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I've always had a soft spot for the Spider-Man games. Whilst the film tie-ins have generally been pretty poor, the standalone titles have been good fun. Spidey has had several outings on the PS3, but this is my first chance to assess whether they have made the step up to Sony's latest console.
When a Symbiote invasion occurs in New York, it's up to Spider-Man and his allies to stop it. But, of course Spider-Man himself is susceptible to influences from the dark side and has to try and resist the lure of using the enhanced powers of his black suit.
When I first booted up Web of Shadows, I was rather confused. It felt very much as though as I was being parachuted in half way through a game. Indeed, because I had bought a second hand copy, I actually began to wonder if I had accidentally loaded a previously saved game. It turned out that I hadn't... it's just that the game starts with a particular plot point and then takes you back in time to show you how you reached that point.
Web of Shadows has a nice balance between open-world gameplay and a mission based structure. Every so often, you will be asked to undertake a mission by some character or other and can choose whether to accept it or just carry on patrolling the streets of New York. Either is a lot of fun and whether you are working towards a particular target (taking out a set number of bad guys) or trying to achieve a mission to drive the story forward, you will find yourself enjoying it
Every so often in story mode, you will also be faced with a moral choice (do you ally yourself with a villain, for example, or take them down). Each time you must choose whether to take the path of good (Spider-Man) or ambiguous (Spider-Man's black suit). According to the makers of the game, this affects the way the game unfolds, but I can't verify this. When faced with these moral choices, I have always chosen the good route, and to be honest, they are not frequent enough to make me want to go back and play the game through again, making different decisions.
This is because although it is fun swinging through New York, the gameplay does have limitations. Chief amongst these is that the gameplay can become repetitive, a cycle of swinging around New York taking out bad guys whilst you wait for a new story mission to appear.
The missions do add some variety and help to moves the story along, but they can be frustrating in a different way. If you get stuck on one you are left with little option but to keep playing it until you finally win. This can become incredibly frustrating and feel like a real block on your ability to progress in the game.
The Story Mode is also quite short and won't take seasoned gamers too long to polish off. Once you've done that, the long-term appeal of the title is pretty limited. Sure, you can come back and swing around New York, taking out criminals and helping civilians but the appeal of this is pretty limited and the morality choices don't offer enough of a hook to make you want to come back and play the game though again with different choices.
Graphics are something of a mixed bag. They look OK, but never push the PS3. Cut-scenes are fine, without ever being spectacular. Characters are well-rendered but not jaw-dropping, animation is reasonable, but you've certainly seen it does better in other games. Characters can be a little on the blocky side and Spider-Man himself occasionally walks like he desperately needs the toilet - not what you're looking for in a hero!
Thankfully, swinging through the city, and swooping between narrow gaps at breakneck speeds is implemented excellently. These sequences are fluid and smooth and, if you get your rhythm right, there is a real sense of speed to them. There are occasionally some serious issues with camera angles (particularly when climbing buildings), but this doesn't happen enough to render the game unplayable.
Perhaps most disappointing is New York City which is simply made up of generic buildings, skyscrapers and roads. It could be any city anywhere in the world. Nor is this merely an aesthetic criticism: it also has an impact on the gameplay. Since the graphics are pretty generic, all the buildings look very similar which can mean it's difficult to work out where you are in the sprawling city. Some missions rely on you getting to a particular building within a particular time (taking an injured civilian to a hospital, for example). I often found it incredibly difficult to do this, since it's hard to work out where you are in relation to the hospital, thanks to the lack of any real landmarks.
Sound is slightly disappointing. The in-game music is passable, but generic. There's the odd section of swelling strings that's gets the blood going, but most of the time, it just fades into the background, neither offensive, nor brilliant. Vocal work is again merely adequate and varies from character to character.
I realise that how you expect certain characters to sound is very much a personal thing, but I was disappointed with some of the interpretations. Spider-Man in particular just didn't sound like I imagined and I struggled to get used to how he spoke; other characters were pretty much spot on to my mind. Elsewhere, sound effects are generic and rather dull, from the shouts of passers-by to honking horns and so on.
Controls are generally fine and pretty similar to the PS2 game, so if you've played that you'll adapt quickly; if you've not then tutorial levels will introduce you to them gently. There are enough controls to allow you to make varied moves and attacks, but not so many that you end up bewildered by the range of options. The one issue I did have was since the left stick is used to control motion and the L3 button (activated by pushing the left stick in) to switch between the black and red suits. When playing I've found it all too easy to press L3 button and switch suits without intending to.
Yet, whilst the game might have a few issues, I found it a lot of fun to play. It might not be terribly innovative or make great strides over previous Spider-Man games (it plays very much like the last-gen Spiderman games), but that's fine with me: I enjoyed those, so am perfectly happy to play it again on the latest consoles.
Where you might be disappointed is if you paid full price (originally £40). I paid £12 for a second hand copy and I have absolutely no quibbles with the game that I got for that money. Had I paid more, the niggles relating to camera angles and the lack of originality would have irked me far more. Web of Shadows is a safe title, rather than a great one, but if you enjoyed earlier Spider-Man titles, then you'll find this fun enough.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
I deeply enjoyed the game... on the level of character choices you make, it's a step forward for future Spider-Man games... if nothing else. I do recommend renting it first... for the pure reason that you see IF you like the game, I thought the game controls while a little retarded... couldn't have been to bad. One of my main complaints is the issue with trying to stick to a wall and when your in a hurry, that's when your screwed... at least you don't have to race for a date with Marry Jane (it was a waste of time on Spider-Man 3.) Over all... I prefer the visual effects and hey look at that... the actual black suit, not that Spider-Man 3 repaint of the red and blue one! The story flows nicely... and the game play does get repetitive at times, but I could not as for a better game and playing it over and over never gets tiring I like ending up with black cat (she is soo HOT!) The characters are made brilliantly and I love the feel of the whole thing, so while it's not a perfect ten... it's really close and is enjoyable making your own path (could have made more then two paths though.)
Ah, Web of Shadows. Where did it all go wrong?
The premise of this game is rather simple. After the disaster of a movie that was Spider-Man 3 and the terrible tie-in game that came with it, Activision decided to use their highly valuable Spider-Man license for something a bit different. Web of Shadows does not take its basis from the films, instead passing itself off as a new story in the wider, comic centred universe of Spider-Man. After a life time of terrible games latched onto films, this seemed like a welcome change to me.
However, one should learn not to get one's hopes up when it comes to Spider-Man games. Frankly, Web of Shadows fails at just about every opportunity. The plot, put forward as a key selling point of the game, is nothing more than an excuse to move from villain to villain in contrived circumstances. Periodically the game will give you the option to don the now mandatory, evil spider-man suit and treat other characters like dirt. This, the game tells me, is moral choice. The choice between being completely and totally altruistic to the point of self sacrifice or kicking puppies off cliffs. It adds nothing to the story and often I would find I could spend long stretches of the game as a complete bastard only to turn on a dime and help some old lady across the street while people cheered.
This is made worse by the fact that Web of Shadows is at its centre, the same rubbish Spider-Man game we've been playing for years. A standard hour of gameplay will contain essentially the same elements, swing around the city until you see some generic baddies to fight, fight them, repeat until a story mission opens. Sure, the swinging is fun but that's been fun since 2004 and nothing has changed. I would imaging £40 on a Spider-Man web swinging simulator would probably have been a better game but as it is, I'm forced to judge the game on all that poorly planned out crime fighting I had to do. Presumably some of the £40 this game cost is going towards paying people to rehash Spider-Man 2 into a poorly disguised shell?
Speaking of poor shells, why does New York still look like it's made of toy blocks? For a game being passed off as a triple-A, gold star, premium Spider-Man for the gaming connoisseur, the graphics are laughable. Production values in other areas aren't great either. The game is full of bugs, runs like a cart with square wheels and I can't think of a single moment that didn't have some little glitch that couldn't have been polished out. The entire game is just one more example of lazy, greedy developers doing the bare minimum to push a game to market and flog it on the back of a popular franchise. Don't waste your time.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows immerse players in an all-new action-adventure saga that gives them unprecedented control, never before seen in a Spider-Man game. Armed throughout the battle and confronted by an unrecognizable New York City, players choose to play as a heroic web-slinger or a volatile, destructive anti-hero, fighting with or against a vast number of fan-favorite Marvel heroes and villains, switching instantly between sides, and deciding which missions to undertake to save mankind.