Spider-Man: Web of ShadowsESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
Developer – Treyarch
Publisher - Activision
352 KB to Save Game
Back in July a couple of us GameBoyz staffers attended the Activision E3 Press Briefing in Los Angeles. The press event was held at the Vibiana which used to be an old cathedral church. In fact the original cathedral structure is one of the last remaining buildings from the early period of Los Angeles’ history. It was a very cool setting indeed and it is where we had our first glimpse of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. And what we saw looked very impressive.
I played Spider-Man: Fried or Foe on the Xbox 360 to death. While I enjoyed several aspects Friend or Foe lacked the depth and the visuals I had hoped for and it had lots of room for improvement. Given my time with Friend or Foe I was very curious to see how the new and improved Spidey would play in Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. Well Activision was kind enough to send us a review copy of the Xbox 360 version. Although it offers up lots of web-slinging action, at the end of the day I expected a little more from this latest Spidey game.
Overall, the visuals in Web of Shadows for the Xbox 360 are stunning and a significant upgrade from the graphics seen in Friend or Foe. From the awesome looking characters to the New York City backdrop the game really looks great.
For starters the character animations are spectacular. Spider-Man has never looked so good. You can see every muscle ripple in his suit and it has a nice glossy shine which really makes him pop on the screen. Spidey’s suit colors are bright and vibrant and truly a treat to watch in high definition. Other in-game heroes and villains such as Luke Cage, Moon Knight, Venom, and Wolverine also look great and are easily recognizable. Granted they all look ‘juiced up’ to the extreme on steroids but hey it is a game based on a comic book character; so what do you expect? I should also mention that Black Cat, and MJ look especially sexy and I am sure many mature gamers will enjoy the way they are rendered in Web of Shadows. The only minor flaw I noticed in terms of the character models would be Spider-Man’s black suit often appeared more purple then black. Not a big deal but was more of a small annoyance.
In terms of Web of Shadows’ environments, the game scores high marks. The New York City landscape is spectacular including some of Spider-Man’s familiar landmarks such as The Baxter Building, Stark Tower, Oscorp, and the Daily Bugle. The city really comes to life and the enormity of it really sinks-in as you go slinging through the air. The city is certainly alive in Web of Shadows too and you will notice a fair amount of detail as you look down while swinging from one building to another. A nice touch is how the NYC citizens will clap and make positive comments about you as you walk by them. The lighting effects in the sky are also well done and the water effects are equally as stunning. If I had to nitpick, Times Square did not look as sharp as it could. Nevertheless, the overall big city package is pretty good in the visuals department.
Unfortunately the sound did not quite measure up to the games spectacular visuals. That being said, Web of Shadows is not a bad sounding game either. It is just that it could have been a bit better. On a positive note, the games soundtrack is very well done. The music really gives you the feeling you are immersed in a Spider-Man big screen movie. The music sounds very similar to the Spider-Man movies of past and I would not be surprised if someone told me the game was even done by the same composer who did the musical score for the movie(s). It sounds that good. Even as I am writing this I am humming and replaying the tunes over and over in my head.
The voice work is not the best we have seen in recent years. For starters, Spidey’s voice is horrible. Granted his voice comes through loud and clear, however he sounds more like a grade eight calculus nerd than the web-slinging hero himself. His high pitch nerdy-like voice wore on me as the game progressed and his sarcastic cheesy dialog did not do much to help better the situation. Bottomline, it did not sound as authentic as it could have and the dialog sounded as if it was coming straight from a ‘B-rated’ movie. Some of the other voice actors are good though, such as Cage or Black Cat, but most are forgettable and seem like they are just going through the motions.
In-game sound effects sound as good they should but they are nothing spectacular. As an example, the web slinging and punching effects are bang-on but they just didn’t wow me. Car horns and NYC civilians added to the games overall atmosphere. On the whole I had no concerns with the sound effects and battle noises; I just didn’t find myself awestruck.
Web of Shadows for the Xbox 360 features no cooperative game-play or multiplayer component at all (offline or online). As such my gameplay section will focus strictly on the single player mode which unfortunately is all that is offered. I have to say this was a huge letdown for me as the co-op gameplay in Friend or Foe was lots of fun and gave an otherwise weak game a ton of replay value. So I have to admit I was a bit saddened when I first popped the game in only to find out there was no way my daughter and I could play the game together co-operatively. Regardless, Web of Shadows does feature a solid single player experience and the gameplay is very addictive. But before I go any further, here is a ‘gist’ of the storyline:
A deadly symbiotic invasion brings total devastation to New York City. At the center of this outbreak is Venom. Acting as a virus of sorts, the symbiotes have infected many citizens. Coupled with a massive gang problem, Spider-Man must save the day and stop Venom from spreading his deadly infection. As the game progresses you are given a choice to pick good or evil paths at certain points. Consequently your choices dictate the outcome of the game. The story does take some time to develop but once you hit the latter part of the second chapter of the game the storyline really starts to draw you in. The story is enough to keep your interests up but it is not critical component to the gameplay.
Similar to the previous editions of the franchise, Web of Shadows allows you to roam the city by swinging from building to building doing random side missions or by going through the game’s main storylines. One of the great aspects of the game is the swinging and gliding through the air as Spider-Man can only do. The developers truly did an amazing job in this aspect of the game as they have nailed down Spider-Man’s movements and swinging actions to perfection. The combination of the city’s graphics combined with the gameplay of swinging through the skyscrapers creates a great atmosphere and certainly adds to the game.
The only downside to the swinging and the crawling on buildings mechanics is the camera which seemingly has a mind of its own. In fact, the camera work really hampers the gameplay in that I found myself constantly wrestling with it as I sought that perfect camera angle far too often. Sprinting up a wall can be nightmare as you can lose all sense of direction, and likewise swinging through the city can be equally as frustrating as you end up guessing where enemies are located. Controlling the camera is just not as refined as it could be and it is really unacceptable for a Treyarch Spidey game which has had years to get it right. Given how many times there has been a Spider-Man game released these things should not be occurring.
In terms of the controls, Web of Shadows is fairly deep and the gradual tutorial training in chapter one works very well. Granted some of the instructions can be confusing, however once you master some of the skills the game can be one heck of a ride. That being said, far too often I found good old fashioned button mashing worked best with the on the ground combat or that which occurs on the sides of buildings. While in the air you frequently make use of the Y button for slinging into enemies and delivering knock-out blows. Sequential button pressing rears its ugly head during the game but for the most part the sequences are easy to pull-off and I did not mind it as much as I typically do. Boss fights are a tad on the long and drawn out side, however they can be enjoyable as some of the scenery is quite nice (e.g. the epic battle with Black Cat).
The game should take you anywhere from 10-15 hours to complete depending on your skill and how many experience points you want to rack up. Web of Shadows features a terrific upgrade system where you can cash in your experience points to upgrade your abilities and suits. A neat feature in the game is the ability to switch between Spidey’s Red and Black suits. Not only can you upgrade his traditional red suit but his black suit also carries with it its own set of abilities and attributes. You can upgrade things like Spider-Man’s air attack, ground attack, wall attack, etc. All in all it is a great system and gives you plenty of incentive to complete all those side missions which include saving civilians and beating up gang members.
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