Thursday, January 29, 2009

20cc reviews: Spider-Man: Web of Shadows

Yes yes I know, I'm going backwards. If anyone out there has an idea of a new game for me to review, let me know. I guess really it would have made more sense chronologically to review this one last week, but I wrote last week's review before I realize that WoS came out in October, probably because I just played it. I get it, I'm supposed to be reviewing new games, but don't worry, I plan to have opinions on F.E.A.R. 2, InFamous, and the Watchmen movie soon after they're released. Specifically, they better all be awesome or I'm gonna be pissed.

Back to the game at hand. The Spider-Man games have always been one of my guilty pleasures. I really don't want to like them, but they're just so much fun. It seems to me that as I've gotten older, the games too have changed to fit my tastes. I've played and enjoyed the N64 port of the 2000 Spider-Man game, the 2002 Gamecube version, Spider-Man 2 on the Xbox and on DS, and Spider-Man 3 on PC. Granted, the latter two were less than satisfactory, but putting that aside, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is a well worthy addition to the series.

In my mind, what's made these games so fun since back in Spider-Man 2 is the addition of physics, and the introduction of a sandbox style environment. The ability to leap from the roof of the Empire State Building, plummet through the air, and catch yourself with a web line seconds before you splat on the pavement added a whole new level of enjoyability. Suddenly, it wasn't just about beating the levels. Just getting around was fun.

WoS is another improvement on this model, in that it's no longer based on the film series. The plot is actually fairly interesting, in a decidedly comic book kind of way. I won't go too far into it, but following the return of Venom, the Symbiotes try to take over New York, and Spider-Man is once again infected with the symbiotic black suit. Your job is to stop the invasion, the only way Spider-Man knows: by punching stuff.

There are two major innovations in this latest installment. First, the ability to switch between the red and black suits on a whim. Second, the renovation of the combat system to account for Spider-Man's trademark acrobatic style. These two combined allows for particularly asinine players, like myself, to switch to the overtly destructive black suit and wreck havoc among the unsuspecting city goers. The combat is remarkably simple, and, if you wanted, you could beat the game with only one attack button. This button allows the player to web zip at an enemy, tackle them, and vault off of their head. However, a punch button, suit specific attack button, and special attacks allow you to vary your fighting style, and can also be used to modify the web vault attacks.

There isn't much else to say about the mechanics of the game. As for the story, if you're a comic book fan, you'll probably like it. Otherwise, you probably won't. Several times throughout the game, I suddenly became aware that I had chained attacks through the past twelve enemies using nothing but the Y button and a little timing. Then I realized that I didn't care, because it was still really damn fun.

Unfortunately, as I remember was the case with Spider-Man 2, WoS is plagued by glitches. The web zip sound occasionally disappeared, and on one occasion, all of the game's sounds suddenly vanished for about a minute. On another occasion I jumped into the river and died, but instead of getting a game over screen, I sat and watched Spider-Man drowning in the river until I restarted the Xbox. The most annoying glitches were that occasionally, the targeting system had problems, and the citizens often failed to react to me appropriately. These two facts combined made it very difficult to save the assigned number of civilians from [gang wars/super soldiers/symbiotic monsters]. That's probably okay though, since I didn't tend to bother with those missions. On another note, the realism is slightly broken in that the web lines don't necessarily always attack to buildings like they did in 2 and 3. However, the camera is usually clever enough to keep you from seeing that.

That's about all there is to say. I may be wrong about that, but I'm certainly out of ideas. The game's great, if it's the kind of thing you're into. I'm aware this isn't the greatest piece of writing I've ever produced, but I'm pretty tired. I may add to this later. Until then, have fun.

Here's a video. This guy is pretty bad, and there isn't much action, but it does a pretty good job of demonstrating the look and feel of the game, including the destructible building facades, and the often irritatingly cheesey dialogue.

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