Web-Slinging, Side-Scrolling Fun
More than your average side-scroller, Web of Shadows is a button-mash fiesta that comes with a bit more depth than simply fighting off oncoming bad guys and a loose storyline attached. Everyone’s favorite webslinger is put to the ultimate test as New York City becomes infested with symbiotes, classic villains, and enough generic goons to fill several state prisons. As you leap and swing your way through linear cityscapes, the outcome of the game will be determined by the decisions you make with the ultimate goal of cleansing the city of the sinister symbiotes. After quickly becoming infected, Spidey is faced with an internal battle between good and evil, fighting off the selfish urges of his Black Suit to keep his reputation of a heroic do-gooder alive amongst the citizens of New York City.
As you play, you will travel left-to-right along city streets, rooftops, and underground New York, as you encounter an array of oncoming thugs, heavily-armed robots, symbiotes, bosses, and supervillains from the Spider-Man universe. One of your first tasks is to defeat Venom as he pops out from behind a giant James Jameson billboard to confront Spidey. It may take a couple of attempts, but defeating him is when the game actually begins as the sadistic symbiote jumps onto Spider-Man, allowing you to then switch between his traditional costume and the black-and-white costume at the push of the Select button. Both versions of Spidey come with their own list of moves and functions, offering a bit of variety to the traditional button-mash play style.
Keeping a good reputation amongst the city and its civilians is essential to your success in Web of Shadows. As you travel along, you’ll encounter numerous citizens in distress and loads of other tasks with the choice to lend a helping glove or simply move on. Encountering a citizen in need of help begins with a spoken comment from Spidey, and then leads into a text conversation between the two, which allows you to choose from three separate replies. Each is marked by its own color, and which one you choose will result in how many Skill Points you earn as either red or black Spider-Man. Positive responses earn points for red, negative responses earn points for black and neutral won’t earn squat. Racking up Skill Points allows you to unlock bonus moves for each costume, though keeping the sarcastic black-suited Spidey’s points down is essential to maintaining a positive reputation.
The button setup is as simple as using analog to move around, X to jump and sling webs, and Square and Triangle to punch and kick. The attack buttons allow for some cool midair combos and beat-downs to defeat enemies, though it is disappointing there isn’t a grapple button or any throws incorporated to add more depth to the gameplay. As a result, the game tends to be an extremely repetitious button-masher. However, as you unlock new moves in the long list of skills, both black and red Spider-Man can become equipped with a deadly mix of attacks, extra toughness, agility, health bar extensions and other attributes. Making your way up and across the levels is pretty cool, as Spidey has the ability to stick to walls and ceilings and scurry through narrow crevasses and high platforms. In fact, it is the way the webbed-one moves along any surface he can stick to that gives this game its charm, and you’ll have to leap around and get froggy with some hard-to-beat bosses. He can shoot webs to trap generic attackers momentarily and navigation is also made easier by the use of your Spidey Sense, which can help point you in the right direction if you get lost or help to determine where attackers may be lurking around corners.
While the button setup can be repetitious, the biggest problem is that the action tends to be slightly choppy at times. Clipping occurs depending on how much is happening onscreen at once, and it happens too frequently to go unnoticed. While it’s not a serious error, it can be a tad frustrating in heart-pounding moments against a tough opponent. There are also some noticeable hit-detection issues with attackers, which seem to become most noticeable at crucial moments. Swiping directly through enemies or even performing entire combos that are wasted by not making contact isn’t too annoying when battling random oncoming baddies. When it happens in a fight against a more difficult boss, however, it is a lot more irritating.
Web of Shadows comes with an excellent cast of characters, and comic fans will love the inclusion of so many villains and others who make an appearance from the Marvel Universe. At the end of each level, you’ll have to defeat a different boss including Rhino, Electro, Jackal, and the extremely difficult Kraven the Hunter. Exclusive to the PlayStation 2, the Amazing Allies feature allows Spidey to receive help from a number of friends such as Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Sandman, and more.
Though the inclusion of the extra characters adds a bit of depth to the game, unfortunately, you don’t actually get to control any of them. Basically, Spider-Man has the ability to call on friends to help him out in sticky situations through the use of his power-ups. You are given five power-ups per level, which you can assign with different abilities or characters who can be summoned by hitting Circle. The help of Sandman, for example, comes with an animation of his head which gusts across the screen and damages attackers. All other characters show up similarly, making the exclusive PS2 feature look more like a cheap add-on than a cool, unique function.
The bright, vibrant environments bring the comic book experience to life in Web of Shadows, and the game boasts some cool character designs for the likes of Rhyno and the athletic Spider-Man himself. There is some voiceover work for some villains and other characters in the game, all of which are fantastic. Peter Parker sounds exactly how he should and comic relief from J. Jameson and the dim-witted Rhyno make for some humorous moments. Writers have also done a good job of capturing the comic book feel with quick one-liners from Spidey, and though none of the conversations you have with pedestrians or villains are voiced over, they are fun to read. The script adds another nice element to the game and as you read along, you continually feel as though you’re reading a comic book with a ‘choose your own adventure’ outcome. All the wit of Spider-Man comics is captured, and the writing is also innocent enough for children, adding a level of educational value as well.
For those in search of single-player fun, Web of Shadows is an entertaining PS2 title, while not offering a whole lot of functions. There is absolutely no two-player action or any modes other than playing through the storyline with three different skill levels. Though the repetitious button controls can become tiresome, the game does offer enough challenges to keep gamers busy, and Spidey fans of all ages will have fun with Web of Shadows. With so many people to pummel and so many decisions to make, Web of Shadows is a decent offering for the still-kickin’ PS2, even if the fun is slightly limiting.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.6 Graphics
Great comic book aesthetic to the game with a classic Spider-Man feel. Some clipping and collision-detection issues occur. 3.0 Control
Typical button-mashing is given depth with a list of unlockable skills and Amazing Allies power-ups, though repetitious gameplay is inevitable. Lack of grappling or throwing moves is disappointing. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent score from Spider-Man films. Voiceover work for Peter Parker and the game’s long cast of villains is among the game’s most entertaining highlights. 3.0 Play Value
Not much replay value once you’ve played through the story once. The lack of other modes such as versus or a two-player setting makes for limited fun. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.