Last week in New Zealand, Activision Blizzard held its annual Activate Asia conference to give media from the region a look at the key games for the 2008 holiday season. Among the games on show was the latest Spider-Man adventure, Web of Shadows. We had a chance to get our hands on an Xbox 360 development build of the game and spent some time swinging and punching our way through a symbiote-infected New York City.
Web of Shadows' story is being written from scratch and will feature new and unique elements not found in the comic and film series. That said, during our demo it was apparent that a nod is also being given to longtime Marvel comic fans. Classic characters, including Luke Cage, Venom, and the Vulture, will be making appearances to fight with and against Spidey. Though we didn't come across Wolverine in our play time, a trailer for Web of Shadows clearly showed off both normal and symbiote-infected Wolverine.
Activision reps at the event told us the game will feature branching storylines that will adapt based on the decisions you make, your behaviour in the gameworld, and subsequently the heroes and villains you associate with. We were told these decisions will also dictate the game's ending.
Both the red and black suits will be available from the outset, and you can switch between them on the fly by toggling the left thumbstick. Each suit has its own specialty moves and abilities. The red suit focuses on providing more traditional Spidey webbing and agility attacks, while black is designed for dealing out the heavy melee damage. You'll use the X button for the majority of your attacks, and depending on your suit colour, when you mash B you'll either perform a quick ranged web burst attack to cocoon enemies or grab enemies using your symbiote tentacles. Since you're considerably stronger in the black suit than in the red, you can pick up and throw objects within your range by hitting the B button. We had fun throwing cars around while SHIELD officers rallied against spot crimes taking place.
A hit combo system also means you'll be able to perform multiple attacks by weaving in and out of the two outfits to mix up the action as the situation dictates. In the red suit you'll be able to perform the webstrike attack, which is a move that fires a long web tether from you to your targets and then draws you to them quickly when you hit the Y button. By hitting Y again when you're within striking range, you'll perform a small hop, dealing damage and springing upright off the enemy. Tapping the left trigger will target the nearest enemy, and once you get the timing down, you'll be able to spring between groups of enemies and chain combos without hitting the ground.
Killing thugs and completing missions earns you experience points that can be spent on upgrading specific abilities and attacks in your repertoire. Each move includes button press instructions as well as a demo video so you know when you're performing it correctly. The limited number of experience points means you won't be able to max out all stats and abilities, so you'll need to plan your upgrade path.
In response to plenty of community feedback, the team at developer Shaba Games has put a lot of work into helping simplify the game's camera to keep you in the action. Tapping the left trigger will fire up Spidey sense to scout out action and evildoers, but if you hold it in during combat, you'll lock the camera to your nearest enemy; doing this will keep the enemy in the centre of the screen at all times regardless of the aerial acrobatics you're performing.
Since Spidey isn't the kind of guy to hop into a cab and since running is a slow way to go, swinging is the best way to get around the city, and from our hands-on time, the swing mechanics are fun and forgiving. Lifting off is as easy as pressing and holding the right trigger, and once you're in full swing, letting go and pressing the trigger again will keep you moving. Giving the trigger a quick tap (preferably while on the upswing) will perform a forward lunge move midair, which is useful for slowing down and changing direction quickly. We had no trouble finding anchor points in New York, and once we were moving, we were able to get a decent clip built up quite quickly. We were told this will vary by location, and when you're in more open areas you will need a little more precision and forethought for your next swing.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is looking solid and will begin swinging its way onto shelves for all platforms from October 22.