Back in Black
October 15, 2008 – Growing up, one of my favorite games was Maximum Carnage for the SEGA Genesis. Since that time, the quality of Spider-Man games has been all over the charts. Thankfully, in recent years everyone’s favorite web slinger has been fairly well represented, and Web of Shadows looks to continue this trend. From the short amount of time I’ve gotten to spend with the title so far, I would actually say this is as pleased as I’ve been with a Spider-Man title since Maximum Carnage.
The story in Web of Shadows is unique, revolving around a New York City on the receiving end of a massive symbiote invasion. Spider-Man must attempt to save the city while trying to get to the bottom of what actually caused this invasion. In a nice twist, players will be able to directly influence Web of Shadow’s storyline based on their actions, decisions, and their suit of choice.
Spider-Man will come in both red suit and black suit varieties, with the ability to switch between the two by clicking in the left analog stick. When in red, Spider-Man will have better agility and a more web-focused range of attacks. However, in the black suit he will become much stronger and fully utilize his symbiote’s power. The balance between the suits plays out fairly well, and being able to switch on the fly opens up a good amount of variety for the player. If you are fighting a smaller, perhaps airborne enemy, then you’ll want to be wearing the red suit so you can quickly maneuver about and strike quickly. When facing larger, stronger enemies, the black suit is definitely the way to go, as your attacks will be more punishing.
You’ll need to balance your suit usage for more than just attacking, since you will also receive experience points specific to the costume you are using. Wearing one costume more than the other will allow you to level it up quicker, but going too red or too black will result in changing the way other characters perceive you in the game. Wearing the black suit will have pedestrians running and screaming in terror, while the red suit will have people calling out for your help. You will also be able to make decisions in the game’s in-engine character interactions, choosing to either be a hero or give in to the symbiote will affect the game and ultimately the ending you receive. Players will meet several well-known comic book characters while playing, ranging from Wolverine to the Vulture, and how you interact with them will determine whether they are friendly or adversarial. This adds an interesting dynamic to the game that should add quite a bit of replayability to the title.
The combat in Web of Shadows is very stylized and rewarding. Aside from basic melee and web attacks, players can also perform visually appealing web-strike attacks. These have Spidey hitting his enemy with a line of web, pulling himself towards the foe, and unleashing some close quarters punishment. These attacks are incredibly simple to pull off, requiring a button press to initiate the web and then pressing one of three buttons upon contacting the enemy. Depending on the button you press, Spider-Man can do anything from tossing his foe against a nearby building to riding them down the street like a skateboard with no wheels. These moves can also be chained together, providing some fantastic-looking combos and a large amount of pain for your adversaries.
After messing around with the combat and swinging around the beautiful and expansive recreation of New York City, I was able to try out one of the game’s missions. This particular mission had me chasing the Black Cat around the city, making sure not to fall too far behind. Eventually, the chase came to an end, and I was forced to fight her and her glider-using cronies. It was a fairly interesting fight since you had to deal with several flying enemies as well as the very elusive Black Cat. After a ton of web strike combos, swinging for position, and wall fighting, I was finally able to defeat her. While this mission seemed fairly familiar if you’ve played some of Spider-Man’s recent outings, the rewarding combat and stylized nature of the game managed to keep it feeling fresh and enjoyable.
If my brief time with the game at a recent Activision event can be any indication of the final product, I believe that Spider-Man fans will be incredibly pleased with Web of Shadows. The game looks amazing, is fun to play, and should provide variety in both its combat and storyline. Being able to switch between your two suits is great in combat, and the story implications from doing so makes it all the more important and interesting. If you are looking for a great new Spider-Man experience, you may want to keep your eyes on Web of Shadows, as its release is just around the corner.