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Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ Free-Roaming

Graphics & Sound:
I was so anxious to get my hands on this game. Seeing the trailers of the new ground-to-wall-to-air fighting system looked awesome. I am, by the way, a big Spidey fan, so a new Spider-Man game for the PS3 had my attention immediately.

In general, the appearance of New York is nicely done. The buildings seem realistic enough, as do the textures used, giving the city a nice, lived-in look from the tops of the skyscrapers. When you get down to street level, however, you begin to see that the complexity that is a metropolitan area such as New York is not really done justice by simple car movement patterns and people wandering aimlessly along the sidewalks. It serves its purpose, I suppose, but it makes it difficult to maintain suspension of disbelief... especially when the civilians stand in the street for no reason.

The characters also look pretty good, from Spider-Man, himself, in your pick of classic red, white and blue or black and white suits, to Mary Jane, Black Cat, Moon Shadow, Wolverine... even Venom looks pretty good. That is, the models look pretty good. However, there are glitches from time to time that really mess up the picture and are very, very distracting.

The biggest graphical glitch is one where some piece of a model, typically that of a hero/villain that you're interacting with, will have some piece of its geometry with one coordinate off screen. Most often, this is located somewhere on the head. The resulting effect is that the character appears to be tethered with a rubber band or bungee cord somewhere off screen. This, as you might imagine, can be quite distracting. Most of the time, this error occurred in the cut-scenes (which, by the way, are handled with in-game graphics). When I encountered Venom, however, he had this problem even when I was running around town fighting him. This is similar to an issue that Psibabe experienced when recently playing Brothers in Arms: Highway to Hell. I have no idea what causes this, but it seems like this would have been caught during testing.

As for the sound side of things, it's a mixed bag. The sound effects are decent, and the music has the right feel to it, including some music that I recognized from either a previous Spider-Man game or, perhaps, the movie? Not a theme, just some background music. The voices, however, leave something to be desired. Well, most pointedly, the voice of Spider-Man, himself. His dialogue includes the quips you'd expect, but the voice makes him sound more whiny and annoying than I would expect of everyone's friendly neighborhood Spidey.

Ever wanted to be Spider-Man? Here's your chance in Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. Wait a minute, you say? You want to decide between costumes? No need. Spider-Man: Web of Shadows has both the classic red suit and the black suit, each with its own set of special moves and upgrades - switchable on-the-fly at the press of a stick. That's right, push down on the left analog stick (L3) and you're in the red suit and people on the street will cheer you on. Press it again and you're in black and feeling emo, and the New Yorkers won't like you nearly as much. I dunno, maybe they confuse you with Venom.

While most of the game is a standard action game, there are a few of those knee-jerk action sequences that display a button to press and require that you react quickly to complete the sequence. These are relatively rare (which is a good thing) and have a non-varying sequence, which allows you to learn the pattern as you play, so you can "get it next time" (which is also a good thing). Another interesting aspect of the game was a, well, trivia game that occurs when Wolverine is trying to make sure that you're not a symbiote infected person and that you are, in fact, Spider-Man. He asks questions that would only be known to Wolverine, Spider-Man and people very close to him (such as, I suppose, his fans? I did pretty well...) to verify that he is Peter Parker and is still of sound mind.

There are no "modes" in Web of Shadows. Instead, you have all of New York as your playground (well, the outside of it anyway. Don't expect to go running around in buildings). There are a lot of baddies out there to be trounced, as well as injured civilians to be taken to the hospital, because, "with great power comes great responsibility." If simply working the beat is too boring for you, you may want to avoid some of the optional missions, and focus on advancing the story. However, the optional mission can get you some practice, which could help you down the line, if you find the game getting too difficult.

Not only are there no modes, there is no configurable difficulty level. In the beginning, the game is easy, and they add things in over time. Play - and learn - at your own pace.

In general, Web of Shadows isn't really a difficult game. It does, however, contain some difficult missions. You may have to play some of the story-advancing missions a few times. My least favorite mission involves trying to save a building from being destroyed. I removed several bombs and fought off huge enemies, but the building still took too much damage, so I failed the mission. I don't know how I was supposed to know how much was too much, since the building's "health meter" wasn't fully depleted, but I was able to advance the story, regardless, so I don't care too much about it. It was, however, a bit frustrating.

One thing that made for pretty good practice, in my opinion, were the spider tokens that are strewn about New York. Collecting these increases your swing speed and levels you up, and they're all over the place, but some are in places that require a bit of finesse to reach. I found that I could practice getting used to the control scheme by trying to make my way from one spider token to the next, attempting to plan it such that I land on the token, itself. With practice, I got pretty good at steering my web swings, web zips and jumps and double jumps to do just that.

If you don't practice and you find yourself failing a mission, don't let it get to you too much; you can just keep retrying it as necessary. Also, it can prove useful to try new ways to beat your enemies if the ones suggested on-screen aren't working for you. That is unless, of course, the mission is a training mission (with Luke Cage), in which you have to use the expected method or you fail. These training missions, however, are optional.

Game Mechanics:
This could have been a contender. I'm talking game of the year material. The concept is sound, the gameplay is fun, the new fighting style has potential and the graphics look great. Sadly, the various glitches I encountered knock the rating out of our "Top Pick" range to its current score. I mentioned above the "infinite earlobe" issue. This would have been annoying, but not horrific, if it were confined to cut-scenes alone. Having it show up in actual game play was very distracting and disheartening. In addition to this graphical glitch, however, were a variety of other graphical glitches; some that can be attributed to the geometry and others that seem like they must be the engine, itself.

While I was playing Spider-Man: Web of Shadows and showing J.R. Nip that "the PS3 version doesn't have that many visual glitches," I found a black rectangular horizontal plane just above a building. You could only see it from one side (beneath) and you couldn't stand on it or anything. It was simply a mistake. And one simple mistake in a city this large could be easily overlooked... However, there are strange random flashes in the surfaces of the buildings for no reason at all and around the windows when swinging towards a building, among others. These graphic glitches disrupt the suspension of disbelief and make it really hard to try to brag to a friend about how cool the game is. It almost seems like they show up the worst when you mention the graphics to someone or think about them. I am sure that this is merely because you're then paying more attention to the buildings than normal and, as such, you catch more of the mistakes, but it really humbles what could otherwise have been a great game.

The fighting system does switch between ground fighting, air fighting and wall fighting in a very fluid way, which is new to videogaming and is especially appropriate for a Spider-Man title. However, there are some minor issues with the way the physics are being handled. There were a few times that I would be fighting while standing on the wall and then get hit when I was jumping (or something of that sort) and, for a time, gravity seemed to be in the wrong direction... and not in the way you might expect. The game regularly treats walls as if they had gravity when you are fighting while on a wall. In other words, if you attack someone with a jump kick, you will "land" back on the wall, instead of plummeting to the ground. Well, when this glitch happens, I fall away from the wall, in a horizontal direction, typically, although one time I fell upwards for a bit. It seems like this may have been a bug that was discovered and that instead of finding the root of the issue, they just limited the distance that you would fall in the wrong direction before gravity was corrected. It doesn't happen overly frequently, but it's noticeable when it does happen.

So, what's the verdict? If you're a Spider-Man fan, as I am, and you have a PS3, you'll probably want to pick this one up. It's fun to play, has pretty decent web swinging dynamics (once you get used to the controls), and has some pretty cool characters, to boot. Sadly, it's not a game to run and grab when someone asks you to show just how good a PS3 game can be, but it is worth owning, if you like the genre. If you're on the fence, I would suggest a rental; it's definitely worth that, at least.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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