Friday, January 30, 2009

Xbox 360 - Spiderman: Web of Shadows

Spiderman: Web Of Shadows by Activision

At first, I discounted this game as a movie spinoff and didn't give it a second thought. Occasionally, I get desperate to find a new game and go search the used shelves. I had tried previous Spiderman titles and have been quite disappointed in the quality of the games. I am usually not a big fan of Activision titles either.  But, I had received a 30% off coupon for three used Xbox 360 titles from Gamestop and decided to give it a try.

First Impressions

At first, the game's premise seemed pretty straight forward. The graphics aren't blow you away awesome, but they are definitely passable for the type of game that it is. However, the one thing that you notice right away is the city is massive. The city is easily the size of the cities in Assassin's Creed. The crawling, webing and so forth you do in and around the buildings reminds me a lot of Assassin's Creed. The graphics on Assassin's Creed were far better, though.

But, that's where the similarities end between Assassin's Creed and Spiderman.

In Web of Shadows, you get to play as, obviously, Spiderman. This game is also set around the context of the final Spiderman film, but it doesn't follow the film. It has its own storyline (we'll come to that shortly). So, as a result, you also have the dark suit that you can don (or in the case of the game, toggle back and forth between). When you're Spiderman, you're good. When you're in the black suit, you're bad. So, certain things you do in the game gain you 'Red Points' and certain things gain you 'Black Points' depending on which suit you are wearing or which action you choose.


There is nothing spectucular about the audio. The web sound effects work quite well to make you feel like it's really shooting a web.


I was pleasantly surprised over the controls. Spiderman handles surprisingly well. The movement is sometimes a bit too fast (or, in some cases, uncontrollable). Overall, the controls do what they're supposed to do and are responsive to the button presses. When Spiderman swings from building to building, he handles very well. The only complaint I have here is that when it runs into a building, he doesn't want to get off of the web easily and generally falls to the ground. You can make him grab onto the building by pressing the jump or slide button. This will usually make him grab the building and start climbing.


The story is that Spiderman is tasked to go around the city and right the wrongs and violence being committed. In this game, that means cleaning up the city of gangs among other tasks. Sometimes the gangs are on foot, somtimes they are in cars. So, as you're running around, you find gangs having gun fights and stop them. So, you have to use your Spidey powers to defeat these groups and gain you experience points.

Spidey Powers

You can climb buildings, spin webs (to swing, stop enemies and tie them up), spin blocking webs, sense enemies (see where they are) and run along the sides of buildings. As you level up, your combo skills go up.


The game is played basically as an extended tutorial. So, with each level you play, you get a new Spidey power. As you gain powers, you can do more. Each level basically makes you use that power to finish off the villain. Also, as you play, you can befriend both good and bad allies. These people can be called in to help you finish off fights.

As you progress, you will also need to help take injured civilians to the hospital or save them from exploding vehicles. If you fail to do this, you get awarded 'Black Points'. Saving them gives you 'Red Points'.

Leveling up

As you gain experience points, you gain purchasing power. You can then spend these points on increasing the effectiveness of your defensive and offensive powers. So, you can increase how fast you can shoot web bullets or how far you can throw them. You can increase your combo speed and skills as well. Both the red suit and black suit have their own upgrade paths and you can spend your points on either path you choose.

Save Points

You can save anywhere in this game. There are also some points at which it auto saves your progress (after you've completed an objective).


These are like quests. You meet up with Cage (a good ally) who tasks you with doing certain things for him. As you complete the objectives he gives you, you gain more Spidey powers (and helps you level up).

Choosing a path

You get to choose Shadow Spiderman or Spiderman for your path (evil or good, respectively). The main problem with choosing a path is that you don't know the outcome until you choose it.  If the game designers had given a small visual of the outcomes, I'd be a little more inclined to know what to pick.  As it is, it's rather random because you don't know. 

Timed Moves

At the end of the boss levels, you are tasked to press the correct button at the correct time (like Guitar Hero).  While I understand why the designers do this, I don't like it.  Let me just finish the fight to completion in the fighting mode.  Or, alternatively, cut to a cut scene without these interactive timed sequences.  I don't really like the trial and error style of gaming.  Let's just move on without the trial and error gaming sequences.


This game is reasonably well done, but towards the middle and end of the game, the graphics become exceedingly glitchy and the audio becomes very choppy. The save points make it easy to stop and start at convenient places, but there are only 3 saves. The controls work well to control Spiderman in most instances. The game gets a bit repetative in places due to the gang things you end up doing. However, the only reason it becomes repetative is if you choose to do the optional objectives. You can skip these and go right to the main objectives to keep the story going.


I like the game even though the graphics aren't perfect. The music works well enough. The game is reasonably fun and I have not run into any glitches or parts that are overly hard to get through. They did include health meters, so it's easy to see how much you have left, unlike Unreal engine based games.

  • Sound: 9/10
  • Graphics: 8/10 (Spidey could look better when close)
  • Bugginess: 6/10 (crashed several times, very very very glitchy)
  • Controls: 8/10 (control works well enough, but could be better)
  • Bang-To-Buck: 4/10 (might be fun to replay)
  • Play Value: $25
  • Overall: 7.0/10 (Mostly fun, but gets repetitive in places)

Monday, January 12, 2009

iPod Touch / iPhone

iPod Touch / iPhone as a gaming platform

Gamezelot recently purchased an iPod Touch.  Because of the capabilities of the iPod touch (enough to rival the PSP), the potential for 3D iPod/iPhone games to become mainstream is significant.  There are already a number of games available through the iTunes store now.  With LucasArts release of The Force Unleashed, this may be turning the tide for the Touch to become a mainstream portable gaming platform.

Apple also needs to encourage gaming on this platform if they wish it to become a well rounded system and capable of competing with the PSP.  Otherwise, Apple may lose out to the Android platform where gaming may become more common place.

Gamezelot will be closely watching the gaming trends of the iPod and the iPhone.  It is on the brink of cracking portable gaming open.  But, only time will tell.

Feel free to leave a comment or send email to Brian at Gamezelot.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Xbox 360 - Too Human

Too Human

Vikings, Norse mythology, Valhalla, Helle... that's what Too Human is about. This game reminds me a little of the game Viking: Battle for Aasgard (Gamezelot reviewed this game in April 2008) in some ways. This game is basically a third person shooter with a leveling up system similar to Knights of the Old Republic.


You're an Aesirian (not quite human) who is tasked to rid the Aesirian world of evil robots (and those who run them) and save the humans. Your name is Baldur the Aesirian. The story combines elements from a lot of different shooters, like Halo 3, Viking and Knights of the Old Republic into this tale. It combines all of these elements into a reasonably cohesive whole. The reasonably frequent cinematics endcap all quests so you know when they have both begun and ended.


The game designers decided to take a slightly different tack with this game's controls. Instead of using the buttons to fire, they opted to use both analog sticks in this process. The left stick controls the direction you are facing, the right stick controls the motion to the weapon or the direction of fire (depending on the currently brandished weapon). You have several different styles of weaponry to choose, such as pistols, swords, hammers (reminiscent of Thor), staves and rifles.

Just as FYI, I'm not overly fond of the double analog stick control system. It works, but I would have preferred buttons. The reason is simple. They use combos to get stronger attacks. It's next to impossible to perform proper combos using the analog stick. It's much more definitive to use buttons when creating combos.


This is one of those kinds of games where every enemy focuses on your character even when there are other team members. There are two very annoying things about this style of gaming. First, the supplemental team member characters stand around and don't fire (even though they have a weapon and are supposed to). Second, your player character is completely barraged with enemies. Enemies after enemies. I understand they want to make it challenging, but hey where's the teamwork here? If it's supposed to be a team, then make it a team effort. Have the enemies focus in on the character that is closest to them instead of focusing on, chasing after and aiming at my character 100% of the time. There is no challenge in this, it's just stupid and lazy design.

Character Improvements

The character improvement screen is actually quite impressive. The leveling up system they have designed is quite extensive. There is quite a lot that can be done in these screens. In fact, there is so much to this that it's really overkill for this style of game. Basically, this level of third person shooter really doesn't need this depth of character-customizing sophistication. If the gameplay had expanded to a full out RPG, then this leveling system would have been much more useful.

It appears to me that the developers spent way too much time building out the character improvement area without much thought to how the game itself and the story of the game could be improved by such a system. Was is it wasted effort? I'm not sure, but I think a better questing system could have dramatically improved the quality of this title. I could easily see this character improvement system being sold off as an engine in itself to other game developers. It's really quite an achievement. Too bad the rest of the shooter didn't match up to that level.

Leveling up

As you progress through the game, you gain experience points by defeating enemies. At certain points you level up and gain skill points. Skill points are then allotted to a skill or class tree. These two trees expand your character's abilities.

The problem I have with leveling up, though, is that no matter how much you level up, you really gain no strength. The enemies are still far stronger than you. So, your weapons really do no more damage after leveling up than before. This is one of the main sore spots of this game.


The controls over the character is average to sub-standard. The main character controls are very stilted and old-style. There was really not as much effort put into the 3D character control system as there was in the quite impressive character leveling system. You can definitely tell where most of the development effort went (and it didn't go into the 3D character control system).


Every once in a while, a game comes along that can't figure out how to work the camera. Too Human is one of those games. The camera in this game tends to be all over the place. Sometimes it faces the direction of the character, sometimes it faces in some random direction or to the side of the character. So, at key times when you're trying to focus on an enemy, the camera decides to readjust to the side or the front of the character and focus away from the enemy. So, instead of seeing the enemy, you're watching your character run.

These camera problems really should be a thing of the past by this point, but here we are. I wish game developers could get a clue regarding the camera. This point is soured even more by analog stick control system. Instead of using one of the sticks to manage the camera, they used the LS for movement and RS for weapon control. This left no way to easily control the camera. So, it ends up uncontrollable. The only thing you can do (and it only works at certain times) is press the left bumper button to reset the camera forward. Even still, the camera can very quickly change. When the camera moves, it's not a smooth flowing action. Instead, it moves in a quick cut. Because of this abrupt cut, you get briefly disoriented which requires determining where you are once again. This easily kills valuable time when you're in a battle.

Save Points

This game allows you to save anywhere, but only saves a single checkpoint. This means, if you want to load and restart from that checkpoint, you usually start over at the beginning of the level. It does not start you exactly where you saved. So, expect to have to redo a bunch of things to get back to where you actually wanted to start.

Character deaths

This is THE most annoying part of this game. When your character 'dies', an 'angelic' character comes down from the sky and picks you up and carts you off. This animation is not skippable. Instead, you have to wait through this torturously long scene each and every time you die. Other cinematics are skippable, this one is not. Whoever made this decision in the game should have their head examined.

Also, there is no point to dying as each and every time your character is 'reincarnated' with full health. Meaning, once you wait through the torturously long death scene, your character is reset and placed a distance away. The enemies you have done damage to remain damaged so you can finish the battle. They might as well have just given infinite health and skipped the death scene altogether.


The graphics behind this game are good in places and poor in others. The cinematics look good, but are a bit long in places. It's good that they fully explain the story, but there are so many cinematics in this game that it really gets a bit old after a while. For me, cinematics should really be used only to move the story along in a major way. They should not be used for small story elements. The textures are reasonably high res, but the characters end up too small on the screen.


The music and effects worked, but didn't stand out. It wasn't exceptionally cinematic. The voice acting worked but would not win any awards. Some of the dialog is stilted and unnatural.


This game is somewhat enjoyable for a third person shooter. I found it to be more fun than Dead Space (which came out right around the same time as Too Human). For a leveling up system, though, BioShock still far exceeds this system for a third person shooter. If you're really wanting a quality third person shooter with an excellent leveling system, play BioShock. If you're looking for an RPG, I'd recommend either Oblivion or Knights of the Old Republic.

  • Sound: 8/10 (best part of this game, keeps the suspense up)
  • Graphics: 8/10 (textures and figures are well done)
  • Bugginess: ?/10 (unrated)
  • Controls: 5/10 (LS bad choice for weapon control, no camera control)
  • Bang-To-Buck: 1/10 (rent or buy it used, don't pay full price)
  • Play Value: $25
  • Overall: 6.5/10 (serviceable, fun in places, controls are a drag, long death sequences)
Note: Play Value is the dollar amount this game is actually worth based on quality, play time and overall fun derived. It is not what a store will charge you.