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December 1, 2008
Spiderman: Web of Shadows - PS3 Review
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Heading past Salma Ave at speed...
Some forty-five years ago a teenage boy named Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider at a science fair and a star was born. Spider-Man has been one of the most popular superheroes ever created, as evidenced by the success of the three Spider-Man films, all of which rank in the top-25 highest grossing movies of all time. Web of Shadows is not based on any of those movies; instead it is an entirely original story. The question is, is it any good?

Web of Shadows begins with New York in chaos, under attack from a symbiote invasion. Spider-Man walks through the fighting and explosions with his head bowed. S.H.I.E.L.D units are out in force, and are being cut down by the symbiote aggressors. Spider-Man launches himself off a building and tries desperately to locate his beloved MJ who is lost in all the carnage. Luckily for our hero he does locate MJ, at which point she berates Spider-Man for using his black suit again. Next thing you know there is an explosion, a hazy vision of someone or something coming out of the flames and then black symbiote tentacles engulf Spider-Man. At this point the game takes you back four days, to a battle with Venom during which Spider-Man is infected by the symbiote and gains his black suit, along with the evil power of the symbiote.

It is here that you take control of Spider-Man for the first time, initially in the black suit for your fight with Venom, after which you are able to choose either the red or black suit depending on how the mood takes you. There's not a huge difference between the two suits, though the black suit does allow Spidey to hurl cars around and is generally a bit more powerful than the red suit. The black suit's moves are also more menacing, for example tapping the circle button in the red suit will see Spider-Man web his opponents which will leave them stuck until you decide to deal with them or they break free. In the black suit tapping circle will send out a massive black tentacle that grabs your opponent and pulls them towards you, allowing you to tee-off on them with some combos.

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The city detail is impressive!
Whichever suit you decide to wear, travelling around New York City is a ton of fun. Spider-Man is as agile and nimble as you could wish for, and the moves at his disposal make everything feel just as it should for Spider-Man. Holding down R2 sends out a web that you can swing on; holding down X as well swings you a bit faster. Tapping R2 will perform a web-zip which quickly pulls you towards a target, which is very useful if you see a rooftop you wish to land on. Running up walls is as easy as pressing L1 and pressing R1 will get Spidey to walk up them if a more careful approach is required. Spider-Man can even use his spider-sense (by tapping L2) to locate nearby enemies or allies.

Certainly swinging your way through the city is a highlight of Web of Shadows – the feeling of freedom as you swing between the skyscrapers is entirely liberating and something you won't tire of quickly. Spider-Man moves fluidly and gracefully as he swings his way through the city - small inconveniences like swinging into the side of a building, or the ground for that matter, are no hurdle to our hero, as he simply runs along the surface for a while before launching back into the air. It's a small touch, but it makes the flow of your swinging travel so much more enjoyable.

Spider-Man also has a stack of moves he can unlock once he's gained enough experience. There are different moves for combat on the ground, in the air, on the side of a building, for shooting webs at attackers and special moves to unlock. There are different moves for each suit to boot. Early on in the game Luke Cage will take you through a number of tutorials which show you how to pull off certain moves and how to chain them together. It's all very user-friendly, and in next to no time you'll be crunching your foes into next week with the moves you've been taught.

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Effects such as smoke, and the skies, impress.
As you progress through the game you'll be given missions by the various characters you've met. Completing these missions will gain you experience as well as progress you through the storyline. Another way to gain experience is to link together combinations, the more hits you get in a combo, the more experience you gain. During some missions you'll be faced with a choice – red suit or black suit, with the choice theoretically affecting the story-line from then on. Going with the red suit is the morally correct approach, whilst opting for the black suit choice is turning to the dark side.

Unfortunately Web of Shadows has its fair share of problems, and never really lives up to the promise of the concepts it offers. Being able to choose either the red or black suit responses in certain situations is fun, but it doesn't really affect the story as much as you'd like. Often you'll still have to perform exactly the same missions thereafter; they'll just be given to you by a different character.

The game is also dogged by repetition problems. Firstly, there are plenty of moves to unlock but for the most part you'll just bang away on the square button because that will pull off the most powerful combo for you. You can spice things up by performing air attacks instead, but often they are less effective and damaging than repeatedly hitting square.

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That's a nice reflection there.
Also the missions grow more and more repetitive as you progress. Early on you'll have a mission to take down twenty-two enemy snipers using one particular move, chained over and over. As soon as Spider-Man completes this task he's faced with twenty-two more snipers only this time you attack them from (gasp!) the opposite direction. Most of the missions in the game involve killing X number of enemies, then returning to an ally for another mission where you have once again kill X number of enemies. By the half-way stage of the game this will become tedious.

And finally boss fights themselves are repetitious. Most bosses will have multiple phases, but their attack patterns and the method you use to bring them down won't change, so the battles just feel drawn out. The fight with Wolverine is a little different because he'll ask you some questions only Spider-Man should know in between attack phases. It's different, but if you're not versed in Marvel history you may be wrong more often than right.

One last niggle is that Spider-Man's shield (accessed by holding R1) is next to invincible, so keeping it up is a very good way not to take damage. After a certain amount of time without being hit for damage, Spider-Man's health will start to build up again. So it is entirely possible to get low on health and then simply hold up your shield for a little while to get back to full-health. This feels very cheap, especially during boss fights.

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Visually Midnight Club Los Angeles is great.
Graphically, Web of Shadows is a mixed bag. There's screen-tearing aplenty, whether you're swinging your way through the city or even watching a cut-scene. At first it can be distracting, but you do get used to it (which isn't necessarily a good thing). There's slow-down every now and then along with the odd pop-up. The city itself looks alright, if a little bland – everything looks like it should, but there's not a whole lot of detail there. Certainly this version of New York City will never be confused with something like Liberty City. You'll overlook a lot of the graphical blemishes because you'll be too busy having fun swinging through the city to notice them, but the graphics are only a little above functional.

Music is generally good, though there's not a lot of it throughout the game. It would have been great to have more mood-setting pieces during the game to heighten the tension that is supposed to be developing. The voice-acting is generally solid, though Spider-Man himself often sounds whiny and anything but a superhero. Effects are fine and everything sounds just as it should.

Web of Shadows is a decent game though it's definitely let down by a weak story-line and too much repetition in the action. The option to choose your path between good and evil at certain points in the story-line is never as fully developed as you'd like either. Graphics are not a patch on other PS3 games and the sound is only a tick above average. However much of this can be over-looked because swinging your way through New York City is so much fun. If you're a Spider-Man fan or are in the mood for a few hours of beat ‘em up action with a superhero backdrop then you might want to check this one out. It's probably a perfect game to hire – you'll enjoy it while you have it, but you won't be sorry to take it back.

Review By: Mike Allison

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GRAPHICSPlenty of technical issues, including frequent screen-tearing and occasional slow-down. Spider-Man looks just fine and the city itself is decent enough.
SOUNDThe voice-acting is decent, though Spider-Man is the weak link. Music and effects are decent enough without pushing any boundaries.
GAMEPLAYSwinging around New York City is the highlight of the game; Spider-Man has never handled so well. Fighting quickly gets repetitive though.
VALUETheoretically you might play twice to choose both red suit and black suit story-line. However the repetitive nature may turn you off.
OVERALLFun for a while, but the repetition will wear you down. With more variety in the action, Web of Shadows would have been a very good game. As it is, it's hard to recommend for anything other than a hire.

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