It’s that time again true believers, Activision has returned with yet another Spider-Man game and this time it meshes two of the best in the series for an outing that is easily the wall crawler’s best game in years. While some were disappointed with the previous two outings (Spider-Man 3 and Friend or Foe) Activision has unleashed the talent of one of their in-house teams, Shaba to recreate the series. This mix of Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man combines to create one of the most fun experiences for fans of Peter Parker’s alter ego.
As with Spider-Man 2 and 3, Web of Shadows is completely open-ended and you can traverse anywhere in New York City whenever you feel like it, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. The story behind the game is one you might see in the comic; in fact it follows the story-arc from one of the Spider-Man comics. The story has our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man trying to find out what is causing the alien symbiotes to take control of the city and its citizens.
Starting out, the game has Spidey in the middle of the crisis and beating up an army of the creepy aliens. As you make your way through them you come across one of Spidey’s most famous villains, Venom. As you encounter him, he grabs our hero and begins to give him a bear-hug from hell. As the life is getting squeezed out of him, a piece of Venom’s symbiote breaks off and attaches itself to Spider-Man. And we all know what the black suit does to Spidey (and no, it doesn’t cause him to dance uncontrollably in a horrible montage of embarrassment). After we see our hero transform, the story takes us back to a few days before the city was attacked.
The game plays like every Spidey game: you web swing around town finding criminals to beat on, find hidden objects and progress the story. The combat has been completely reworked, and makes it much easier to beat down baddies. There are only two buttons that control Spidey’s attacks, punch and kick. Combine the two buttons together to pull off various combos. You can also learn new combos via the upgrade system.
The kick button also allows you to shoot out a web line to grab enemies, and as you get pulled in by that line, hit the button again to kick the enemy and bounce off of him, hit it one more time to start this process again on a different enemy. You can continue this until you defeat all the enemies around you or you fall to the ground. But, if you want to use this method to defeat enemies, you have to time your attacks perfectly; otherwise the enemy will either block your attack or knock you away. This method is simple, but does require some practice to get the timing just right. There are a ton of other moves you learn as you level up, but all the basic attacks you learn you learn from another hero, Luke Cage.
This brings us to a new feature in Web of Shadows, the ally system. The first one you encounter is Luke Cage and, in order to progress the story, you have to complete his missions (which are beating up bad guys with your newly learned attacks). When you have him as an ally you are brought to the options screen that explains how to use your allies. You have two different types: good and evil. The good allies can only be used if you have more red points then black points. Red points you earn when you save civilians and black points are earned by being the not-so-nice Spider-Man.
You can only earn an ally if you defeat them in battle, which is part of the story so by the end of the game you should have a nice repertoire of helpers. You can call on them when your special meter is full, pick the ally you want by hitting left or right on the D-pad. When you have the ally you want to help you, hold down on the D-pad and he/she will appear at your location and will help you until the red meter depletes.
Spider-Man’s web swinging ability has also received a make-over. This time around there are only two different ways to web swing: the normal swing, which you do by holding down the right trigger, and web zip, which is done by tapping the right trigger. You can also speed up your swing like in previous games by tapping the jump button, simple enough. Wall crawling has also been improved substantially. You can achieve wall crawling in two different manners. You can just press Spidey against the wall or you can tap the right bumper (holding the right bumper is also the block button). The beautiful thing about this is that you don’t have to hold down the button…you just hit it once and you stay stuck to the wall. The same applies to wall running, except you hit the left bumper and Spidey will run up the wall. Unfortunately there is no way to make him run or crawl faster.
Of course what would a Spider-Man game be without a sporadic camera system? Although it’s not as bad as previous games, it can frustrate you when you swing to a building and try to wall run up it. More often then not, you will find yourself running down the wall instead of up. But, something that was done right was the wall fighting. When there are enemies on the side of a building, all you have to do is stick to the wall and attack like normal. And oddly enough, there are no camera issues. This is some of the best wall combat in any Spidey game. Actually, Web of Shadows has the best combat in any Spidey game, period.
New to the Spider-Man world is the upgrade system. As you swing around town, you will see spider icons that you collect to help level you up (each level has a set number to collect much like Crackdown’s agility orbs). As you defeat enemies and progress the story, you will also earn level up points. When you have enough to level up, you can go to the upgrade screen in the pause menu and select what upgrades you want. You can upgrade just the red suit, just the black suite, or both. This will add new moves and other things to Spidey. And if you don’t want to mess around with that, you can turn on the Auto-Upgrade feature on and the game assigns points automatically.
Even though Web of Shadows does a lot of things right, it also does some things that will make you angry. One that sticks out in my mind was when I was chasing a certain enemy around town. I found myself having to replay the mission several times because it was hard for me to tell where he was because the map chooses to focus on regular enemies instead of boss characters. Instead, I had to rely on an orange icon to get me to where he was. This may not be a problem to some, but I shouldn’t have to rely on that orange icon when I have radar that shows where my “objective” is. I also found myself relying a lot on my Spider-Sense, which can hinder you at times. To use it, hold down the left trigger (if you tap the left trigger, you will lock on to the nearest enemy).
The sense will allow you to “see” where the baddies are. With Spider-Sense activated, tap the left trigger to lock on to the closest crime scene. Tap it again to scroll to the next crime or if there isn’t one near, go back to normal view. Now, this can thwart you as well. Say you’re chasing Venom through the city and he gave you the slip, you use your Spider-Sense to locate him and continue the chase. Since the Spider-Sense will pick up on Venom, it will lock you on to him. As you swing towards him and you swing past another enemy, your spider-sense you automatically switch to that enemy. So you find yourself constantly tapping the left trigger until you get back to Venom. This is very frustrating. But, once you get used to it and practice with the Spider-Sense, you will adjust to this and learn how to better use it.
Another new feature to Web of Shadows is the ability to switch between the red and black suit on-the-fly. You achieve this by clicking down on the left stick and each suit has different advantages and disadvantages. The red suit lets you shoot web balls while the black suit gives you more strength and allows you to grab enemies by shooting a tentacle from the symbiote. And as previously stated, you can upgrade both suits to make you a stronger hero.
At the end of the day Spider-Man Web of Shadows is an extremely enjoyable ride. If you can get past doing the same objectives to progress the story such as having to beat up a certain amount of bad guys or saving so many civilians, and forgive the camera issues, this game is more than awesome. It’s the perfect game for Spidey fans; simplistic combat, awesome wall fighting, nice upgrade system, and great story makes beating up the same bad guy over and over worth the while. Even with horrible voice acting this is one super hero adventure that is worth taking for fans of comics or action games in general.