As intuitive as the controls are, there's really nothing here that hasn't been seen in the many free-roaming Spidey games Activision has pumped out over the last seven years or so. It even, rather hilariously, revives the magical swinging from thin air that graced Neversoft's very first Spidey game back in 2000. In fact, the final levels find Spidey swinging through the sky, miles above the tops of the highest buildings, with absolutely nothing for his webs to stick to. Still, plunging into Manhattan's concrete chasms and swooping up to the tops of skyscrapers remains a fun pastime, but with nothing of substance to justify your impromptu excursions around the map it's the sort of shallow fun that quickly loses its appeal, especially after so many previous titles offered much the same thing.
It's the camera which really lets things down, since it's consistently incapable of keeping pace with whatever acrobatic manoeuvres you're attempting. Running up the side of a building pretty much guarantees that your viewpoint will freak out to some degree, and there's a frequent bug in which the Y-axis of the camera gets stuck when you reach the top of your climb. The slightest nudge sends your view straight up or straight down, and you have to run around or jump off the edge to get it back to normal. A clumsy lock-on feature compounds the frustration, and getting your bearings during an aerial encounter is enough to make you throw up. Characters often glitch through scenery, or get stuck in weird animation loops. I had to restart one particularly long-winded escort mission because the vehicle I was protecting refused to drive around a corner, preferring instead to repeatedly ram itself into the wall.
And while your combat options are plentiful, thanks to the ability to swap between the classic red and blue costume and the black symbiote suit, each with their own combos and powers, the flat design means that the only reason to fully explore all the possibilities is to stave off boredom. It's quite possible to beat most of the game using two basic attacks and, thanks to Spidey's recharging health, blocking appears to be entirely optional. Bizarrely, while Spidey can heal himself in a few seconds, Wolverine - the superhero with a powerful healing ability, and one of several support characters - cannot. Once more: Marvel continuity nerds, beware.
Depth supposedly comes in the form of Peter Parker's moral tug-of-war between the Uncle Ben decency represented in his classic costume and the lure of violent power contained in the black, but this is more apparent in cut-scenes than in gameplay. In practice, this struggle manifests in obvious binary choices after each boss fight, where you decide to be brutal or merciful in victory. Small nudges can be made to the moral compass by saving civilians - or not, as the case may be - but it's not exactly a world of choice. There are four different endings, depending on the choices you make, but it's certainly not worth playing the whole game four times to see what they are.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is one of those games that seem content to just drone along, coasting on the ever-decreasing appeal of one gameplay element and gobbling up your free time with repetitive tasks and mindless exploration of a mostly empty space. It's not awful, but nor is it sufficiently different to any of the other Spider-Man games. It's a game you'll probably play through to the end, out of habit rather than excitement, and promptly forget you ever played, and with so many superior games fighting for your attention right now, this is barely worth a weekend rental.
5 / 10