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Spider-Man: Web of Shadows Box Art
Action Adventure
Treyarch / Shaba Games

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows

Since Wii’s release, a total of three Spider-Man titles (not including spinoffs like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance) have graced the console to date. The first was Spider-Man 3, an unimpressive sandbox-style action adventure that was rushed to market to coincide with the movie of the same name. The second one was Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, a polished and entertaining (if brief) beat-em-up that didn’t take itself too seriously.

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is the third Wii installment, and on the surface it would appear to have excellent pedigree. The game is developed by Treyarch, the outfit behind the excellent Call of Duty 3 and (perhaps just as importantly) the well-received Spider-Man 2 on GameCube. Tragically, those credentials prove to be moot, as Web of Shadows winds up being the same sort of profile in mediocrity that Spider Man 3 was.


At best, this game represents a mid-gen GameCube effort. Spidey himself looks decent enough, as does the Web Crawler’s attacks and the slow-motion cinematography often used to deliver them. This is particularly true during boss battles, which play out with rather exciting dramatic flair.

The rest of the game, though, leaves something to be desired. As was the case with Spider-Man 3, the city is grey and lifeless, with low-resolution textures, scattered nondescript pedestrians, and very little evidence of real art direction. Pop-in happens everywhere, and not just from a distance. Buildings and objects do pop in from a distance, especially while web-slinging, but sometimes cars, pedestrians, and even villains will actually pop into the foreground out of thin air. Watching a taxi materialize right in front of you, then crash into you as it drives down the street, is a surefire way to suck the immersiveness out of a sandbox title, and Web of Shadows obliges. The same goes for enemies, who will randomly appear out of nowhere right behind you and start beating you senseless. If you thought random battles were a pain in RPGs, you’ll absolutely loathe what you get in Web of Shadows. Ironically enough, though, the framerate takes a serious hit at times, especially later on in the game when bad guys are spawning more often.

The cutscenes fare little better. Those that use the game engine look better than the awful cutouts from Spider-Man 3, but the prerendered scenes suffer from a bad case of compression, leaving them grainy and washed-out. They are enough of an eyesore that they detract rather than add to the experience.


The sound quality, as a whole, is all over the map. The music is the sort of orchestral fare that we’ve come to expect of the series, and to its credit it’s pretty good. The voiceovers are average; the voice talent isn’t terrible but it lacks either the passion or the wit of Spider-Man: Friend or Foe. Sound editing, meanwhile, is a real letdown, as the volume is often uneven between gameplay and cutscenes and music transitions are often irritatingly jarring. As a whole, the audio just doesn’t come together really well and that undermines a lot of the gaming experience.


After a one-game foray into beat-‘em-up territory, Web of Shadows takes the game back to the sandbox style that has largely dominated the series. Spider-Man has free reign over a wide swath of Manhattan, swinging from mission to mission. The game is a combination of main quests and sidequests, although that is more impressive than it sounds. Nearly all of the optional exploits end up being of the “go beat up 100 enemies” or “go use this cool new move 10 times” variety; don't expect anything resembling GTA complexity here.

The game is about the same length as Spider-Man 3; a player can blow through the main storyline in about 8-10 hours. Notwithstanding a rather interesting opening, the main storyline suffers from the classic trap of many superhero games; it develops an overarching storyline and then tries to shoehorn a gaggle of comic-book friends and villains into it. Spider-Man’s main foe in this adventure is Venom, but expect several other major players, including Black Cat, Wolverine, Luke Cage, and Kingpin, to all make appearances. Mary Jane Watson also figures peripherally into the plot, although the exact nature of the relationship between Spider-Man and M.J. is never really clear. In fact, a lot of plot points are never really made clear, and that serves to make Web of Shadows feel more like a jigsaw of existing Spider-Man fare rather than a fresh new adventure. To be fair, a hardcore Spider-Man fan would probably construe this to be fan service, so take this analysis to your own tastes.

Web of Shadows introduces a new convention to the series in the form of a sort of good / evil affinity. Based on your everyday actions, as well as your reactions to specific prompts, Spider-Man gravitates either toward the “red suit” (good) or the “black suit” (evil). While the implementation of this mechanic is pretty basic, it does lead to some differences in the way the game develops and ultimately leads to one of two different endings, depending on your choices. If you’ve already cut your teeth on the likes of Knights of the Old Republic or even Neverwinter Nights, you’re not going to find this addition all that innovative, but it does help to make things a little interesting as well as add some replay value.

The controls are maddeningly inconsistent. Some of them are nicely implemented and really immersive once you get the hang of them. The web-slinging, for example, is not nearly as visceral as Spider-Man 3, but it is also much less unpredictable, making your treks across the urban landscape pretty straightforward. Melee combat, mapped to the B button, is stylish and easy to control, and the new Web Attack (triggered by flicking the Wii remote horizontally) is an effective and rewarding tactic that takes advantage of Spidey’s acrobatic prowess. The game also tosses in a few cutscenes that are gesture-based, much like Resident Evil 4 or Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, which are interesting, if a little hard to pull off at first.

If that were the end of the story, this would be a pretty immersive title. The problem is that some poor choices make the controls something less than they could be. The biggest offense comes to the motion mapping -- horizontal and vertical motions are mapped to important actions on both the Wii remote and nunchuck, and that often leads to situations where a swipe in one direction leads to a completely unanticipated action. For example, the nunchuck is mapped to both switching between red and black suits (horizontal) as well as targeting (vertical). Far too often targeting leads to an inadvertent switch of suits, and trying to swap suits unlocks the auto-target. The same is true with the Wii remote, where an attempt to swing across the city leads instead to a roundhouse kick. To be fair, the motions work probably 80-90% of the time, but that remaining 10-20% really takes a player out of the game and can be a frustration in the heat of combat.

As with most recent sandbox titles, experience points can be accumulated to unlock a variety of special attacks, although (as usual) some of them prove infinitely more useful than others. For example, some of the attacks are pretty basic and intuitive, but are also effective, such as the aforementioned Web Attack. Others are more complicated, requiring a specific sequence of different, timed button presses, and most players will ignore those altogether in the heat of combat.




At the end of the day, Web of Shadows basically comes off as a push compared to its two year-old predecessor, Spider-Man 3. The graphics are about as flawed, the sound about as pedestrian, the controls as full of promise (yet replete with frustration), and the plot as much of a mixed bag. It’s sort of unfortunate that -- two years after Vicarious Visions took a stab at the franchise -- Treyarch failed to really push the series forward on Wii.

Still, it has its place for fans of the series, especially in its (predictable) parade of heroes and villains and a control scheme that can actually be engaging when it works. If you’re a huge fan, it’s worth a look. If you’re anything less than a hardcore Spidey follower, however, you’ll be better off taking a pass on this title.

final score 6.0/10

Staff Avatar Joshua Johnston
Staff Profile | Email
"Round 1! Fight!"

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