I'll be perfectly honest, after the disaster that was Spider-Man 3, I lost nearly all hope in seeing a good Spider-Man game for a long, long time. It's no secret that Spider-Man 3 wasn't a very good game; it was riddled with issues that made the game unplayable, such as poor visuals, terrible framerate, and boring gameplay. The first two motion-picture Spider-Man games had once prided themselves on not being the typical generic movie-game. The third one prided itself on nothing…it was nothing short of bad. The aforementioned problems, specifically that horrific framerate, marred anything remotely appealing about Spider-Man 3. So here we are, two years later and there's an all-new, all original Spider-Man game titled Web of Shadows. After our early look at the game, we felt like the game showed signs for a promising adventure, and it seems as though we were right.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is perhaps the best Spider-Man game in many years. As you know by now, Venom is the game's primary villain and he's devised an all new plan to infect the city of Manhattan with the symbiote virus in an attempt to create more clones of himself. The symbiote infection spreads and SHIELD is forced to isolate Manhattan from the rest of the world by closing off the island's bridges and tunnels, preventing entry or escape. The infection spreads as far as even affecting Peter once again, and that means the Symbiote Black Suit plays a central role in the game (and that's always a huge plus in Spidey games). Spider-Man isn't alone to do the job, as Manhattan in Web of Shadows is home to a large number of heroes and villains that'll want to aid Spidey in his quest to stop Venom and get rid of the symbiote infection.
Various heroes such as Nick Fury, Power-Man (Luke Cage), Wolverine, and Nightcrawler will be there to help you. Additionally, you'll even be able to get aid from the game's villains such as Black Cat, Rhino, and others. How the hero and villain mechanic works is rather simple and depends on your playing style. If you play using the traditional Red/Blue suit, you'll attract more help from the heroes of the game. If you prefer the symbiote black suit, then you'll be able to gather support from the villains.
Switching your affiliations can be done in a relatively quick manner. First off, switching between the two suits is done on the fly and does not require you to pause the game, simply press L3 and Spidey switches suits – you can even do it mid-combo, if you wish. This allows for a more immediate change of pace and change of direction. Switching suits also has an effect on how you're perceived not just by the heroes and villains, but also by the civilians – so you're interactions with the NPCs will change based on the suit you wear. If you're running around the streets of New York decked out in your classic colors, the civilians will cheer you, if you've got symbiote wrapped around you, then you'll get yelled and jeered. The other affect the suits have on Spider-Man is physical; the traditional suit is quicker, with more web-based attacks, where as the Black Suit is slower but far more powerful in impact.
But as I said earlier, you can switch suits on the fly, even switching mid-combo, so you can utilize the strengths of both suits seamlessly. The classic suit allows for more acrobatic attacks, where as the symbiote suit packs a stronger hit at the expense of reflexes and speed. Combat is a whole lot more fluid and smoother than ever before, as controls are extremely intuitive and very easy to adapt to. Additionally, a new form of combat has been put together for Web of Shadows, allowing Spidey to fight while he's attached to a building. This particular fighting mechanic is really well done, as building fights aren't limited to just a punch or kick here and there; you'll be able to put together a proper string of combos, just as you would if you were on land, on top of some great looking acrobatic maneuvers and speed.
The combat is arguably one of the core reasons why Web of Shadows is so great; for the first time the combat in a comic-book game actually captures the over-the-top combat of the inked pages, and the all new combo and mid-air mechanics really contribute to that feeling. Of course, as you'd expect, with a game so driven by combat, upgrades come in the form of increasing your arsenal of moves. For your comboing skills you'll be rewarded with experience orbs, which can be used to purchase additional combos for Spider-Man to put to use all throughout the game.
Again, as you know, Web of Shadows takes place in the open-ended world of Manhattan, which seems to be laid out identically to that of Spider-Man 3, albeit with a massive visual overhaul. The world is full of NPCs and objects to interact with, be it an injured civilian who you can swing to a hospital with, gangsters who are waging war with one another on the streets, the infected symbiotes who are wrecking havoc in the city, cars you can pick-up and throw for damage, hundreds of Spider medallions that are scattered all around the city, and so forth. Hell, I find myself spending far too much time simply collecting these little Spiders, thanks to the game's extremely fun swinging. Do know that the medallions serve a purpose, as collecting them will give you a level-up, and with every level you increase, you'll have to collect more to upgrade to the next.
While Web of Shadows is certainly a great game, it must be said that there are some flaws. For starters, repetition is a bit high in the game, as mission objectives aren't as diverse as they should be. Second, sometimes swinging to certain areas can be challenging and frustrating. Third, there doesn't seem to be a button that allows you to grip onto a building at anytime. Clinging onto a building mid-flight is clunky, and if you're trying to scale one faster by jumping and grabbing repeatedly (as you could in past games) Spidey will just jump off the building causing you to lose the ground, or rather height, you've gained. Fourth, there are still some occasional camera issues, but certainly nothing as bad as before.
Web of Shadows is a large game with a lot of fun behind it. Thanks to the great combat system, good controls, and intuitive swinging, the repetition of the game's objectives doesn't damage the overall enjoyment of this particular Spider-Man game. The constantly evolving relationship between Spider-Man and the entire game-world is a really nice touch, too, making Web of Shadows feel more like an action-RPG such as Oblivion.
Visually, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is a really polished looking game. From the moment you boot the game up you're greeted with a really nice in-game model of Spider-Man jumping around from place to place, and the details are instantly noticeable. A slick character model of Spidey runs around on your screen, boasting good attention to detail with vibrant colors, sheen texture work, a well built and sculpted model, smooth lines all over the suit, and especially nice animation. Then you begin to explore the world and you notice other things, the texture detail on the buildings is actually really good, even up close. And what's this? The framerate is actually silky smooth, for the most part. There are the occasional hiccups here and there with the framerate, but the vast majority of the time, it does its job very well.
But there are some troubled spots with the visuals. You see, to achieve that superb framerate and those lovely textures, the game had to compromise in certain aspects. There's a good deal of pop-up around the city, and you'll often see textures draw themselves in on a building. Additionally, screen-tearing can be rather apparent at times, and this is the compromise of having a steady framerate on a multi-platform game such as Web of Shadows. Furthermore, there is only one car type/design in the game, a Crown Victoria knock-off that is virtually every single car that populates the in-game city, with the exception of a truck and van every now and then. Lastly, there are some minor aliasing quirks, but for the most part, Spider-Man's image is pretty clean. As far as visuals go, Web of Shadows may not be perfect, but the good certainly outweighs the bad.
On the other hand, the audio is an example of where the bad outweighs everything, just because it's that bad. No, Web of Shadows doesn't have a rolling soundtrack of Spice Girls tunes in the background, and no it doesn't suffer from any real technical issues. In fact, aside from one crippling aspect, the sound is actually rather solid. Unfortunately, that crippling aspect is what brings things down…the voice acting. It's truly been a long time since I've played a game with voice acting this bad, and voice actors that are so purely suited for their roles. Sure Peter Parker is a nerdy guy, but did the game's voice over have to sound like a pubescent 13 year old? Each and every line spoken by the voice over sends shivers down my spine, and Mary Jane isn't too far off either. A lot of it also has to do with the lousy cut-scene dialogue, which is, again, cringe worthy stuff with some really poor timing and delivery. If you don't believe me, the first three minutes of the game will make you a believer.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows certainly exceeded my expectations. Shaba Games and Treyarch has done a great job bringing back the Spider-Man franchise to its rightful glory yet again. With a much smoother game engine, coupled with fantastic combat, great swinging mechanics, an enormous world, and good replay value, Web of Shadows should finally satisfy fans after the abysmal disappointment that was Spider-Man 3. This one comes recommended by me