As you may have guessed – I’ve been playing Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. It’s the first in my ‘fall lineup’ – the games coming out for the holiday season. I’ve been a Spider-Man game fan since Spider-Man 64. Since then, I’ve also played Spider-Man[: The Movie: The Game], Spider-Man 2[: The Movie: The Game], Ultimate Spider-Man, and Spider-Man 3…[: The Movie: The Game]. The only one I was disappointed in was Ultimate Spider-Man – mainly because I hated the controls and finished the game in about 6 hours.
Fast forward to today (well, last week to be more exact). I’ve played through Spider-Man: Web of Shadows over the past week and change. I finished it up yesterday and am ready to give my review. For reference, here’s my review details.
|I’ll discuss four things that I find important in the medium of video games:
Story, which deals with the game’s story.
Presentation, which encompasses the game’s visuals, sound, and UI.
Gameplay, which will entail the mechanics of playing the game.
Technical, which is composed of the technical achievements and faults in the game.
Finally, I’ll wrap up with my overall view of the game, and rate it based on three options:
The game starts with an explosive opening cinematic (don’t worry, the text at the end is not from the actual game). As you might guess from the chaos, it starts near the end. Spider-Man recounts his tale up until that point, starting with the day he once again wielded the black suit. You take control of Spidey in the middle of a fight with Venom and some of the symbiote detaches from Venom and covers Spider-Man. Spidey senses the suit is different this time and believes he can control it – which he feels is necessary to fight Venom.
Venom disappears for awhile without mention, however, and you control Spider-Man as he settles some gang disputes, fights some robots, and runs into some of his many arch-villains. It all leads up to a city-wide symbiote infection, leaving New York in a state of disarray. As Spider-Man, you must save the city at any cost – even if the cost is to lose yourself to the black suit.
That’s the premise. The decision between good and evil surely isn’t anything new to games, and there’s nothing unique here – at specific points in the game (most often after a boss fight), you can choose between the red and blue or the black. Choosing the red and blue gives you the typical Spider-Man response – things like webbing the enemy up to a billboard and leaving him to the cops. Choosing the black side causes Spidey to take the most emotional, selfish road – such as beating the Hell (er…symbiote) out of the enemy. Based on your decisions, you either get the good ending or the bad ending. I swapped between good and evil decisions, but ended up with a good ending.
I really enjoyed the story – the zombified city really made for an interesting setting for the last half of the game. It was quite a chaotic setting, and a good contrast to the beginning half of the game when the city was normal. It seemed more like a ‘save the city’ scenario, because the entire city is in ruin, and you never have time to grab a little girl’s lost balloon (Spider-Man 2).
The presentation in Web of Shadows is a bit hit-and-miss. There are some really cool visual effects – the symbiote goo looks great and moves around like it does in the movie. Some of the models are really good (Spider-Man, Black Cat) and others are horrible (Cage, Mary Jane). There’s also a lot of cool visual cues to the city being overtaken, with black goo strung from building to building. Spidey looks great in both suits, and the city itself looks fair. The visuals seem a little inconsistent, as they neither strive for realism nor strive for a comic style – it’s a little in between. The result is mixed and a little distracting. Spidey looks better here than in Spider-Man 3, but the city looks worse. You can definitely tell this isn’t New York – something that Spider-Man 3 did much better on (more traffic, more people, etc). Overall, I give the visuals a resounding ‘meh’.
The sound is the same way. I thought the voice work for Spider-Man was sometimes great – reminded me of a mix between the movies and the cartoons I used to watch; however, if any real emotion was required, he just sounded like a whiny 14 year old girl who just got told she couldn’t go to the dance. The sound effects do little to give credence to the realism. The music is appropriate most of the time (sounds like a Spider-Man soundtrack), but my main complaint is that it disappears when the symbiotes take over the city and you aren’t around a crime; so, if you’re just swinging around, you won’t hear any music – just deep laughing that sounds a little too much like Andross from StarFox 64.
The UI isn’t intuitive at all – the main menu has two sets of tabs to navigate through (one set with RB/LB, the other with RT/LT). On the start screen, it defaults your cursor to ‘New Game’ rather than ‘Continue Game’ when you have a save, which very easily could’ve led to me overwriting my save file. There aren’t any visual cues to why a certain move didn’t work (timing is important in the combat). There was a red overlay that appears when low on health (a la Call of Duty 3), but it came up a bit too early (leaving me feeling like I wasn’t that threatened when I saw that indicator). They also had a life bar, however – I honestly don’t understand why you would need both.
The gameplay in Web of Shadows is very similar to the Spider-Man games since Spider-Man 2. They pushed the RPG elements while marketing the game, but they didn’t extend beyond buying new combos (which has been in there since before Spider-Man 2). I’d suggest turning on auto upgrades, as picking your upgrades isn’t that rewarding.
The combat is repetitive and leaves little to improvisation. A is jump, X is attack, Y is web strike (where you attach a web to an enemy, pull yourself closer, and attack as you reach him), and B is for web shots (why this move requires a dedicated button is beyond me). What this breaks down to is hitting X repeatedly on the ground or in the air, or hit Y to pull yourself towards the enemy and then hit Y or X when you reach him. You can tap B every once in awhile to stun the enemy, but I rarely really used it. I love the web-strikes, but I hate that it replaces the strong attack. The end result is that they took a lot of the subtlety out of combat that previous Spider-Man titles had (and even those were a bit button-mashy). It still ends up being pretty fun, I just wish they had executed it a little differently. Being able to switch into the black suit and back mid-combo is nice, and the different move set really makes you want to use the black suit a lot of the time. By the end of the game, you can have tentacles flying around at people, really making damage. They added a lock-on system, which is very useful for keeping your eyes on who you want to attack. The problem is that after performing a web-strike, the target automatically changes ‘for you’. This was helpful when stringing attacks between multiple foes, but horrible when fighting a boss (which were often surrounded by other enemies).
Web slinging is still a lot of fun, but you can now sometimes attach web to the sky if no buildings are present. It leaves a lot of the tension and fun of swinging around behind when it doesn’t matter if a building is there or not. I’m not really sure why they brought that back. Another way they’ve made exploration less fun – there aren’t any extras. None at all. No races, challenges, comic book covers, or anything. There are little spider pieces you can pick up, but they just amount to experience and are all over the place. Not exactly hard to find. Because there’s nothing else to do, you also can’t explore the city after you beat the game.
Overall, the gameplay is Spider-Man 3 with some lost subtlety, lack of an interest for exploration, an added lock-on system, and little else.
Technically, this game is a bit of a train wreck. It definitely needed more time before release, as I ran into a lot of bugs. Here’s a list:
- Slow-motion not stopping – Occasionally, the games shifts to slow motion to exemplify an attack. Occasionally, I would get stuck in slow motion after this occurs.
- Enemies disappearing – I would swing down to the city, start fighting some baddies and saving civilians, then everyone would disappear – no enemies, no civilians, no crime marker – just gone.
- Stuck in mid-air – Once I had to restart the system because every time that I brought Spidey into the air he would get stuck and become immovable.
- A little off – During a couple of cutscenes, Spider-Man wasn’t where he was supposed to be. He was supposed to be sitting on a pole or hanging from some web, but would be floating in mid-air above or next to what he was supposed to be attached to
- Symbiote Wolverine, hanging out – About a quarter through fighting Symbiote Wolverine, he stopped attacking and just stood there. He stayed that way until I defeated him.
- Web-strike confusion – Upon initiating web-strikes with enemies behind obstacles, Spidey would get stuck on the obstacle for a bit, then magically slide around it to continue on his course
- Civilians forgetting they’re in danger – sometimes I wouldn’t be able to save a civilian because I would no longer be able to pick them up to take them to a safe zone – they would just stand there and watch. Some would run away, but I still couldn’t save them
Those are the ones I can remember. Any technical accomplishments they had are overshadowed by the bugs.
The game was fun. I enjoyed playing it and never wanted to quit, but I’m not sure how much of it is because I like it for being another Spider-Man game. The things I really enjoyed about it (apart from the story) can be enjoyed in the other games as well. So, without further ado, my rating:
Worth a rent/bargain
Since the game was a lot of fun, I’d say it’s still worth your time (especially if you’re into Spider-Man games); however, it just doesn’t offer as much as Spider-Man games have in the past. Honestly, just get Spider-Man 3. It’s like $15 at GameStop.