Itís no secret that I like my super-hero games and Iím a big fan of sandbox-style gaming. In fact I often prefer a sandbox to play in rather than a linear storyline. There are certain genres and heroes that fit this kind of gameplay, Batman from DC Comics for instance would suit a non-linear city-based free-roaming sandbox environment down to the ground. Spider-Man of course suits it perfectly, thereís something extremely liberating about being able to swing from building to building as Marvelís iconic hero, shooting across the skyline in an acrobatic ballet of movement.
I also think that Spider-Man is probably one of the hardest heroes to get right in a video game. There have been numerous attempts, movie tie-ins and various linear-non-linear story based games to come out of the franchise throughout the period of various console generations. My firm favourite is Spider-Man 2 and I am glad to say (for me) that Web of Shadows sits up there with that game in my favourite list of Spider-Man games to date.
I wonít spoil the storyline but I will say that it has numerous twists and turns that are fairly telegraphed in places, yet still somehow it manages to deliver a darker version of Spider-Manís universe that doesnít draw on a movie for its inspiration and isnít tied down by the same problems that face movie based games on last and current generation hardware. There are lots of familiar old Marvel faces and heroes/villains to encounter as you play through Web of Shadows.
The control takes a little getting used to, once youíve mastered it however you should find that the web-slinging aspect of the game is pretty well done. Itís fairly exhilarating to leap into the air, latch onto a building with Spider-Manís web and shoot off at high speed across a beautiful New York City sky-line, falling down gracefully and then web-swinging again at speed between the narrow confines of an alley. The web-slinging/swinging system is pitched somewhere between Spider-Man 3ís and Spider-Man 2 with a few tweaks here and there to help you maintain control.
The camera (whilst swinging) maintains a good view of Spider-Man and you donít really feel as if you lose control of the character or the camera as you move gracefully about New York City. You can do the usual arsenal of Spider-Man style web tricks, swinging from building (right trigger) to building, flipping around poles with the left bumper and web-zipping with a tap of the right trigger. The A button jumps and when held down gives you a boost of speed. Iíll go out on a limb here and say that Web of Shadows has one of the best web-swinging systems in a Spider-Man game to date.
Wall crawling plays an important part in Spider-Man games and itís implemented here in a fairly slick way, pressing down the right bumper will let Spidey cling to a wall and then he can climb around it to his heartís content. Hitting the left bumper will let you wall run and again, this is done extremely well with no loss of control. Itís down to the context-sensitive way that Spidey reacts to a surface. If heís running across a wall to the side and he hits a corner, heíll effortlessly flip around it and let you continue the run.
If heís running on a roof and you want to quickly get down to ground level or onto a wall, holding the left bumper and heading towards the edge nets you a simple little web flip that sees Spidey run down the wall and towards the ground. Itís controls like this that make the game a joy to play when youíre free-roaming around the city and picking up various collectible Spider-Icons that increase your overall speed when youíve gathered enough of them (and there are lots to collect).