I’ve never taken Spider-man as a misogynist. My friendly neighborhood crimebuster was always too much of a social outcast to even begin to think of girls as anything other than a mysterious, scary proposition.
But this is a new millennium. Bowtied, vest-wearing dorks don’t meekly sulk about in a depressed haze. Now, they prefer to sit in front of their computers and blog about their unending pain. Sometimes they visit 4chan and criticize models for their large foreheads or toe-like fingers. Sometimes they slick their hair across their face in an emo swath of pain.
Maybe this is the reason that the Peter Parker from Spider-man: Web of Shadows is kind of a dick.
To be fair, it’s not like players go through the game donkey-punching Mary Jane Watson. There’s actually a fair number of missions that don’t involve women at all. Most of them involve punching men. Plotwise, Spider-Man is tasked with saving the city after his black-suited nemesis, Venom, starts infecting all of New York. At critical junctions, players can either choose a heroic path or go all eeeeevil. Obviously, the game sets you up to either save the city or overrun it with more symbiotes. But on the occasion that a girl pops into the game, the narrative loses its capes and heroes pretense.
Aside from saving the city, the heart of the game concerns itself with which hot chick you choose to go after. A morally upright Parker will never falter in his devotion to Mary Jane—who, by the by, spends most of the game as a damsel in distress before picking up a shotgun and gaining a bit of agency. The self-interested Parker will hop fences and join Black Cat – in this incarnation, a sultry, slutty, spider-stalking temptress – in perpetrating crimes across the city. As far as moral choices go, it’s pretty cut and dry. Stay morally upright, or get caught up in a … web of lies.
It’s somewhat odd that the whole of the game boils down to one principal choice: Do you cheat or stay faithful? I’m not sure if this is a reflection on Parker’s state of mind as affected by his evil suit, a statement on how small betrayals can lead to big trouble, or one of those easy “wimmin, ain’t they always controlling your life and stuff” –like excuses.
The rest of the game is pretty fun, except for a few time-grinding quests where you’re hunting for a specific baddie or playing “follow the villain” across The Bronx. Somehow, though, balancing the fate of the world against choosing a girlfriend comes off as a bit simplistic. Maybe I’d be more comfortable with the subplot if Mary Jane had been given more screen time, or if Black Cat had been fleshed out to be more than a spandex-chasing psycho.
It’s a decent rental or bargain-bin find. Just keep in mind that this Web of Shadows is more like a web of shallow(ly written characters).