Spider-Man: Web of Shadows Review

I’ll preface this review by saying that I am a huge Spider-Man fan. I don’t know when I became a groupie for the wall-crawling arachnid, but I’ve been following his exploits in comics, games, and film for what seems like ages now.

Spider-Man in games, however, has been a rather mixed bag over the decades. Neversoft’s Playstation 1 title “Spider-Man” is probably still one of the best representations of ol’ webhead and his world, while Spider-Man 2 managed to truly capture what it felt like to swing between New York’s skyscrapers. Later games in the series either suffered from poor design, poor combat, or nerfed swinging.

I’d like to say that Web of Shadows is the type of game the Wall-Crawler deserves, but I cannot. Web of Shadows does do some things right, which I’ll address below, but it also misses the mark, in ways that I believe should be no-brainers in the series by now.

First, the good: Combat has been completely reworked from the abysmal Spider-Man 3, and gone is the feeling that Spider-Man’s web and wall antics are separate from his fisticuffs. Combos can be performed on a wall, in the air, and on the ground, with a nice mixture between using his fists and feet, and his webs to subdue foes. The feeling of swinging through the city, spotting a bad guy doing dastardly deeds, then plowing into him with a swinging kick is highly satisfying. The combos are also visually pleasing, with some cool little animations. Being able to rope an enemy with a web and pull yourself towards them for an attack makes fighting in the air a breeze, instead of a chore.
Depending on who you ally yourself with, you can also call upon a support character (like Wolverine, Black Cat, and Luke Cage) to come to your aid during your missions. These support characters are heroes and villains alike as you all try and rid the city of Venom’s “children.” While the feature is, for the most part, useless, it’s nice to have some backup during the “protect this target” quests you get, and things get a little to hairy for Spidey to handle.

Developers Treyarch and Shaba Games also added the use of the Black Suit to Web of Shadows, and I found it to be more enjoyable to wear that costume at all times. It makes Spider-Man stronger, the combos are different from that of the Red and Blue suit (it has it’s own skill tree in the menu), and most importantly, it lets you pick up and throw vehicles, and be an overall jackass to the citizens of the city. I admit to getting a wave of evil glee when I picked up a vehicle with passengers inside, and chucked it into a busy intersection, causing a massive explosion that destroyed all the cars in the vicinity, and sending people flying everywhere.

This evil comes at the price of “Black Points,” which counter the “Red Points,” and don’t seem to do much but alter the alignment meter and change which support characters Spidey can call on for help. I’d love to see this mechanic explored deeper in future Spider-Man games, because as most of us gamers all know, it’s so much more fun to be the bad guy, or at least an anti-hero.
Swinging through the city is as enjoyable as it’s been since Spider-Man 2, and I don’t have any complaints about that, to be honest.

So, combat is fun, swinging is fun, and they are arguably the largest parts of a Spider-Man game, so what’s the problem?

Well, everything else is where Web of Shadows falls apart.

First off is the story, which is decent enough (Venom infects the city with symbiotes, turning the citizens of New York into mini-Venoms), and is better than the stories of most of the Spidey games as of late. The way the story is presented is through cutscenes as you’d expect, and it’s unraveled via missions you do for characters ranging from Black Cat, to Luke Cage, to Black Widow and even the Kingpin himself.

Unfortunately, all of these missions ultimately end up being “Defeat this number of thugs.” In short, developers Treyarch and Shaba Games have turned Spider-Man into an MMO grind. You can’t progress along the story until you defeat the same enemies over and over and over again. While the combat is enjoyable, it wears on you after you’ve killed your 200th thug with the same attack, just so you can unlock the next set of skills and combos.

There are citizens that need saving, and it’s enjoyable to swoop in, grab them up in your arms and swing them to safety as only Spider-Man can do, but a troublesome lock on system often has you targeting a bad guy instead, and poor old Mr. Citizen finds themself turned into a symbiote before you can retarget and grab them.

Throughout the game, Spider-Man will also be faced with “Black Suit Choices,” and “Red Suit Choices,” which will affect which of the two endings of the game you recieve. Unfortunately, this does very little to affect the world around you. Like the Black and Red point system, I’d have loved to see this “Moral Choice” system fleshed out, and really worked into the game in a meaningful way. If Spidey has been throwing cars and knocking people down throughout the whole game, I want the citizens and heroes to react. I want them to chuck bottles at Spider-Man’s head, or have S.H.E.I.L.D. members intervene and try to bring you down, and if that doesn’t work, heroes like Captain America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, etc, step in to offer a random boss battle to bring the out of control web-head down.

The visuals are decent enough, but far below what we expect sandbox titles to be this generation. There’s practically no lighting and shadow effects, weak texture work, and outside of Spider-Man himself, poor character animations. It’s not a complete loss, as the last half of the game has portions of the city covered in symbiotic goo, and set ablaze, which was a nice change of pace from the spotless New York from the first half of the game.

My biggest complaint with Web of Shadows, however, is the voice acting for Spider-Man himself. I don’t know how old he is supposed to be in this title, but he sounds like a whiny 15 year old, even though characters like Mary Jane, Black Cat, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Moon Knight, etc, sound like mature adults. Spidey’s wisecracks during dialogue often fall flat (with very few genuinely funny moments; although a dialogue about Luke Cage’s old costume, replete with tiara did get me to chuckle, albiet silently), and the humor in the title is either forced, or just not delivered very well by the actor playing Spidey. Hell, the kid from Ultimate Spider-Man, or even Tobey Maguire would have been a better choice. I think my teeth literally grated in my jaw whenever Spider-Man would open his mouth to talk.

With all that said, I admit that I really enjoyed Web of Shadows, and spent a nice amount of time playing the game, even if it was doing the same mission over and over again. Swinging through the city and combat have been improved so much that it really was a joy to be Spider-Man again. A feeling I haven’t felt since the Neversoft original back in the Playstation days.

Even though I’m a diehard Spider-Man fan, I can’t recommend this game as a purchase, however. It simply isn’t worth your $60. I purchased the game, because what can I say, I’m a sucker for the web-head, but my final verdict for everyone else is:

RENTAL – The title is fun, and has it’s merits, but your money is better spent elsewhere. A rental should be all you need to get your Spider-Man fix. If you’re a diehard Spidey fan like myself, then I highly recommend it as a rental, and if you dig it like I do, a purchase.


One Response to “Spider-Man: Web of Shadows Review”

  1. Seriously, this game is one of the best games I’ve played… ever. I simply love every aspect of the game: Graphics, Gameplay, Action, Story, I think it all fits very well into the Marvel Universe theme and is very fun to play. The only con for this game is the fact that the PC version has some graphical issues for rendering sidewalks and some other textures, although it’s not very noticeable.

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