|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Griptonite||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Amaze||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct.23, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
Spider-man has made five previous appearances on DS, yet with each new game, Activision seems intent on offering something new. Ultimate Spider-man was a beautifully cel-shaded beat`em-up that gave players not only the ability to pull off some really fun Spidey techniques, but afforded us the added opportunity to take on the role of Venom, one of the web slingers greatest foes.
Spider-man 3 made extensive use of the touch screen, mapping most of the controls to the stylus, and it was a unique experience from past DS Spider-man games. Web of Shadows, however, goes back to a more traditional control set-up utilizing all of the systems buttons (with a few touch-screen features thrown in) but the level design and pacing are something completely new for the series.
One of the very first things youll likely notice about Web of Shadows is its visual quality. This is a very good-looking DS game. You begin your adventure in a half-destroyed apartment building; youre on the hunt for Venom. The streets of New York are mobbed with zombie-like, symbiotes whove fallen victim to one truly dangerous, alien menace. The environments are very atmospheric, the lighting is great on DS, and players will immediately get lulled into the experience by a pristine production.
Though previews of the game have compared Web of Shadows to the Castlevania series, it also plays out a bit like the modern Ninja Gaiden games, yet from a side-scrolling perspective. Routinely, when you enter a new area of the map, youll be required to dispatch a set number of enemies before the exit becomes available. These encounters are usually brief, and the game does a great job of varying enemy types, even from the very early stages of the game. The level design is quite interesting and plays well to the abilities Spider-man possesses. Like many action-adventure games of this sort, there are areas you wont have access to from the start, but as you progress, new powers will enable you to later get at various items and extras laid out throughout the game.
Perhaps the most rewarding element of Web of Shadows is its combat system. When we initially watched the teaser trailer for this game, the combat looked cool, but we werent sure just how accurately that would play out in the actual end product. Amazingly enough, all those cool combos are not only possible, but theyre easy to pull off, fun as heck, and the game wastes no time in allowing you to role-play as one of the coolest super heroes in the Marvel pantheon.
There are six control configurations, though the game doesnt allow you to assign buttons for a custom set-up. However, once you get used to your preferred choice, things should be smooth sailing. Spidey can punch and kick, web zip, web sling (of course), dodge, and switch suits on the fly. In addition to Spider-mans normal form, youll be able to transform into Spideys symbiote alter ego, which will afford him unique powers to aid in negotiating various obstacles and baddies. Chaining combos is very straight-forward and extremely fun, yet there are almost endless degrees with which to utilize Spider-mans abilities. You can dodge-roll into an enemy and proceed to riddle him with a series of lightning-fast kicks, or waylay an enemy toe-to-toe, upper-cut him up off the ground, pound him while in midair, and then finish him off with a web-slinging kick. Depending on the angle and/or length of your web, you can even manage to knock back a slew of enemies at once. Theres a lot of room here for serious fans of action games to go crazy.
Web of Shadows also offers a substantial challenge, one which, in the latter parts of the game, might prove pretty tough for some folks. Spider-man has both a health gauge and a gauge that keeps track of how many times hes fallen in battle. You can increase the maximum capacity of each, and the system works well and breathes a little bit of new life into the pacing of such games. Rather than die outright when Spideys health bar reaches zero, youll play a timed mini-game to re-collect health bubbles, as well as destroy poison bubbles. When the timer runs out, youre thrown back into the fray with whatever health you were able to recover from the mini-game. However, if Spideys other gauge runs out and hes been knocked out too many times, youll have to restart from your last save. Its a forgiving system, but since the enemies are fierce and there are often large groups on you at once, it alleviates much of the tediousness thats otherwise common in this sort of adventure game.
The gameplay is great and it has good pacing, but Web of Shadows isnt without its shortcomings. There is a bit of backtracking involved, and though youll often gain new abilities that will allow you to bypass parts of a level youve previously navigated, making your way back through some areas can be a chore due to the nature of a few of the games platforming elements, not to mention the quite formidable enemies youll have to wade through each time you re-enter an area. Additionally, the early map offers no indication as to where you are in relation to a specific portion of a level youre currently traversing. So, youll often be engaged in a bit of tedious poking and prodding in order to find your way to the next area of the map. However, later you will attain a more detailed map of each district, but it will entail some backtracking.