In the modern gaming industry, games that have “Spider-Man” in the title usually involve the famous super-hero swinging around New York City beating up thugs and saving people. In Spider-man: Web of Shadows, he swings around New York City beating up symbiote monsters and saving people. This game revolves around the symbiotes, so that means Venom is back in town as well as black suit Spider-Man. The game also features a tweaked combat system, and loads of fan service in the way of recognizable characters. Does Web of Shadows live up to its hype, or does it fall victim of getting too over-hyped for its own good?
Near the beginning of the game, Venom shows up to fight Spider-Man for no other reason than the fact he’s Venom. During the fight, part of Venom’s symbiote attaches itself to Spider-Man, giving him the black suit… again. Then Venom disappears only to return a little later with symbiotes he managed to spawn. This is when Spider-Man realizes he needs to defeat Venom, get rid of the symbiotes and once again, save the world. The interesting thing about this is New York City gets more and more overrun by symbiotes the farther you get in the game, so by the third act you barely recognize it.
Along with the black suit come moral choices. At select points in the game you can choose to take the red suit route (good), or the black suit route (bad). This system determines what characters you can call to help you fight, but it is also a factor that determines which one of the four endings you get upon completing the game. Most of the time the black suit choices feel really out of place, but some of them are pretty funny in a “how can Spider-Man be evil?” kind of way.
Thanks to fan service, Spider-Man meets an interesting cast of characters along the way. Of course there’s Wolverine, since he’s in everything these days (he even made it onto the box art), but there are other Marvel characters as well. Among them are Luke Cage, Moon Knight, Black Widow and a few villains from the Spider-Man series that need beating up. Needless to say they all need Spider-Man’s help. For example, before the symbiote problem hits, Cage needs your help in single handedly ending a gang war and after you fight Wolverine and answer his trivia questions, you help him find and kill symbiotes when they are still few and far between.
In addition to the main story missions, they also give you side missions, which usually involve killing a certain number of enemies or rescuing a certain number of people. In return you can call some of them to help you fight, depending on if you’re good or evil.
The look of Web of Shadows is good in some places, and not so good in others. The character models look good close up and far away, but they are not pushing the system’s graphical capabilities by any means. The various enemies you fight also look good and there are enough different enemies to keep the game looking fresh.
Although the models of the characters and enemies look good, the city itself looks very bland. Even before the symbiote infestation starts, there are not many people walking around NYC, and the people that you do see and rescue look too similar to one another. Also, the buildings look detailed from far away, but when you get closer you realize that the same texture pattern is repeated across the entire building.
During the third act of the game the symbiotes are taking over NYC. During this point in the game you can see it start to fall apart graphically. There is a lot of texture pop-in that can range from patterns on the buildings to the buildings themselves and the game can slow down during travel and fights where there are a lot of characters on screen. This can get frustrating and it takes away from the whole experience.
Like the graphics, the audio is very hit-or-miss. The music is reminiscent of the Spider-Man movies. When you swing and fight it plays an epic sounding theme similar to the theme from the movies. The music sounds good and it is cool to see Spider-Man swinging to the epic theme, but hearing it throughout the game gets old after a while.
As for the voice acting, most of it is pretty solid. The supporting characters have good voice work for the most part and even the regular people on the streets seem to have plenty to say. There’s just one problem… Spider-Man. I know Spider-Man is supposed to be whiny, but this takes it up a notch. The voice does not fit Spider-Man at all and it sounds even more out of place when you pick the evil choices and watch Spider-Man act, and talk, accordingly.
Unlike the previous Spider-Man installments, Web of Shadows tends to focus more on the combat than the swinging. The combat is broken down into three categories: ground, air and wall combat. As you fight enemies and complete missions you gain experience and can level up the red suit or the black suit. Each suit has different combos and attacks, and overall the combat works well and is pretty entertaining, at least when you’re fighting regular enemies. The only combat aspect that’s a little off is the targeting. Sometimes for no reason the enemy you are locked on to will not be targeted anymore and this can get disorienting if you are fighting them in the air.
What makes you never want to use the beefed up combat mechanics again are the boss fights. Every single one is a long, drawn out ordeal that never changes. Once you find the strategy behind the boss you will do it over and over again until the boss is defeated and that gets very taxing even near the beginning of the game. The only cool thing about the bosses is that some of the supporting characters turn into symbiotes Spider-man has to fight and most of those models look cool and pretty frightening.
It seems that in order to improve the combat they had to sacrifice the web swing mechanic. What made Spider-Man 2 so great was the fact that you could travel from one side of the city to the other by swinging across the tall buildings. You can do that in Web of Shadows, but it seems like the ultra dense clouds are back. In Spider-Man 2, Spidey couldn’t swing from nothing. He had to attach the web onto a solid surface. In Web of Shadows you can’t swing unless something is reasonably close by, but a lot of the times when you swing near buildings, the web won’t grab onto the building. It just looks like it does until you swing high enough to see the web hanging from mid-air.
Like the combat, you can level up your swinging abilities. With each level the swing speed increases and to maximize your speed you have to collect tokens that are scattered throughout the city. They are shaped like the Spider-Man logo and to max out your swinging speed you have to collect no less than 2000 of them. I’m no stranger to collection missions, but 2000 is a little steep. Collecting them is not hard, but it is very time consuming. The only good thing is it is not required to collect them unless you want all of the achievements.
During act three of the game, the swinging, like the graphics, break. If I was not high enough off of the ground, Spider-Man would get dragged back down to the ground every time I would attempt a swing. This made traveling around NYC very slow and it made swinging unrewarding.
In the end, Spider-man: Web of Shadows fails to live up to its hype. The story is interesting with all of the supporting cast, but its nothing a Spider-Man fan hasn’t seen before. The graphics and sound are both mediocre and this time around Spider-Man is more focused on beating people up than mindlessly swinging around, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. What really disappointed me was the fact that the game looked and felt nearly broken during the third act. All in all, unless you want some reasonably easy achievement or trophy points, skip this one and go back to Spider-man 2.
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