Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Review
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On 09/21/2010 at 02:28 AM by Nick DiMola
Four Spider-Men are better than one.
For all Spider-Man fans and fans of action titles.
It seems that each and every year a new Spider-Man game is released, and every year that Spider-Man game seems to be a disappointment. My last exposure to a Spider-Man game was Spider-Man 2, which featured open-world exploration and tasks. The game controlled well and was moderately enjoyable, but the structure was a bit too loose, causing the game to eventually become tedious and boring. Shattered Dimensions, the latest Spider-Man game, is quite the opposite. For the first time ever, the essence of Spider-Man has truly been captured through the game's characters, levels, presentation, and solid gameplay.
For those unfamiliar, Spider-Man doesn't exist in just a single story. While he got his start in The Amazing Spider-Man, his character has been slightly tweaked and whole new storylines have been written and produced in which the world, enemies, and even Spider-Man himself are completely different from the original. Shattered Dimensions features a brand new storyline in which four distinct Spider-Man universes are affected when the Tablet of Order and Chaos is broken in a fight between Amazing Spider-Man and Mysterio. Madame Web calls upon Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man 2099, and Ultimate Spider-Man (in his symbiote-suit) to bring order back to the world. Naturally, as players progress through the game, a super-villain in each level happens upon a shard of the tablet which imbues them with heightened powers.
With four different universes to explore, Beenox has created a layered and varied experience that both highlights each unique version of Spider-Man and the universe they exist in. The game is composed of fourteen levels in total, with both the introductory chapter and ending chapter starting with The Amazing Spider-Man, but belonging to the full set of Spider-Men. The other twelve levels are split between the four versions of Spider-Man. As you might expect, with only three levels per version, each character feels fresh until the end. What's nice is that each level runs for approximately 45 minutes and each holds enormous replay value, which I will discuss later.
The Amazing Spider-Man is the base character of the game, and his moveset is a mixture of both action and navigation, making him the most standard and evenly-featured of the four. Ultimate Spider-Man feels the most similar to Amazing, but he is more action-oriented and features a special Rage mode which allows him to rapidly and viciously destroy enemies, thanks to the symbiote-suit. Spider-Man 2099 is also similar to Amazing Spider-Man, but is much faster, as is his universe as a whole. He possesses the ability to quickly dodge enemies with his special ability. Spider-Man Noir is the most different of the four, as he has the ability to take-down enemies from the shadows and is almost entirely stealth-based.
While having a varied set of protagonists certainly keeps the game feeling fresh, the true strength of using these characters is for the unique universes which they provide. With these universes, players can experience widely-varying versions of many familiar Spider-Man foes. These enemies are the true centerpiece of the title, as each level of the game centers around one from the given Spider-Man universe.
These foes drive most of the gameplay and provide for some extremely unique boss battles that require use of the environment as well as Spider-Man's moveset. A great example of a fantastic level and boss within the game is a salt mine level starring Sandman and Amazing Spider-Man. In this level, Spider-Man will face a constantly evolving and growing Sandman, who is using the mine environment's abundance of sand to expand between each encounter. Mid-level, Spider-Man will need to navigate flying debris kicked up by the Sandman's tornado in order to reach platforms to battle both Sandman and his minions. Environmental items such as water barrels and spigots must be used to defeat enemies, which will require players to alter their tactics and fight the enemies differently than they have in prior levels. The interspersed Sandman battles are also varied and interesting as they force players to fight him in two distinct forms each of which are drastically different in their approach.
All-in-all, the game's levels are expertly done, with each being themed perfectly around the villain they star. Furthermore, each level holds a variety of challenges for the player to conquer, each of which build towards unlocking new abilities, upgrades, and Spider-Man suits. These challenges are your typical achievement-style tasks, such as defeating a certain number of foes a particular way or performing a given task in a certain period of time. But rather than simply award players gamer points, completing these challenges give direct benefits within the game. As such, almost everyone will be motivated to complete as many challenges as possible throughout the game. This immediately mitigates the possible issue of tedium, and subsequently gives even more depth to Spidey's arsenal of moves.
Another great decision was tying in-game collectibles to health as well as points (which are used to purchase all of these new abilities). This should help motivate players to explore every nook and cranny of each level since they directly and immediately benefit from the effort.
To match the quality of the levels is solid voice acting and great character representation and dialog. A variety of professional Spider-Man voice actors, like Neil Patrick Harris, have been cast in order to provide some great voice work. Even Stan Lee has lent his voice to the game as the narrator, a nice touch for those who are fans of the character and his universes.
While most of the game is very well-done, there are a couple of shortcomings, namely in wall-crawling and some touchy camera work. Wall-crawling is almost always awkward and rarely seems to work as intended. This becomes particularly frustrating in Spider-Man Noir who requires use of the ability most often. The camera shows its weakness often in this same universe as well. Otherwise, players will likely only notice some occasional poor camera work while swinging wildly from Spidey's webs.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is definitely the best Spider-Man game to date and it is steeped in Spider-Man lore from four unique universes in the history of the comic books. While many games in the past have disappointed, players looking for the definitive Spider-Man experience needn't look further than Shattered Dimensions. With any amount of luck, Beenox will return to this concept again and explore more Spider-Man universes and unique villains.