"Spider-Man: Web of Shadows"
Reviewed for: Xbox 360 and Playstation 3
Also available for: Playstation 2, PC,
Nintendo Wii, PSP, Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: Teen (animated blood, drug
reference, mild language, mild suggestive
By Billy O'Keefe
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
In "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows," you star as Spider-Man and enjoy unlimited liberty to swing around New York City to whatever degree you please ... just as you could in last year's "Spider-Man 3." Oh, and "Spider-Man 2" before that. Doesn't Spidey ever do any traveling beyond the city limits?
But while a change of venue would've been nice, doing away with the sloppy hand-to-hand combat and dull mission objectives that bogged down those other two games is paramount.
On both fronts, "Shadows" scores direct hits. Spider-Man's combat repertoire always has been expansive, but "Shadows" is the first game that not only gives the moves the oomph they deserve, but removes any static between what you're trying to do and what Spidey does. "Shadows" mixes land, air, web and even wall-mounted combat in some pretty liberating ways, and practically every move in the arsenal controls and feels as it should.
Remarkably, the expansive fighting controls don't come at the expense of the swinging controls, though you might initially think so if you don't check the instruction manual. (The in-game documentation doesn't reveal how to properly scale buildings until the first act practically is over.) The game's camera occasionally flips out when the action shifts planes, but it almost always recovers quickly.
"Shadows'" mission selection isn't wildly inspired compared to past games. To the contrary, almost every mission consists of some variation of going to area X and pounding Y amount of enemies. But by fronting with equally fantastic swinging and fighting mechanisms, the missions are fun simply for letting you go nuts with Spidey's skill set.
If nothing else, the missions push forward the storyline, which benefits tremendously from having no film tie-in to impose on its creative freedom. It's tighter than any of the three "Spider-Man" films, and some surprising instances of moral ambiguity allow you to pick your path en route to one of three different endings. "Shadows'" lack of movie ties also means a lack of A-list actors in the voice cast, but the no-names who stand in are miles more lively and much funnier than "SM3's" sleepwalking stars, so it's no loss at all.
Finally, while a change of venue once again would be appreciated in the next "Spider-Man" game, it must be said that this is the series' best rendering of New York by far. The streets remain too sparsely populated, and some weird graphical glitches spring up here and there, but the visual leap forward from "SM3" is pretty remarkable given the short amount of time between the games' respective releases.
(Billy O'Keefe writes video game reviews for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.)
(c) 2008, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.