Final verdict: C-
Final playtime: Several days
Based on the few hours I played of this game– No, only kidding.
As we start to barrel headlong into the seasonal period of October to December, (ignoring that its already November) an alarming trend starts to appear within video games; particularly those of a licensed or large publishing powerhouse nature.
As this graph clearly shows, the chance of a video game being rushed out to meet a seasonal window suffering in terms of quality is greatly increased. Unfortuanately, with Spider-Man being both a licensed game and published by Activision, Peter Parker didn’t stand a chance.
The game opens pretty strongly; the opening tutorial, while by no means subtle, feels intense and exciting with Spidey essentially thrown into a zombie-apocalyse like situation to introduce you to the game world, only to have you thrown back days earlier while New York is still calmed. As laughable as I’m sure some people will find the concept, and as much as I hate to use the word, it’s a fairly compelling teaser of the madness to come as you progress through the game. Sadly the game is nowhere near as slick as the opening implies by the time you get back to that point in the plot.
Players expecting something similiar to previous Spider-Man games are probably going to be disappointed as they play this game, in more ways than one. While the game presents itself as a freeroaming adventure game similiar to its predecessor, it has far more in common with a Brawler, with a focus on symbiotic nature (no pun intended) of Spider-Man’s combat skills. The game attempts to seamlessly blend general street level brawling, wall based combat and aerial/web slinging combat – and it does so relatively well at first, but with so many factors adding to the madness of the combat you often find the wrong animations start to play on Spider-Man or the enemies. While it seems fairly petty to cite flawed animations as a complaint in a game, it’s just one of many things that I feel would have been given some pollish were Activision not determined to market the game in time for a seasonal launch. Which brings me smoothly into my next point; whilst the combat looks slick, the animations are relatively few in number and this quickly causes you to lose interest in intricate combos in favour of just dispatching enemies as quickly as possible. Despite all of this, Web of Shadows’ attempt to mimic a God of War style combat system is a huge leap for the franchise. Combining this with the ability to call in fellow Super Heroes/Villains makes the game feel more like a spiritual sequel to the 16 bit era games, such as Maximum Carnage or Seperation Anxiety.
Unfortuanately, as fun as the first sections of the game are, Activision’s marketing machine puts an end to that as the game gets further in. It becomes painfully obvious around the half way mark that there wasn’t time to QA the later parts of the game. Because I’m on a roll with them already I have constructed another graph, for our readers lacking an attention span, to represent the framerate as the game goes on.
Essentially the further into the game you get, the more variations of enemies spawn around New York at once, which means the framerate starts to plummet. It gets so severe at later points that the game becomes near unplayable. During one mission in particular, while tasked with killing flying enemies in a later section of the game, things would get so bad that they would despawn. Mid fight. This could do one of several things; force you to find the mobs elsewhere, force you to reload if you were mid grapple attack because the animation would be stuck hanging in the air, crash your Xbox. It took me no less than five attempts to complete this mission because of these recurring problems, another problem I place the blame squarely on Activision’s desire to push a seasonal launch.
Despite all of these problem, the game is still relatively fun. It does however lack much in the way of replay value, short of starting the game over to get the multiple endings, as there doesn’t even appear to be an option to continue after the credits roll other than to start a whole new game. This game also continues the disappointing trend of recent Spidey games in that it doesn’t have any alternate costumes/characters. And yes, I’m aware that you can change between the symbiote and the red and blues at the push of a button, and that it’s a core gameplay mechanic. Developers seem to dislike the suspension of disbelief in this day and age. I’m a sucker for alternate costumes in action games, regardless of how much sense they make. Though I suppose these are potential candidates for DLC.
Lastly, a minor and geektastic quibble with the game. The Venom used ingame is clearly Mac Gargan (aka the Scorpion), yet is constantly reffered to as Eddie. Oh, the shame.
Final Verdict: C-
Final Playtime: Several days over multiple play throughs and the majority of achievements.