Look out! Here comes the Spiderman… for his third outing on the Xbox 360; after the slightly disappointing Spiderman 3 and the downright disappointing Spiderman: Friend or Foe, Treyarch and Activision needed to pull something special out of the bag to regain the fan’s confidence in the series.
Being a superhero game you’d expect an action-packed opening with high-drama and an encounter with a nemesis. Web of Shadows only ticks one of these points and you’ll be surprised to read it’s only the encounter with a nemesis; Venom to be precise. Instead of the action-packed opening, we are greeted to soppy music and a slow-moving scene involving Spidey walking through a fight zone and saving the love of his life MJ – Michael Jackson. Ok, it’s Mary-Jane but I’m sure Peter Parker is a Jackson fan at heart (Ed - After watching his latest movie, I think he is musically confused).
The main feature of Web of Shadows is the ability to choose between the regular red and blue suit and the black suit. This can simply be done at any point in the game by pressing in the left thumbstick. The advantages of the regular suit are the increased speed and agility levels though it isn’t as strong or destructive as the black suit. The choice of suit is also a vital factor in determining the outcome of the storyline. At intervals during the game, players are asked to make the selection between the regular and black suit. The regular suit represents the good, heroic choice whilst the other a bad, villain-like one.
The game consists of three acts. Without trying to give too much away, each act is more-or-less a different storyline in which you are given missions by a familiar face in the Spiderman world. Apart from the slightly different storyline, you just find yourself participating in similar missions throughout the entirety of the game even with the option to divulge into optional missions. Your reward for these optional missions? Apart from an over-dramatic: “Thanks Spiderman” from the saved civilians, an achievement.
As for the rest of the achievements, Web of Shadows requires gamers to play through the majority of the game. Many of the achievements will be unlocked through the first playthrough, but more specifically towards the start.
A feature I wasn’t expecting in Web of Shadows was the ability to upgrade your suits by spending experience points earned by finishing missions and fighting crime. Most of the upgrades are fighting moves you’ll forget quite quickly though they can prove to be advantageous – particularly in boss battles.
The game’s controls are very simple to pick up, especially for those who have played Spiderman 3. The four lettered buttons (A - jump, B – web attack, X – weak attack and Y – strong attack) remain the same though it’s the triggers where things become slightly different. The right trigger still activates the web swing but the spider sense is now the left trigger.
What would Spidey be without his Spider sense? Yes, the Spider sense returns in Web of Shadows and is an improvement on the one imminent in Spiderman 3. The Spider sense is used to identify where the criminals are and how many of them are visible. I was quite disappointed that you couldn’t use the Spider sense on anything that hasn’t already been indicated by the game’s radar (located at the bottom left of the screen) and it can’t be used to identify the game’s collectibles.
A major fault with Spiderman 3 was that the game’s tokens were almost impossible to find. They were placed in very awkward places and weren’t easy to spot. On Web of Shadows, you can barely swing a few metres without spotting a collectible and instantly reminded me of my Crackdown days with the agility orbs.
It’s also worth noting that the game contains quick-time cutscenes in which you press the corresponding button to the indicated button on screen. Whilst it’s not a common feature in the game, it is still in there for most boss battles though can seem to be a bit too easy.
The game’s combat system is quite simply, superb. The amount of options to use when in fights is great, mainly if you learn to use the combos, which can pull off some amazing moves. Whilst it may feel repetitive at times, taking a look at some of the moves you have unlocked every so often can prove to be beneficial and makes the combat slightly less tedious.
Graphically, Web of Shadows is vaguely impressive (though saying that I recently re-upgraded back to HDMI) and there aren’t many faults with it. The game’s audio is also impressive and adds to some of the drama in the game despite the voice acting is fairly weak and none of the characters sound like their intended characters.
I have two major disappointments with Web of Shadows. Firstly, there is the rather awkward camera angle, especially when you attempt to move it yourself using the right thumbstick. The camera is far too sensitive and will take even the more advanced players time to get used to. Thankfully the lock-on system is present and therefore the camera is automatically positioned. The second disappointment is that the game is very repetitive. The majority of the missions require players to kill ‘X amount’ of enemies or save ‘X amount’ of civilians. Even a feature such as to repair a train track before the train crosses it would have been enough for me to not moan about the repetitiveness of the game.
Whilst I expected to see spiders in the game, I wasn't expecting bugs. Floating debris and people walking into walls were just a few of the bugs I encountered.
Web of Shadows lacks any multiplayer locally and online. Whilst I have a vision of players web-swinging around New York together, the possibility of it ever happening was always going to be slim. It would also have been nice to see the ability to take control of other characters (possibly some of Spidey’s nemeses).
With great power comes great responsibility. Treyarch and Activision had the power to design a Spiderman title and had the responsibility of making it good. Thankfully they have achieved this to some extent. Spiderman: Web of Shadows is quite simply the best Spiderman title to date – but that’s not saying much after the dismal efforts on the game’s previous outings. Due to the shortness of the game, Web of Shadows isn’t worthy of a £40 purchase. A rental or a cheap buy off the web seems to be the safest option.