So, I’m a big Spider-Man fan, and once I started earning money, I began hunting down every Spider-Man game I missed out on when I was a kid; the first one I was eager to find was Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. Developed by the now-defunct Shaba Games, it was released on the 21st of October 2008 to mixed reception, but I wanted to see it for myself. And to summarise my thoughts after playing through both the Red Suit and Black Suit campaigns: I consider it to be the best Spider-Man game in combat and traversal, but not great at everything else.
Let me explain.
The game takes place over one week, and straight from the opening cutscene, everything has gone to hell. Seriously, that opening was stuck in the heads of many, watching Spider-Man walk past so much destruction and death while “Moonlight Sonata” plays. It really sets the tone of the game. The story is that Venom was trying to kill Spider-Man one day when Peter was able to get a copy of the symbiote and have the black suit. Upon discovering that he could spawn more symbiotes, it only takes a few days before New York turns into a symbiote-infested hellhole, and it’s up to Spider-Man to save the day. Now, as much as I praise the opening, the rest of the story isn’t all that great. This was the first time New York got quarantined in a Spider-Man game, which will get repeated in The Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man, and the voice direction and writing obviously needed improvement, especially given its main selling point.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows was released during a time when karma systems were fairly popular, with games like inFamous and Mass Effect encouraging you to either become a hero or a villain through choices. So, the game boasted a morality system based on the classic red-and-blue suit and the infamous black suit. You either stay true to Uncle Ben’s teachings or let the symbiote corrupt you. It’s an interesting system with several endings to go after, and it’s not every day you can play as a Spider-Man who will go mad with power and try to take over the world. That being said, it doesn’t quite work sometimes. There are some cool moments and interesting ideas, such as Black Suit Spider-Man ripping Wolverine in half and losing the black suit if you go for a Red Suit ending, it’s still a binary choice, and the only other significant change is whether you choose Black Cat or Mary Jane. You get to partner up with different heroes and villains, though, depending on your alignment. Who doesn’t love Moon Knight?
However, this isn’t why the game is fondly remembered for. That belongs to the combat and traversal systems. Let’s start off with the combat, which I will compare to Devil May Cry. You can freely switch between the red and black suit just by clicking on the left stick, and they combo with each other, allowing you to pull off some crazy stuff. The red suit is fast and uses webs, while the black suit is powerful and turns Spider-Man into a writhing mass of tentacles. That’s not all: you can fight on the ground, or on walls, or in the air. While I do feel that wall combat was lacking, air and ground combat was spectacular. Spider-Man can turn enemies into skateboards with what he can pull off. Doesn’t quite make sense for street thugs, but for symbiotes, it’s perfect.
Onto traversal, it does borrow some assets from the Spider-Man 3 videogame but improves it immensely with new moves and options. There are a bunch of hidden controls the game doesn’t tell you about that can really improve movement around the city, from sliding down walls to air tricks to give you a boost. You are given more freedom of movement in Spider-Man: Web of Shadows than in Marvel’s Spider-Man, which tends to hold your hand. Here, you can splat yourself on buildings if you’re going too fast. It’s easy to pick up but fun to master.
But there is a catch with the amazing gameplay: the crappy mission design. There are some fun missions throughout the game, but they are few and far in between busy work. Taking out a certain type of enemy, saving X amount of civilians, stopping X amount of crimes, etc. It can be boring at best and frustrating at worst. Like, I am well aware that the developer was not given a lot of time, but it still kinda sucks. This is very apparent with the only collectible of the game: Spider Tokens. You will not need a guide to find them all as there are 2180 of them, and you get them marked on your mini-map at 1000. You’ll need to collect at least a couple hundred as they upgrade your health and special meter. It’s only because I loved swinging around the city that I collected them all.
Yes. I collected them all. Moving on.
Overall, I still had a lot of fun with Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, and seeing how Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’s black suit is shaping up to be, it makes me want to get a remaster of the game or at least something with similar gameplay. It definitely needed more time in the oven (I cannot tell you how many glitches I encountered), but it’s definitely one of my favourite games.