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.
A Shadow of Responsibility
July 8, 2008 – I remember the days of my youth being wrapped tight in comic books. Whether it was the latest issue of Superman, Captain America, or the X-men, I was always nose deep in action. Through it all though, there was always one superhero I felt more attached to than any other: Spider-Man.
It was no wonder that when the original Spider-Man movie hit the big screen I was the first in line (literally, at my local theater). Unfortunately, I was equally amazed and annoyed by the way the Spider-Man films went from something spectacular to a disappointment in only three films. Thankfully, I had the onslaught of video games rolling out that starred the webbed wonder to assuage my grief. However, if it was not for Activision and Treyarch, I doubt that fans would be mildly intrigued by the upcoming Spider-Man: Web of Shadows.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows delivers a unique storyline. Venom has returned to Earth, specifically Manhattan, with what seems to be a legion of symbiotes, and S.H.I.E.L.D. quarantines Manhattan to prevent the spread of the invasion. As depicted in the trailer, everything is consumed by the aliens, and only one hero seems ready to take on Venom and his brethren: Spider-Man. Players will have to play with Spidey unlike ever before, joining and fighting both villains and heroes in order to ultimately take Venom and determine the outcome of the story.
While the info is sparse concerning the upcoming title, there is enough to get anyone’s spider-senses tingling. For starters, this will be the first time players will be able to decide the outcome of the game. Much like the playing concept introduced in games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Fable, and Mass Effect, players will define the path of both Spider-Man and the storyline. I assume most of this will stem from your actions and attitude while you wear the “black suit.” Yes, for those fans itching for some more play time in Spidey’s now classic symbiote costume, they will be granted their wildest dreams. In fact, it was revealed recently that players will be able to switch at will between the black costume and the red and blue duds.
In addition to the costume swapping, abilities will also vary. While wearing the red and blues, you will be have a webbing-based combat system as well as traditional forms of combat for the wall crawler. When you don the black suit, you will be stronger, and the costume will seemingly attack as well. The differences between previous titles and the upcoming Web of Shadows won’t stop there. If you have played any of the movie-related entries, then you already know that the web swinging and combat have somewhat felt disconnected, much like Tobey Maguire’s performance. Web of Shadows looks to diminish this cliché and give fans a fighting system they would expect. For example, players will be able to toss enemies in the air, then “chase” them with a web zip, and repeatedly harry their foes with a barrage of blows. Spider-Man has always been a “do whatever it takes” kind of hero when fighting in the comics, and Spider-Man: Web of Shadows will give fans the ability to live that side of Spidey’s abilities like never before.
Speaking of the fans, Web of Shadows is changing the way fan input is perceived. On the main site for the game, fans have been able to vote for several different things pertaining to the game; currently, fans are voting on the box art. One concept has Spider-Man holding New York in his hands, showing how the decisions players will make ultimately decide the city’s fate. The other option shows both Wolverine and Venom sharing the cover with the wall crawler. Previously, fans voted on the models to portray the leading ladies in the game, Black Cat and Mary Jane Watson, as well as voice casting for certain roles. I’m not entirely sure how this will eventually shape the game, but at least it feels like fan input is extremely important.
Currently, there’s not a whole lot that can be said pertaining to the graphics of the game. Judging from the debut trailer, the cinematics definitely look sharp, reminiscent of Ultimate Alliance. However, the in-game graphics that were revealed via the combat system look a little cartoonish at times, but the cityscape does look impressive. Hopefully, by the time the game is released, the cartoonish characters will either be consistent or a few tweaks will be made to give us a sharp and realistic approach to this adventure of our favorite web-slinger.
Spider-Man has been my favorite comic book hero for a long time. It is always painful to see something you are so invested in become a feature length film and then a video game. Mainly due to the poor translation of the source material, it becomes even scarier when the storyline is an original story arch. Fortunately, Treyarch and Activision have a proven track record for delivering some solid experiences for the world of Spider-Man. Let’s just hope the continued fan input and the attempts of incorporating a fighting system to resemble what fans have come to expect will do Spidey justice.