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It comes as no surprise that Insomniac Games has succeeded in not only making one of the best superhero games ever made with Marvel"s Spider-Man but also achieved one of the most faithful adaptations of the character. Taking most of the traversal and open world from the Spider-Man 2 video game, Insomniac"s adaptation also owes a good portion of its success to other Activision-published Spider-Man games succeeding it, with perhaps the most significant being Spider-Man: Web of Shadows.
This was the first sandbox-style Spider-Man game that told its own original story, not tying into any of the movies, Ultimate Spider-Man, or even in the mainline Marvel Earth-616 comic universe. Featuring Venom as the primary villain, the stakes are raised as the black-suited nemesis spawns a symbiote army to invade New York, and with a piece of the Venom symbiote once again inhabiting Peter Parker, Spider-Man must utilize both his Red and Black suits to save the city, and potentially the world.
Much like Marvel"s Spider-Man, the advantage of Web of Shadows being its own universe means that the creators are more willing to take far greater risks to its story that shake up the status quo. Eddie Brock has completely lost control over the Venom symbiote, New York faces almost total destruction, and supporting characters and villains can potentially die permanently.
Web of Shadows introduced many mechanics that would become commonplace in later Spider-Man games, such as an upgradeable combat system featuring various moves to give the player an edge. One of these techniques is the Web-Strike, a move where Spidey leaps into the air and zips toward his opponent to close the distance. The Web-Strike would become an invaluable skill in Marvel"s Spider-Man"s regular combat loop.
Another aspect of the game"s combat that would influence Insomniac is the emphasis on staying in the air. Spider-Man is significantly more effective and harder to hit in the air and has various techniques and combos that allow him to best his grounded foes. The main difference between Web of Shadows and Marvel"s Spider-Man in this aspect is that the former game has many more flashy and versatile movesets for the player to utilize.
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In fact, Web of Shadows" most-touted feature is its very robust combat system that pushes Spider-Man"s abilities to his limits, bolstered by the primary hook of being able to switch between the classic red suit and the symbiote black suit at will. In the red suit, Spidey is fast and agile, with many moves dedicated to using his webs, being well-suited to being in the air. Symbiote Spider-Man focuses on strong, brutal attacks and attacking from wide, sweeping ranges, maintaining aggressive ground superiority.
While the combat system maintains a large supply of button combinations for creating different moves a la Devil May Cry, these movesets not only change with Spider-Man"s suit but also on the terrain the player is on. Treyarch focused heavily on Spider-Man"s versatility in all forms of 3D space, fighting not only on the ground and in the air but also fighting enemies on the walls.
The idea of fighting enemies on the sides of buildings is something that Spidey has never really done in video games before, let alone to such a degree of complexity. Much like his ground and aerial movesets, even his fights on walls change significantly depending on the suit he is currently wearing. This idea of exploiting Spider-Man"s wall-crawling in combat wouldn"t be used in a significant capacity again until the final fight against Doctor Octopus in Marvel"s Spider-Man, yet another sign of Web of Shadows" influence on later games.
Spider-Man"s world in this game is also accompanied by other Marvel superheroes such as Wolverine, Black Widow, Luke Cage and Moon Knight. As Venom threatens New York, Spidey also finds that he has to cooperate with some of his worst enemies to succeed, such as the Kingpin, the Vulture and Electro. Their appearance in this game is to emphasize the threat that Venom poses to New York and showcase an interesting ally summoning system.
Dependent on a meter, Spidey can call upon his allies to assist him in battle, proving particularly effective in drawing a tough enemy"s attention away from the player. As they fight Venom and his symbiote army, Spidey"s allies may also end up becoming possessed by the symbiotes, forcing Peter to fight his friends (and enemies) in some really brutal boss fights. Players may find interest in seeing certain Marvel characters like Wolverine and Black Cat becoming Venomized, as they have very slick and monstrous designs not seen anywhere else.
Unique to this game is the idea of the player"s choices affecting the outcome of Spider-Man"s actions, as well as determining the ending of the game—a morality system that hinges on the level of Peter"s bond to the symbiote. Responsible, pacifistic choices on the "red" side lead towards a more hopeful and heroic ending, while aggressive, indulgent choices on the "black" side leads towards a more foreboding and villainous ending. The player"s choices also affect what allies they can summon—a red-aligned Spidey will summon Wolverine or Luke Cage, while a black-aligned Spidey will summon Black Cat and the Vulture.
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Some problems keptWeb of Shadows from achieving the same status as other more beloved Spider-Man games, with many citing mediocre voice acting, a whole host of bugs, repetitive mission structures, and generally lacking polish for a triple-A action game. Still, the influence this game had should not be understated, and the unique ideas it brought to the table are rife for exploration in a future Insomniac Spider-Man sequel.