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The game takes notes from the Wide Open Sandbox of Spider-Man 2: The Game, ironing out the flaws introduced there and adding an evolving environment that gradually turns New York's appearance into that of a symbiote entrenched alien world. The gameplay involves an in-depth combat system similar to Spider-Man 2's as well as changes in web-swinging mobility that actually allow aerial battles and wall-crawling battles to be fun. The Symbiote Suit/Red Suit duality is back, with each suit requiring distinct playstyles and with the ability to be instantly interchanged even in the midst of battle to switch up combos. The variety of combat options and the ease in switching between the different modes of combat means battles are extremely dynamic.
The game was often touted by advertisements and previews as delivering the "complete" experience of being Spider-Man. Because of this, the console game is considered one of the best Spider-Man games in recent history to fans, but most critics found it So Okay It's Average due to graphical and sound flaws, as well as repetitive main- and side-quests.
- A Winner Is You: In the PlayStation 2 version, once you beat the final boss, all you get is a pop up saying "Congratulations, you beat Spider-Man: Web of Shadows!" before going back to the main menu. You don't even get an image for your efforts.
- Action Commands: Quick-time events show up after pretty much every boss battle, plus there are also button indicators that pop up while being attacked by enemies and while tearing machinery apart.
- Action Girl: Mary-Jane. Rather than being the Damsel in Distress, she actually takes part in the boss fight against Symbiote Black Cat, blasting away at symbiotes with her shotgun from a hovercraft.
- She also fires that shotgun with essentially one hand, as her right arm is broken.
- Black Cat also is not only a boss fight, but can assist in combat with an evil Spider-Man. Black Widow doesn't take an active role in combat, but it's understandable as her main job is to oversee the Tinkerer's sonic bomb project which keeps her from directly assisting her troops.
- A God Am I: Electro seems to invoke this once infected by the symbiote, as he ends up constructing a huge symbiote generator where he creates Electrolings that seem to worship him as a god.
- AI Breaker: the last two bosses of the Nintendo DS version are Those Two Bosses of the game, until you start Whoring two of the most basic moves in the game. Venom, the penultimate boss, can be beaten simply by standing on either the lower edge on the far left or on the other on the far right, and then keeping shooting webs, causing Venom to be slammed to the ground, while the Final Boss can be beaten by... wait for it... kicking him by spamming web-swinging. So much for the "final boss".
- Alliterative Name: It is Spider-Man, after all.
- Always Save the Girl: The Black Cat ending
- Animal Motifs: Obviously -- Spidey, Black Widow, Rhino, Vulture, Black Cat, and so on...
- Ax Crazy: Venom, when Eddie's not in control. Which is to say, pretty much all the time except for his Heroic Sacrifice at the end of the game.
- The Symbiote in general induces this in lots of people, but it's especially noticeable in Wolverine, who becomes a goddamned animal after being possessed.
- Then there's Electro, who goes tearing through Manhattan as a screaming violent wreck, desperate to find his sister as he ends up causing a ton of collateral damage.
- Spider-Man believes Moon Knight to be this, constantly taking potshots at the fact that he communicates with a moon god and is noticeably freaked out a bit by him.
- Baby Got Back: Spider-Man, Tinkerer, Vulture, and Kingpin definitely think this of Black Widow as they all ogle her butt as she storms off in one of the cutscenes. Mary-Jane, Black Cat, and Spider-Man himself all also qualify to an extent.
- This likely wasn't intentional, but Symbiote Electro gets a rather awkwardly blatant butt shot as he emerges from a mass of symbiotic tendrils before his boss fight.
- Badass Boast: Spider-Man after getting the symbiote near the beginning of the game.
Spider-Man: Venom, get ready for a world of pain!
- Badass Bookworm: Spider-Man as one would expect, as is the Vulture.
- Badass Grandpa: The Vulture is more than willing to go toe-to-toe with Spidey once he's been exposed as the one providing Kingpin's henchmen with technology, and can even be summoned in combat should you be playing a more evil-oriented style.
- Badass Normal: Moon Knight, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents and Black Widow, as well as Mary Jane.
- Bald of Awesome: Present in Luke Cage, who is very awesome indeed.
- Bald of Evil: Also present, this time for Kingpin, Vulture, and Tinkerer (Sort of).
- Bare Your Midriff: Mary Jane's main attire includes a belly-baring tank top.
- Betty and Veronica: Mary Jane and Black Cat.
- Berserk Button: Only just averted. During Kingpin's Kick the Dog moment (see below), Spider-Man almost uses the Black Suit to pummel the guy, but stops himself because he made a promise to Mary-Jane that he wouldn't use it.
- Whenever S.H.I.E.L.D starts to quarantine the city due to the Symbiote outbreak, Electro's sister is one of the many civilians put into quarantine. Electro gets pissed and tears the city apart while trying to look for her.
- Big Bad: Venom, as he's the one who causes the Symbiote outbreak that throws Manhattan into chaos. Though technically, the Symbiote itself can be considered this depending on your point of view.
- Black Bra and Panties: Mary Jane's rather skimpy tank top shows that she's wearing a black bra, and it isn't hard to wager a guess that she'd be wearing matching panties as well...
- Brick Joke: When Spider-Man talks with Luke Cage about ending the gang violence in Harlem, he mentions that, growing up in the relatively peaceful Queens, he probably wouldn't have any idea what it was like on the streets. Later, when arranging a meeting between the rival gang leaders, this exchange occurs.
Spider-Man: Now, be there, or be square.
- Building Swing: A trademark in pretty much any Spider-Man game.
- Car Fu: The super-powered variant, but Spidey can only use it while in Symbiote mode -- presumably, he has too much restraint otherwise.
- He however can kick cars off the ground in Red Suit mode by swing kicking them, which may or may not be a more efficient way to fight enemies with cars depending on your playstyle.
- Catgirl: Who else but Black Cat?
- Chest Insignia: Spidey and Venom have spiders and Moon Knight has a moon.
- Climax Boss: Both Venom and Symbiote Vulture are appropriately difficult for the big moments you fight them in the story.
- Continuity Nod: The first time you meet Kingpin's gliders, Peter will say "Gliders are so 2004, guys. Sandman is in now!" Then there's Woverine's questions that he asks you.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Kingpin's thugs use goblin gliders, Powered Armour, and Mini-Mecha. And people thought his guards having laser guns was improbable!
- Dating Catwoman: Black Cat initially shows up in the game working for Kingpin because she is still in love with Spider-Man and did it to help him from the inside. Problem is, he's currently married to Mary-Jane. Over the course of the game, she gets infected with the symbiote, and the option is actually given to choose her over Mary-Jane, especially in the "Black Suit" storyline.
- Deadpan Snarker: Spidey, of course.
- Disc One Final Boss: At the game's climax, the sonic bomb that will destroy all the symbiotes has been finished and is ready to be deployed, only for a symbiote to infect Vulture, causing him to sabotage the mission and knock several S.H.I.E.L.D hovercraft out of the sky. One thrilling boss fight later, and he's been bought back to normal as the bomb goes off, destroying all the symbiotes in New York and freeing their hosts from their grasp. Everything seems to have gone back to normal and peace has returned... only for Black Widow to get a distress call from the Helicarrier saying that Venom is on board...
- Dirty Old Man: The Tinkerer's demands to build the sonic bomb include a specific girl from a tool catalog. There's also not only him, but Vulture blatantly checking out Black Widow as she walks away in the same scene.
- Dumb Muscle: As one would expect from him, the Rhino isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, and can easily be manipulated by Peter Parker into turning himself in after he gets lose from prison.
- Elite Mook: The Symbiote Berserkers are introduced with their own cutscene that establishes them as quite a threat: one mows down a squad of S.H.I.E.L.D agents that are effortlessly blowing away various symbiotes and wastes no time in attempting to break down the door to Stark Industries, where the civilians have been transported due to the symbiotes being able to breach the safe zone. As to be expected, they put up one hell of a fight, and can be a pain in groups.
- Enemy Mine: Spider-Man ends up having to team up with Vulture, the Tinkerer, and the Kingpin during the main storyline as they're all helping to build a sonic generator that will destroy the Symbiotes attacking New York. He also can team up with Black Cat to bring down Kingpin's forces should you decide to spend the night with her after her boss fight, and you also have to use Rhino as an unwitting battering ram when Spider-Man breaks into Riker's Island in order to spring the Tinkerer out of prison. There's also the fact that Black Cat, Vulture, Rhino, and Electro can be summoned to help out during normal gameplay, but only if Spider-Man's morality meter is leaning heavily towards black.}}
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Whenever his sister goes missing, Electro freaks out and tears the city apart in an attempt to find her.
- Evil Old Folks: Vulture and Tinkerer are aged super-villains, with the former starting the game off as developing tech for Kingpin's goons and the former serving time in the high-security prison Riker's Island. However, both do end up lending a hand with developing a sonic bomb that will eliminate all symbiotes in New York which shows that they aren't all that bad.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Venom, dear god. This gets ridiculous when he becomes Venomzilla as his voice gets so deep, it's damn near impossible to understand what the hell he's saying. Hell, the symbiote in general seems to deepen it's victim's voices as shown by Electro, Black Cat, Wolverine, and Vulture.
- While nowhere near as deep as the above examples, Kingpin has a very heavy, commanding tone of voice that channels Clancy Brown's Lex Luthor at times that helps cement his status as one of the most powerful men in New York status-wise.
- Fallen Hero: Spidey in the Black Suit endings.
- Face Heel Turn: Spider-Man in the Evil Endings. Black Cat as well if you choose her over Mary Jane.
- Fat Bastard: Good old Wilson Fisk, a.k.a the Kingpin. He's not only running all sorts of illegal operations in Manhattan for most of the game, but is also only helping out during the Symbiote crisis because he wants to be looked at as the city's savior. The fact that he mocks Spider-Man whenever Mary-Jane goes missing doesn't win him any likability points either.
- Faux Affably Evil: Symbiote Vulture retains his host's large vocabulary and acts surprisingly civil when he's talking to Black Widow and Kingpin over a video feed, but his brutal nature is apparent by the fact that he previously not only destroyed a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D hovercraft, but also made them watch as he strangled a soldier to death.
- Likewise for Kingpin who acts polite and civil when talking to people, but just oozes with a smug sense of superiority, insincerity, and unlikability that it's hard not to hate the Fat Bastard, and it helps that he unashamedly tells Spider-Man that he's only in on his plan for the reputation boost he'll receive.
- Fiery Redhead: Black Widow has a fierce temper and is pretty hotheaded, which is only to be expected given that she's trying to keep the piece while New York goes to hell. Mary Jane is also quite headstrong and spirited, though much kinder than Black Widow.
- Five-Bad Band: Black Suit players end up with:
- Five-Man Band: Red Suit players get:
- Flunky Boss: Pretty much every boss is this, with Black Cat and Vulture calling on the Kingpin's goons for help while Venom and other symbiote possessed bosses enlist the help of, well, symbiotes. Wolverine flips this on it's head due to the fact that infected civilians join in the fight, but Wolverine stops fighting you so he can go after them while you try to beat them up before he kills them.
- Genius Bruiser: Spider-Man as usual, along with the Vulture.
- The Goomba: Once the Symbiotes start to get a stronger hold over New York, the streets become packed with incredibly weak, slow moving symbiotes that resemble zombies. They fall to one punch, which makes them even weaker than the easy-sauce street thugs you dusted in the first part of the game!
- Guttural Growler: Wolverine as voiced by Steve Blum falls into this as usual.
- Half the Man He Used To Be: If you pick the Black Suit option after beating Symbiote-Wolverine, Spidey will tear him in half, Hulk-vs-Wolverine-style. It's given a Gory Discretion Shot, but damn.
- Heel Face Turn: Eddie redeems himself, and turns good to help stop Venomzilla in the Red Suit path.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Eddie Brock/Venom in the Red Suit path.
- He Who Fights Monsters: A lot of the Black Suit choices invloves this, including letting the two gang leaders kill each other, violently beating Electro, and tossing Venom into the turbine instead of letting him make the choice himself.
- High Altitude Battle: The Vulture naturally invokes this during his boss fight, but the Symbiote Vulture boss battle cranks this trope to epically extreme levels as, considering the fact that you're Spidey, the battle takes place high above New York and quickly becomes a warzone when SHIELD troops arrive... and there is no ground. Therefore, you'll have to swing across hovercrafts and use air combos and web strikes on the Vulture and his mooks to keep up in the sky. Speaking of which, the game's final mission and boss is on the SHIELD Helicarrier.
- In Medias Res: Leading to How We Got Here.
- It Got Worse: One of the central themes to the story was how quickly the symbiote infection seemed to spread. Made apparent when, after unwillingly giving Spider-Man back the symbiote in the beginning of the story, without losing his, Venom soon realised he could reproduce the symbiote and do the same to others. After that, it literally takes one night before things get out of control.
- I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: When Luke Cage makes a crack about Spidey's costume, Spidey points out that Cage used to run around in a yellow silk shirt and a
tiarahead band. "It was the 70s!"
- Jerkass: Pretty understandable given the situation, but Black Widow is very short with Spider-Man, and constantly yells and snaps at him pretty much every time she talks to him. Wolverine is also kind of a dick as well regarding Spider-Man, though both are more than willing to pitch in when it comes to combating the Symbiote menace.
- Kingpin is a straighter example as the Fat Bastard entry above explains.
- Jiggle Physics: Very subtle and arguably more realistic than in most games, but Mary Jane's breasts do jiggle a bit in a couple of scenes featuring her.
- Kick the Dog: After escorting a convoy of non-symbiote survivors to the safety of Fisk Towers, Spider-Man realizes that only one vehicle didn't make it... the one that was carrying Mary-Jane. Kingpin then mocks Spider-Man over the fact he got everyone to safety, except who he cares about most.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the best ending, Spidey narrates how the loose ends are all tied up, and we are led to believe that it is an internal monologue... until Mary Jane calls him out on talking to himself.
- Let's You and Him Fight: Spidey vs. Black Cat and later Spidey vs. Wolverine.
- Just barely averted with Moon Knight.
- Lovecraftian Superpower: Given that it's actually an alien parasite, the symbiote is this as it does provide it's victims a lot of power at the cost of their moral agency.
- Made of Iron: Luke Cage, who gets an awesome introductory scene where he walks straight into a hail of gunfire from two rival gangs as the bullets bounce off him harmlessly.
- Spider-Man as well. In this game, you can jump off the top of the Empire State Building, and Spidey will impact the ground with such a force that he's almost flattened, and he will slowly pull himself up with just a minor loss in health.
- Ms. Fanservice: The Black Cat, who pretty much throws herself at Spider-Man, including one instance of her practically shoving her breasts in his face. Mary Jane also wears a pretty skimpy top and tight jeans, then there's Black Widow whose skintight jumpsuit not only shows off quite a bit of cleavage, but also particularly accents her buttocks.
- My God, What Have I Done?: During the final confrontation, Spider-Man tries reaching out to Eddie Brock, within the writhing mass that is "Venomzilla". Peter convinces Eddie that his vendetta against him has gone too far, as he has begun hurting innocent people. In the Red suit choice, this causes Eddie to sacrifice himself to destroy the symbiote for good.
- Multiple Endings: Four of them, depending on how many "Red vs Black" choices are made during the game.
- If all/most of them were Red, and Spider-Man picks Mary Jane, then New York starts returning to normal following the elimination of the infection and Spider-Man is reunited with Mary-Jane.
- If Peter picks the Black Cat with mostly Red choices, Peter attempts calling Mary-Jane to apologize for his actions in the story.
- If only more of them were Black, and Peter picks Mary Jane, Spider-Man becomes leader of the symbiotes and vows to get back Mary Jane at any cost. Black Widow, working with Kingpin and The Tinkerer, prepares to send in Wolverine, fully in control of his own symbiote, to bring him in, dead or alive. Wolverine opts for "dead".
- If all/most of them were Black, and Spider-Man picks the Black Cat, Spider-Man becomes leader of the symbiotes, with Black Cat at his side as his "queen", and opts to spread the symbiote infection. He also rejects With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility, as in his own words; "I never knew what power was." Again, Wolverine is brought in by SHEILD to bring Peter to justice.
- No Indoor Voice: It's hard to name a time where Electro isn't screaming or shouting whenever he speaks.
- One-Winged Angel: At the end of the game, Venom has become an absolutely enormous multi-headed behemoth of a monster that is affectionately nicknamed by fans as Venomzilla.
- Pop Quiz: Wolverine gives Spidey one to make sure he's the genuine article.
- Press X to Not Die: A pretty forgiving example, since failure just restarts the sequence.
- Product Placement: Billboards advertising everything from Five Gum to the Watchmen DVD release can be seen throughout the city in the 360 and Play Station 3 versions, mixed in with ads from in-universe companies including Stark and Roxxon.
- Psycho Electro: Electro was always nuts, but in Web of Shadows, it gets worse. Mostly due to his sister being taken in by S.H.E.I.L.D. And in case it wasn't already bad enough, his sister unwittingly infects him with a Symbiote.
- Shown Their Work: On the mythos.
- In a fight with Wolverine, he asks you questions about whether or not you're the real Spider Man; unfortunately, these questions are so obscure, even hardened fans of the mythos may get them wrong. Depending on your opinion, showing their work may have been a bad thing in this case.
- Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs: One of the Red Suit abilities.
- Redemption Equals Death: In the Red suit choice, Eddie comes to his senses at the end of the game and climbs into the turbines of the heli-carrier, using tendrils to drag and trap "Venomzilla" with him. This causes the turbine to explode and the heli-carrier to fall out of the air and crash into the river below.
- Redheaded Hero: Mary-Jane and Black Widow.
- Shooting Superman: Luke Cage's first appearance. The gang members keep firing until the car behind him explodes, but not even that scratches him.
"Now that was rude."
- Sky Surfing: Kingpin Flyers. Due to some Web-Strike combos, Spidey can do it for a short time.
- Slave Mooks: The Symbiotes are clearly acting against their will, with even Venom falling into this at the game's end as his symbiote has turned into an unstoppable towering monster and can act independently of him.
- Smashing Survival: When certain mooks grab you.
- Something Only They Would Say: Wolverine uses a set of questions to determine if you are the real Spider-Man.
- Southern-Fried Private: Whenever Spider-Man has to assist a S.H.I.E.L.D trooper with rescuing civilians and transporting them to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s temporary safe-zone, the guy is a very enthusiastic southerner with a very thick country accent.
- Spider Sense: Obviously.
- Spy Catsuit: Black Cat and Black Widow.
- Stepping Stones in the Sky / Blade Run: During the ending action command sequence of Vulture's boss battle, Spidey does both of these at the same time
- Stripperiffic: Black Cat, oh so very much.
- Superhero: Obviously.
- Super Loser: This being Spider-Man we're talking about, he's not exactly immune to this.
- Super-Powered Evil Side: This is what the symboite does. It makes you evil, while making you stronger.
- Took a Level in Badass: Mary-Jane after getting out of the hospital in the midst of the symbiote infection. She meets up with Luke Cage and Spidey, with the latter asking the former to promise that he would protect her. MJ's response? Turning around racking a shotgun whilst exclaiming "Y'know what? MJ can take care of herself!"
- What the Hell, Hero?: Moon Knight gives Spider-Man this when he thinks he killed some people, though the people in question were the first infected with the symbiote infestation. Most of the Black suit choices will also get this reaction from a lot of people.
- Thanks to having the police walk in on him whenever he throws some civilians turned feral by the symbiote off a skyscraper, causing them to think that he's become a murderer, and will fire on him anytime they run into him.
- Wilhelm Scream: Jarringly used during the introduction cutscene for the Symbiote Berserkers whenever a S.H.I.E.L.D troop is mowed down by a Berserker.
- Wolverine Publicity: Spidey, Venom, and Wolverine feature on the game's cover art. It's understandable with Spider-Man and Venom as they're the protagonist and main antagonist respectively, but Wolverine's presence is pretty much because he's Wolverine, damn it!
- You Fight Like a Cow: Peter Parker is as fond of insulting his enemies as ever.