The Backlog: Spider-Man Web of Shadows

The Backlog: Spider-Man Web of Shadows

Over the last few weeks we did a little feature called TheSummerBacklog. But summer is not the only time that we have a backlog, it's kind of a persistent thing. So going forward, each week, a different writer will talk relatively in-depth about a game from their backlog. I'm not exactly sure what these will look like but I know it'll be fun. Today, I'm spinning a web about a game from a few years back: Spider-Man Web of Shadows.MILD SPOILERS BELOW

Spider-Man games have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. I first started really getting into videogames around the time of the first Xbox. Horrible, I know, but I’ve made up for it since then. When I first got my Xbox, you know what the first game I bought was? It wasn’t Halo: Combat Evolved or Project Gotham Racing or anything so esteemed. No, it was Spider-Man: The Movie. And I loved it. Since then I’ve become more critical of games, but that didn’t stop me from really wanting to play a new Spider-Man game after the recent film’s debut. I haven't seen the new movie and don’t care to, but it’s existence made me want to do all the things a spider can. In addition to becoming more critical, I’ve also become wiser, and decided to pick up not the newest game, but what seems to be the most well-regarded: Spider-Man: Web of Shadows.

Web of Shadows is an ugly game. And the voice-acting is horrible. And the story is worse. But it’s one of those games that is just fun to mess around in. I’ve found myself swinging endlessly through the city, doing nothing more than hunting the little spider-orbs that make me run faster and jump higher without the need of PF Flyers. Seriously, they could make a Pac-Man game where Pac-Man is Spider-Man and I’d totally play it. It’s that running, jumping and swinging that keeps me coming back. Which makes it puzzling as to why Beenox decided to make the next two games after Web of Shadows take place in non-open worlds. It’s traversing that open world, not the combat, not the story, not even Spider-Man himself that makes the game fun.

Now, I don’t want to beat a dead horse (even though it already feels that way), but the swinging in Web of Shadows is really slick. It feels like you’re actually shooting webbing that is sticking to buildings. If you maneuver the camera upwards while swinging, you’ll see that thia is indeed not true. But the illusion is complete enough; it’s easy and thrilling to swing high into the air, jump and fall to the ground then save yourself with a last-second web-shot. It’s too bad that the web-slinging doesn’t perform as well in combat. It’s not accurate enough.

The combat works, but I don’t need to talk about it because it’s merely “par-ish.” It’s not particularly bad, but not good either. What I do need to walk about is the story because: oh my god. Few games have as ridiculous stories as Web of Shadows. The premise is sound; Spider-Man fights Venom and thus regains the black suit, which corrupts him. Venom then starts infecting all of New York with the Symbiote. So far so good. But then, while Mary Jane is in the hospital after Spider-Man’s tête à tête with Venom, Spider-Man does the first logical thing: he helps Luke Cage clean-up inner-city gangs.

After discovering Venom’s ploy, he does the next logical thing: Spider-Man decides that the best course of action in order to cure New York’s Symbiote infection is to make a bomb that will magically kill all the Symbiotes but not the citizens. So obviously, because Mr. Fantastic (of Fantastic Four fame) and Iron-Man (of Iron-Man fame) are nowhere to be found, the best idea would be to break a criminal-scientist known as the Tinkerer out of prison.

Now, there’s also that whole “moral choices” thing I mentioned. Because Spider-Man has the black suit, he is corrupted. Because he is corrupted, he can do things Spider-Man would normally never do. He also does things that don’t even make sense and I can’t really go into them here because you should see them for yourself. These decisions take the story from being “so bad it’s not funny” all the way back to “it’s funny” again. And to try to describe them here… that would do the game a huge disservice.

That's it for Spider-Man. Come back next week as we talk about... You'll just have to come back to see. You are intrigued, yes? As always, please leave your comments below.

Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.