"So to conclude that Web of Shadows was loaded with potential would be quite the understatement. Ultimately, the game fails miserably to live up to that potential, sort of like Penny Hardaway. And why is that? Because Web of Shadows drags. Oh how it drags. "
Since Spider-Man went 3D about a decade ago, he's provided us with more than his fair share of flawed fare; of decent efforts that just don't get it quite right, and Web of Shadows does little to buck the trend. Perhaps the webslinger has never looked better; and swinging high above the city streets has never felt this exhilarating – hell, even administering group beatdowns in style has never been so easy to pull off. Sounds like an enticing package when I run down big-time positives like that, doesn’t it?
And yet, it’s not. The failure for the parts to amount to a satisfying sum is made all the more puzzling by the high production values (charging tunes and slick visuals), and get this: the ability to play as old red-and-blue Spidey or in bad boy black. And amazingly, the coolness doesn’t stop there.
Overwhelmed by Kingpin’s thugs? Why not summon a superhero ally to lend a hand? Obvious favourites like Black Cat and Wolverine offer assistance, as do unlikely and more obscure acquaintances like Vulture and the inimitable Moon Knight. Moon-freakin-Knight! I haven’t followed this guy since he guest-starred in a Punisher Annual I picked up like, twenty years ago. Suffice to say, I’m glad he’s on our side.
So to conclude that Web of Shadows was loaded with potential would be quite the understatement. Ultimately, the game fails miserably to live up to that potential, sort of like Penny Hardaway. And why is that? Because Web of Shadows drags. Oh how it drags.
Your first assignment is alongside Luke Cage, who reminds me of Bob Sapp. He helps you learn how to fight, and spews some remarkably glib ‘insight’ into the mind of the inner city youth gone bad. His insulting extempore is matched in offensiveness by Spidey’s spectacularly bad voice acting. (Wolverine’s no slouch either--I had several laugh-out-loud moments at his expense.) Ah well, at least Black Cat looks hot.
Anyway, Cage has you running around the city completing various tasks, many of which are optional. Aside from the odd mission to save innocents by scooping them up and flying them to the hospital, the missions are invariably of the DEFEAT TEN THUGS variety. You’ll usually spend a great deal of time getting to where the action is, and at first you’ll appreciate the opportunity to feel the wind in your hair as it were, collecting items along the way toward experience points, toward upgrading your skills. There’ll also be scores of crimes in progress EVERYWHERE, so at first you’ll want to play hero and solve everyone’s problems. Soon enough apathy will set in, because quite frankly, you have shit to do, and you’re a superhero – the petty stuff can be left to the cops, can’t it?
Then you’ll realize that the mandatory, CRITICAL encounters you have with criminals seem petty as well. Spot the bad guys, target them, and get to button mashing. You can effect some pretty sweet looking combos this way, and of course, with a bit of practice and knowhow, you’ll soon be devastating even large groups of enemies without too much difficulty.
But here’s the problem: there isn’t much variety in these clashes, nor do any of them swell to any perceptible climax – it’s just one set piece after another, Spidey duking it out with swarms of foes on the increasingly bland streets (and occasionally rooftops) of the city. And here’s the TWO, of the dreaded one-two punch: the battle scenarios aren’t only boring, but they’re long.
So let’s get this straight. The fights don’t feel like they’re in aid of anything, feel like a chore even… and they go on forever. That’s right. Unless Spidey is fighting Venom, which is admittedly pretty exciting, he’s just going through the very time-consuming motions in all other instances. One scenario in particular seemed to me a fitting microcosm: you learn a cool web attack, where you have Spidey tag an enemy and reel himself in to bop the enemy and bounce off into the air where he can target the next enemy to be tagged. In this fashion, Spidey can effectively go from one bad guy to the next even in mid-air, with only airborne enemies to keep him up. Neat, huh?
So when Luke Cage firsts teaches us the trick, and has us practice on a group of goons scattered across rooftops, I expected to enjoy myself on a few numbskulls before moving onto maybe, a more interesting and challenging variation of employing the technique. I figured Spidey would bounce maybe six guys and we’d get the idea. I didn’t figure that 42 enemies would be more what the game had in mind. FORTY-TWO.
Dragging out a good thing is a good way to suck the life from it. And in a game where the battles are wholly devoid of drama and wholly divorced from any semblance of story-building, Web of Shadows had little enough of life left. The only reason I kept playing was to see just how bad I could make Spidey behave as I took a walk on the symbiote side. Regrettably, even earning “Black Points” only goes on for so long, and you’re never able to make any kind of ground-breaking deviation from the expected brand of heroism. Pity.
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 15, 2008)
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