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Reviewed: Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: November 17th, 2008
Page: 2

From the get-go, Web of Shadows offers up the idea that they're trying to sell - not the most basic Spider-man title, not the most amazing, but definitely a Spider-man title that gamers and fans alike can get behind and really enjoy. To some degree, they deliver, and to some degree, they don't.

Let's start with the basic premise: Spidey has let things go to pot. Or rather, they've just gotten completely out of control despite his best efforts. A battle with Venom on a particularly bad day has gotten Spidey infected once again with the good old black Spidey-suit, but it's not as strong and he's able to switch between his normal powers (the traditional red-and-blue suit) and the black suit and its increased strength and brutality (and suitable lack of finesse) at will. Unfortunately, the same infection that has transferred to him has been jumping off of Venom like fleas from a dog in the bath, and innocent civilians are becoming infected everywhere.

The end result? S.H.I.E.L.D have been called in. Mary Jane is barely speaking to poor old Spidey, Luke Cage is mad at him, heroes everywhere are battling symbiotic hordes that have sucked up the powers of some of Spidey's more annoying foes (Venom and Vulture to name just two), and... we step back three days and watch how it all got this way, play as Spidey through every one of his mistakes, up to and including letting Black Cat get infected. And depending on the outcome of player actions, there's a different possible twist at various points in the original story.

I'll give them this: Shaba and Treyarch's crews went for the gusto. Given the freedom to make a unique, original Spider-man story, they didn't back down to the standard "Sinister Six" or "Villains all over" idea, they went for a new, slightly more frightening menace based upon a point in Spider-man's career that they just can't seem to get enough of.

The screens above are from the PC version - actually not the best of the lot, graphically. Wii's a bit under, Xbox360 and PS3 a bit over, and of course it depends on your PC's graphics card as well. They do offer a bit of an idea of how the game will look, and the touches on the suit are nice even as the view of Manhattan really hasn't changed all that much from the old Xbox days of Spider-Man 2. Happily, 3's "button sequence" fights are nowhere to be found, and Shaba obviously spent a lot of work on the models and look of the various game bosses.

As Web of Shadows goes, combat is the big draw of the game. While leveling up and increasing Spidey's abilities has lost the "experience from beating things up" idea in favor of hunting Manhattan for red-and-blue spider tokens, most of the game's missions are going to revolve around taking down some ordinary crimes (and some weird ones) in between official missions to deal with various threats, enemies, and friends alike. The retooling of the combat system has done wonders, although the limited number of buttons involved make it a tad shallow after a certain number of hours of gameplay. If I had one complaint about it, it's that there's not nearly as much room for creative fighting as in previous titles, and that's something the designers should take back to the drawing board and see what they can work with for their next attempt.

As for the rest? Well, the voice actors are all pretty forgettable. Nobody stands out, nobody breaks out, nobody really, really sells the role... and the voice for Spidey is pretty darn whiney, which either fits (if you're a fan of "Spidey is really a nerd in a costume" theory) or doesn't fit at all for the character. I'm not going to say which way I go, I'm just warning those who don't like a whiney Spidey that they're going to have to put up with one for this game.

And then, ahh... the wonderful camera. The bane of programmers everywhere, the awkward stepchild of the advance of games into true three-dimensional environments and motion... and they still don't have it right, because it swings around and gets lost, has trouble locking on, and can even lose track of Spidey himself during particularly problematic aerial battles (happens more often than you'd think when fighting little clones of Vulture).

If I were to pick one of them, I'd say to go with either 360 or PS3. Wii has its charms, but the graphical downsides may get you if you're a big-screen gamer. The PC has the awkward misfortune to try to bind too many keys all in a small area, to bind the camera to mouse motion, and it commits one of the cardinal sins of a console-to-PC port in that it has absolutely no ability to bind itself to a decent gamepad.

Added:  Monday, November 17, 2008
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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