One thing that is synonymous with video games based on comic book heroes is that they’re usually not so good. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that I wasn’t so optimistic when it was time to check out Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions during a recent Activision media event in New York City. However after getting some time with the friendly neighborhood webslinger in his latest romp, I quickly realized that Quebec city-based developer Beenox may actually have something special on their hands. The only questioned that remained was whether the full title would be as fun as what I had the chance to preview. Read on to find out exactly that.
Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions opens with a scene in the metropolitan museum. Spidey is hot on the trail of one of his greatest foes, Mysterio, who has broken into the museum in order to steal an ancient artifact. When Spiderman confronts him, it quickly turns into a brawl between the two and the relic is shattered into a pieces. This is when they both realize that what they thought was nothing more than another museum item actually has the ability to give great power to those who possess it. Mysterio would eventually escape, and this is when Spidey is contacted by non other than Madam Web. She describes the seriousness of the situation, and describes how not only is it bad for Spiderman but it has also affected him in 3 more dimensions as well. With that said, it’s your job to fill the shoes of 4 different Spidermen to take down each of their prospective foes along the way, stop Mysterio, and restore order to the universe.
Yes, when looked you look at it at face value this probably looks like one of the most ridiculous video game stories you’ve probably heard in a while. But you know what? It’s based on comic book characters and because of that – it works!
Let’s talk about these 4 different spidermen shall we?
Amazing Spiderman – It’s the classic red and blue suited Spiderman that we all know and love. He’s full awesome combos and just as awesome one-liners. Neil Patrick Harris voices him and helps to bring the character to life.
Noir Spiderman – This is a Spiderman from the 1930’s. And being that it’s the 1930’s, everything is in black and white. The Noir sequences represent the stealth sections of the game and will give you flashbacks to another recent comic book inspired video game, in which the main character’s name rhymes with Fatman.
Ultimate Spiderman – Better known as fan-favorite black suit Spidey. While wearing the ultimate suit, Spiderman has the ability to enter “Rage Mode”, this is where the symbiot bonded suit actually helps fight off foes.
2099 Spiderman – The Spiderman of the future. Everything in the future is constantly moving very quickly, especially in Nueva York. With that in mind 2099 has the ability to slow things down a bit by using a skill known as accelerated vision.
Each offers a completely different experience and play style but through state of the art technology, known as common sense (something developers seem to lack as of late), Beenox was able to pull if off with ease by mapping the buttons exactly the same across the board. This was a huge plus because it frees you up to adjusting to each characters unique style of combat rather than trying to remember what controls what.
Let’s move on to the real meat and potatoes here, the combat. Oh hell yes, the combat. The depth, speed, and sheer variety puts Shattered Dimensions right on par with any hack and slash or beat-em-up title out there, hands down. One way that I described the combat to another editor on staff during my review was by calling it “God of Spiderman: Arkham Asylum.” If you realize what titles I’m comparing it to, and I’m hoping you do, you realize that the combat in this game is comparable to some pretty serious titles. After some time with the game, you’ll be able to put together jaw dropping 100 hit combos with ease.
Visually the game can keep up with any multiplatform title, and in some cases, look better than even some 1st party exclusive ones as well. Sequences from both the Amazing and Ultimate Spiderman are in a cell-shaded 3D, and because of this I couldn’t help but compare the style to Crackdown. However when you take the awesome lighting into account, Shattered Dimensions looks even better. Characters shown in the Noir and 2099 sequences we’re redrawn to match their time periods, and they all look great. The only questionable one in the game was The Scorpion, who seemed to be all scorpion with no human in him at all.
As much fun as I had with the title, it certainly wasn’t all wine and roses. My two biggest gripes with the game were the pacing and the level design. What threw me off about the pacing, was that I felt that the biggest and best boss fights were too early on. The first 5 boss fights keep you wanting more, while the second half of the title makes you wonder what happened to all the epic fights from the beginning. It seems as though that if some of these levels had been shifted around, it would have made for a much more engaging experience as the more you progress you made the bigger the fights become. Instead they seem to fizzle a bit as you make your way through the game’s narrative.
The level design also seems to suffer a similar issue. Where early on you see some inspired design, then after about half way through, it seems like more of the same.
Here was the formula for the levels:
- Level opens up and you’re introduced to the level’s boss.
- Fight some henchmen.
- Web zip here and there.
- Fight the boss.
- Boss Escapes.
- Fight some henchmen.
- Save Civilians from Henchmen.
- Fight the boss who is now super powered from a piece of the museum relic.
- Rinse and repeat.
If it weren’t for the combat being so much fun, and some boss fights being so memorable (The Sandman fight is awesome) this repetitiveness would have really hurt the overall package.
Obviously, considering that this is in fact a beat-em-up and a single player experience there isn’t any multiplayer in sight. However what they did do to increase replay-ability was that they threw in tons of unlockable content. By collecting spider emblems scattered throughout the game’s levels or by pulling off certain combos you are scored with a Spider Rank after each level. These ranks mixed in with other challenges determine what gets unlocked. In the game’s pause menu, you have access to something called “The Web of Destiny” which helps you keep track of each level’s individual challenges.
After playing the title a while back, I left the Shattered Dimensions preview event with very high hopes. Spider-Man games have been pretty good for the last 15 years, and I thought that Beenox would only be adding to that legacy and that’s exactly what they did. While there were some design choices that at times hampered the experience, for the most part the game was fun, and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. If you’re a fan of gaming you should give it a look, if you’re a fan of comics and/or Spider-Man (and come on, who isn’t?) then this is simply a must buy.
- Title: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
- Developer: Beenox
- Publisher: Activision
- MSRP: $59.99
- Release Date: Available Now
- Review Copy Info: A copy of the game was provided to DualShockers Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.