While the boss battles are among the best I've seen all year, the standard missions leave a bit to be desired. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to suggest that most of the missions have you doing exactly the same thing, which is swinging around the city and beating a certain amount of regular bad guys. The game does throw newer and harder bad guys as you progress through the game, but at the end of the day it's hard not to notice that you're basically just doing the same task over and over. Still, it gives you a chance to try out all of the new moves you purchase with your experience points.
From the get-go it's obvious that the emphasis of Web of Shadows is the combo system, which feels extremely fleshed out this time around. In past Spider-Man games the fighting felt secondary to the rest of the action, which is disappointing when you're doing so much of it. However, in this game you are able to string together all sorts of cool attacks, all while bouncing off of people's heads and using your webbing in cool and original ways. There are a few attacks that are just more effective than everything else so you'll probably come back to those a little too often, but it's nice to see Spider-Man able to perform fluid combos that not only look cool, but are incredibly fun to pull off. Best of all, you can perform these combos on land, in the air and even on the sides of buildings. There are a lot of great ideas in the combat; I hope to see this fleshed out even more with future Spider-Man titles.
As I said at the beginning of the review, the gimmick behind Web of Shadows is that you can choose to be good or bad, customizing the game how you see fit. This works in a couple of different ways. For starters, at any time you can switch suits simply by pushing down the left analog stick. What's nice is that both of these suits have different moves and upgrades, so it always feels like there's a good sense of variety for you to choose from. Beyond using the different suits to beat up bad guys, from time to time you'll have to make a moral choice, picking either the red suit or the black suit. What's nice about these choices is that they actually alter the story in some substantial ways. The real benefit here is that since you are effectively changing the outcome of the game, there's a real reason for you to play through the game a second time. Although some of the good/bad stuff felt a bit tacked on, I like where Activision is going with this and hope to see more of it in the future.
Unfortunately there are a few nagging problems that keep this game from being the must-buy Spider-Man game you've been waiting for. For one thing the game suffers from a lot of technical problems. To be fair, the problems are nowhere near as bad as Spider-Man 3, but they are noticeable enough to diminish a lot of the fun. For example, about half way through the game the city changes in some unexpected (and awesome) ways; however you'll notice almost immediately that the game's engine has a hard time keeping up with the action. Action sequences that felt smooth in the first part of the game are marred by choppy animation and some weird pop-in graphical issues. In other situations you'll find that the audio and dialog will just drop off with no explanation. Throw in some freezing problems and some boss glitches and you have a game that doesn't feel very polished. That's not to say it's not fun, but it's hard not to be disappointed by the game's performance in the second half the story.
It's not just the things that shouldn't be there that are annoying. One of the first things you'll notice is that Spider-Man is voiced by the whiniest actor to ever spend time reading lines for a video game. I thought that Tobey Maguire was bad in the movie-based Spider-Man games, but this guy will make you run for the mute button every time a cinema starts up. The rest of the voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag, there's some good stuff in there, but it seems to get overshadowed by all of the terrible acting that permeates throughout the story. Thankfully the game's storyline is interesting enough to keep you from being too upset about the game's audio, but it's hard not to be a little disappointed by the voice acting coming out of your speaking. One of these days Activision is going to get the right people involved with their Spider-Man games, I certainly look forward to not having to cringe when I get to a cinema scene.
One thing you can't complain about are the visuals, even with the frame drops and technical issues, Web of Shadows is a great looking game. All of the boss characters have their own style and you won't believe how cool the world looks after the invasion has taken hold. There is an impressive amount of detail given to the city, which may be why it's so much fun to swing around in it this time. This is without a doubt the best looking Spider-Man game I've ever seen, which certainly gives me hope for the future of this franchise. Unfortunately the game's camera is a real mess, often preventing you from seeing what you're supposed to be doing. Thankfully you can work around that, though this can certainly be a big deal when you're trying to defeat one of the many large bosses.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is far from perfect; it's a bit repetitive and suffers from some terrible technical issues. However, this is without a doubt the best Spider-Man game I've ever played. This is the type of game that shows that Activision really knows what they're doing when it comes to making superhero games; I only wish they would take some of the game's potential and push it even further. If this is the future for Spidey then I can't wait to see what comes next, I had a great time with the storyline and loved actually having a choice in what happens to our hero. Small complaints aside, Web of Shadows is a game well worth checking out if you're a fan of action-packed superhero games.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is far from a perfect game, but its problems shouldn't keep you from having an amazing time swinging around the fictional New York City. Throw in some of the best boss fights of the year and you have a game that will get your Spidey senses tingling. If this is the future for Activision's Spider-Man games then I can't wait to see what they come up with next!
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