between both suits. Each suit has its own unique tree of updates you can spend experience on along with two distinctly different fighting styles. Red suit is more agility and focuses on using acrobatics and web slinging to gain an advantage in combat whereas the Black suit is a more straight ahead war machine that comes in for some vicious combinations. Black suit also makes Spidey more powerful giving him the ability to pick up vehicles and hurl them at enemies.
Adding more spice to the mixture, Shaba Games includes moral choices that revolve around the dual suits. These choices usually come at the ending of a plot line that will further move the story along with your choice impacting the outcome. The red/black suit duality also works during the normal gameplay segments build points in either direction. Save a wounded citizen and you’ll be reward with some red (good) points, let an innocent bystander get crushed by a car, well you get the picture. All these choices impact the end of the game and can give you one of the four unique endings. Beside moral karma, Spider-Man will be flirting with the ladies and throwing out bad My Space jokes in the meantime.
Controlling Spider-Man has been refined thanks to the new targeting system. Using Spider-Man's spider-sense locks on to a single target and stays locked on the target even if they are moving through the air, on the wall, or on the ground. This makes combat exceptionally easier to keep track of which was an issue in the previous games. Like the old Spider-Man titles swinging and navigating around the city is handled the same as the previous games except for the inclusion of wall fighting. In Web of Shadows, Shaba introduces the ability to fight on the side of a building, or in air, like you would on the ground. Fighting enemies now has no limitations and you will do your fair share of battling in all three situations.
Draw Me In
Shaba has improved the quality of the graphics which a leap beyond anything they done in the past. The city is still the generic copy and paste NYC from the past, however this time around they have added more individuality. The character models have been slightly improved with more care given to Spider-Man then the other characters. Web of Shadows isn’t going to win any graphical achievements and still has a few problems with its draw distance, but given the scale of the city and the lack of load times, Web of Shadows pulls off a nice showing in the graphics.
Tricia Helfer is Purrfect
The voice acting is a mixed bag of good and bad. At times Spider-Man/Peter Parker sounds in character than other times the voice is too annoying and unbelievable. Sorry Mike Vaughn, blame the writers. Compared to the last few games, Spider-Man must be going through a rough patch. All the other NPC's have better voice actors behind their characters with a nod towards Tricia Helfer as Black Cat and Robert Wisdom as Luke Cage. Aside from the voice-over work the backing soundtrack and effects sound like they have been reused over all the Activision Spider-Man games.
Not Only Spiders, We Have Bugs!
Web of Shadows feels like the project could have been rushed a little bit early out the doors because there are number of noticeable bugs that keep popping up, or disappearing in this case. Enemies will randomly disappear right in front of Spider-Man even if you are in the middle of battle. This happens every once and while and even stranger is arriving in spot where the police are fighting invisible enemies that you can’t see, or interact with. This is a huge bug that would have been noticeable to anyone who has spent some time in Web of Shadows. The camera can also be a problem when traveling around at high speeds. Running around and on buildings can throw your perspective off if you are not lined up properly. It is easy to get confused if when traveling too fast, or when you’re in combat against multiple wall-hugging bad guys. Overall the camera feels mildly improved from Spider-Man 3; however there is still room for improvement.
So Spider-Man might have a few more bugs that we are used, this doesn't mean Web of Shadows isn't a good game. There is plenty that will keep you busy for a long time in NYC. Besides all the main storyline missions you have a long list of repetitive optional missions and hidden spider symbols to find. Sticking around for a few optional missions or hunting down the many hidden spider-symbols will help you gain experience to max out both Spider suits. This is fun in itself when you’re not in a hurry. Depending on what you expected from this Spider-Man license, I think Spider-Man: Web of Shadows swings back into action making Spider-Man 3 a bad afterthought.
Shaba Games has done a good getting the Spider-Man franchise back on track of being on of the best comic book/video game licenses. Web of Shadows is a major improvement from the last Spider-Man game which should give Spider-Man fans some renewed faith in their friendly neighborhood super-hero. The multiple storyline paths, black and red suit and fast and furious combat make Web of Shadow a worth a closer look. Spider-Man: Web of Shadows isn’t a perfect game, however there is still a lot of fun to be had taking out the trash in NYC.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 11.10.08