Like many gamers I went to the professionals for their opinions before deciding whether to purchase this game or not. All i can say is that some of these 'professionals' must have been taken over by evil symbiotes of their own!
Web of Shadows is by no means a groundbreaking game and doesnt really bring anything to the table that we havent seen before. What Web of Shadows is however is almost unreservedly fun.
Visually the game looks very nice with excellent graphics and animation. A more or less scale replica of New York City is provided for you to climb, swing and zip around and doing so is an experience that rarely becomes tiresome. Dotted around the city are various tips of the hat to the fact that this game is very much set in the mainstream Marvel Universe and you will notice such landmarks as Stark/Avengers tower (including the Sentrys residence above it), the Rand Corperation, Kronos Corperation, Roxxon, fisk Enterprises and so on - all of which are a nice little touch for the fans of the comic books.
The only criticism I would aim at the city is that whilst it is huge it should be bigger. Unlike some of the previous games you are not able to explore areas such as the Statue of Liberty, Queens or Brooklyn which is a small thing but a shame nevertheless.
Sound effects are admittedly basic - not bad, just very generic - and yes Spidermans voice acting does leave alot to be desired, although the rest of the characters that feature in the game are fairly pleasing. Steve Blum makes a return as the voice of Wolverine and Battlestar Galacticas Tricia Helfer appears as the Black Cat.
The storyline for the game takes influences from a couple of Marvel comics, primarily those Spider-man arcs that dealt with the symbiote but also the recent Mighty Avengers story arc 'Venom Bomb' which saw a biological weapon unleashed upon NYC that turned all of its citizens and many of its heroes into symbiotes.
For the most part the story is very good and introduces a grand sense of scale. The story really starts (after a prologue that shows some of what is to come) with Spider-man tackling small scale riots and gang wars. As the game proceeds the first hints of the symbiote infiltration is revealed until ultimately it explodes into a full blown symbiote invasion with the city in quarentine, its citizens on the run and the armed forces (SHIELD in this case) mobilised to tackle the threat with the assistance of some of the cities heroes (yourself included of course).
It is at this point that Web of Shadows storyline really comes into its own and the symbiote invasion has more than a hint of 'Dawn of the Dead' and other zombie themed movies about it. Symbiotes are everywhere - literally by the dozen - what few uninfected citizens flee for their lives, the city lies in ruins and the authorities engage in desperate running battles in the streets in an attempt to staunch the spread of infection. Theres a real change in tone and sense of hopelessness that brings a great atmosphere to the game.
Whilst the missions in Web of Shadows are fairly standard - protect this, fight that, escort this, deliver that and so on - they do manage to remain entertaining as you battle against hordes and hordes of symbiotes. Certainly once the invasion is in full swing the missions do create a sense that you really are a part of the colossal effort to evacuate the city and fight off the symbiote invasion - you genuinely do feel part of the 'team' as opposed to a lone hero doing his own thing whilst the authorities do theirs.
The controls for the game are fairly simple and whilst it is possible to get through the entire game by simply button bashing it is far more rewarding to make the effort to use the special moves you unlock along the way.
One particular feature of the game is the ability to switch between the traditional red and blue spidey suit and the black symbiote suit. The first of these provides you with a variety of agility and speed based attacks and moves whilst the other provides you with generally slower but more powerful attacks. There are similarities between the two suits but also distinct differences between the powers granted by the two suits. The red and blue concentrates on hit and run type attacks and web slinging whilst the black suit allows the gamer to utilize a variety of tendril based attacks at later levels and the ability to throw cars at enemies. The suit can be changed at the click of a button and its quite possible to combine the abilities of both costumes in any given battle. Also it is the case that one suit may provide distinct over the other advantages when facing certain opponants.
Another feature of the game is the ability to call upon allies to assist you in your battles. Which allies you have access to depends upon which part of the city you are in but also whether you have decided to embark upon the 'good' or 'bad' path. The allies for the Xbox version are Luke Cage, Moonknight, Wolverine, Black Cat, Vulture, Electro and Rhino as well as a SHIELD strikeforce. The Black Widow, Kingpin, Mary Jane and Tinkerer also make appearences in the game as NPC's.
The only real criticism I would point at the allies is the fact that its rare that you should ever need to use them and a a result you will generally see very little of them. There are some missions however, for example one where you have to escort a SHIELD convoy, where your allies can really make the difference.
Boss battles throughout the game are entertaining set pieces. Whilst the battles are rarely difficult they are spectacular and prolonged and you usually have to content with fighting off waves of minions as well as the boss himself. Each boss battle concludes with an interactive end scene as the gamer has to successfully hit various buttons in sequence to finally succeed. Hit the wrong buttons and you will fail usually in a fairly visual and sometimes visceral manner. Dont worry if you do fail because you will simply be taken back to the beginning of the sequence to try again and this fact makes it fairly entertaining to fail just to see the various cutscenes availible.
Web of shadows has a branching storyline which provides you with the option of making a 'good' or 'bad' (red suit of black suit) choice at perhap a dozen or more different points in the game. Whilst neither choice has any dramatic effect on how the game is played you overall balance of choices will decide which of the two endings to the game you achieve. It would be possible to criticise the makers of the game for not making your choices more integral to how the game develops but the different cutscenes for the choices are nevertheless hugely entertaining and it does provide a real incentive to play through the game twice to explore all of the alternatives. Heres a little spoiler - when battling symbiote Wolverine make the BAD choice for a truely spectacular cut scene!
Overal Web of shadows is a very solid game. Its quite possible to finish it within a few hours by sticking to the main storyline but the real reward comes from taking the time to do the side missions and really explore the city. Its a game that does the simple thing well whilst never really breaking into a sweat and whilst gameplay can be repetative it quite pleasently rarely stops being enjoyable. I would recommend the game to fans of the Marvel comics as well as to more casual gamers.