Spider-Man is back! Four of him actually, in Beenox and Activision's newest Spidey adventure, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. This third person action title gives players the chance to play as four distinct Spider-Man personas from different dimensions in a quest to reunite the Tablet of Chaos and Order. How does this latest web slinging adventure fair?
Shattered Dimensions opens up with a cutscene that has Mysterio stealing the Tablet of Order and Chaos from a museum. The Amazing Spider-Man is here to stop him, but during the struggle the Tablet shatters, sending shockwaves across multiple dimensions. Madame Web explains that Spider-Man from four different dimensions must seek out and find the fragments of the Tablet if peace and order are to be restored. After a brief tutorial mission that gets you acquainted with the unique abilities of each Spider-Man, the story mode begins.
The story mode contains a total of twelve levels, book-ended by the tutorial level and the final boss level. Each level can take anywhere from thirty to upwards of seventy-five minutes to complete. Each Spider-Man -- the Amazing, Ultimate, 2099, and Noir variations -- star in three levels. While each
Spider-Man is fairly unique, a lot of the game design is very formulaic and repetitive, something not
uncommon with Spider-Man games.
The repetitive design is my biggest fault with the game. No matter which level you are on, the flow is exactly the same. The entire level is based around one environment and the sole objective is to chase a
villain from the start of the level to the end. In the meantime, you will have to pummel dozens of his cronies and possibly save a few civilians and escape from some kind of dangerous environmental event. At the end of the level, you will face the sole villain who has been altered by the Tablet fragment. The boss fights, for the most part, are actually pretty cool and varied, but the 'getting there' part (85% or more of the gameplay) doesn't vary much at all from level to level.
So each villain has his own numerous henchmen that will slow down your pursuit the fragment. These henchmen come in three basic varieties -- light, light with weapons, and heavy enemies. During the course of the campaign, you will dispatch over 2,000 enemies by utilizing kick and punch combos and your webbing. Once again, while their appearance will change from level to level, you can definitely tell you're fighting the same types of enemies with what feels like the same HP and basically the same attacks. Thankfully, because four different Spider-Men are featured in this game, the combat doesn't get as rote as it did in Web of Shadows because your appearance, voice, and attacks vary.
Frankly, other than that repetitive design, Shattered Dimensions is a good game. I did have some nagging issues with waiting for button prompts or an annoying camera angle and some weird behavior during web slinging, but, overall -- it's good. You've got a decent story, plenty of combat, some stealth elements, four interesting playable characters, a dozen classic villains, and overall it's just plain fun to play through. There are lots of collectibles and unlockables too for the completionists out there, including
hundreds of Spider Emblems to find, 180 Challenges, and several dozen Combat and Character upgrades, not to mention concept art, bios, and 3D models to unlock.
Gameplay & Thoughts Continued, Presentation
Even when playing in the Noir levels, which require you to remain in the shadows, there is a lot of combat. The other three Spider-Men levels are all about combat, no stealth, so clearly, combat makes up the majority of the gameplay. Controls are simple - utilizing X and Y for light and strong attacks, RT for web sling, B for grab, RB for web shot, and LT for Rage and Accelerated vision (Ultimate and 2099 respectively). LT is for Defensive stance and A is to jump, or evade when used with LT (including flipping over an enemy to his back side, ideal for those enemies with shields). In addition, Spider-Man has his Spider Sense to give you a brief warning to dodge or evade an incoming attack (which may be coming from off screen). When the Spider Sense activates, you will see a visual 'tingle' above Spidey's head. It's interesting that they didn't include a rumble effect too with the controller, but I can kind of see why, given the number of 'tingles' there are in the game and their brief duration. Anyway, whether a reaction to Spider Sense or not, when you have Spider-Man dodge an enemies attacks, it looks pretty cool as Spider-Man will stand in place and move his torso in a variety of directions to dodge bullets and melee attacks. Via Combat Upgrades, players can counter attack from this defensive stance as well.
Combat controls and upgrades are kept simple, probably to help make this as accessible a game as possible to a younger, wider audience. There are no complicated combos to perform, and there are very few actual new combos to purchase. Most are just variations on existing controls, i.e., press X four times instead of three for an additional move in a combo, or press B after knocking an enemy into the air, that kind of thing. While keeping the controls greatly simplified makes it easy to play and the game open to a wider audience, I thought it also made the combat less satisfying and more prone to button mashing, which really works in most situations. At the end of each level there is a 'Combo Rating' score however that is based upon how varied your combos were. And while button mashing works for the most part, there are plenty of situations, especially when playing as Noir, in which you must wait for the button prompt to appear. That too can be a little annoying because it depends as much on your camera view as the actual position of your character.
Finally, some miscellaneous thoughts about the game. First, I liked the checkpoint placement and instant
load times, always a plus. I liked the health system and that the bosses had a health meter that I could
see; I wouldn't want that in all of my games, but for this one, it fits. Another point to make is that despite there being dozens and dozens of Combat and Characters upgrades (which are unlocked in tiers, as you complete the Challenges on the Web of Destiny), I didn't find many of them all that useful. I finished the game with well over 150,000 Spider Essence leftover (having completed about 120/180 challenges), and I don't know, the available upgrades just weren't all that compelling for the most part. I would upgrade my health meter and purchase the few extra combo moves, but the other things like additional suits or charge attacks just didn't seem necessary or all that interesting. But that's just me though.
And as for the presentation, Shattered Dimensions is pretty good, but I think shy of great. Each dimension has a different look to it, from the grainy shadowy look of Noir to the sleek and futuristic look of 2099. In between are the cel-shaded Amazing and Ultimate levels. The animations and character models look good, and I didn't experience any framerate issues either. There was some clipping though,
like during the 'fall' sequences of 2099 (which were fun) in which I was able to clip through small parts of
the level -- not a game breaker, but noticeable. There isn't much of a soundtrack, but the effects and
voiceovers were good, even though I heard a lot of the same lines (mostly from Spider-Man, but also from some of the enemies) a few too many times.
With that, let's get to the summary...