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Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Review

September 18 2010

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Review
by Lodur

Developer(s): Beenox
Publsiher(s): Activision
Release Date: September 7th, 2010
Category: Single Player Action-adventure, Platformer, Stealth
ESRB: Teen
360  |  PS3  |  Wii

For a long time now, most super hero games have failed to live up to the hype they generate, falling ever so short of whatever bar was set for them. On August 25th, 2009 a game came along that shattered our expectations and created an experience on an epic scale. I’m speaking of Batman: Arkham Asylum. The game boasted amazing graphics, fluid game-play, voice actors pulled from the animated series and a script written by someone intimately linked with the Batman franchise. It was thought that no hero game could really hold a flame to this behemoth, this comic lover’s dream.

Then along came a spider; Spider-man to be exact. Previous Spider-Man games have proven to be lack luster in their game-play, and even those considered “good” were mainly thought so because of the web-slinging action of the locomotion and the sandbox feel of the world. Shattered Dimensions does something a little bit different, and in many cases seems to have taken more than a couple tricks and tips from Batman’s astronomical success.

The first thing players will notice is that the game has not one, but four different Spider-Men from around the Marvel multi-verse. The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, Ultimate Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099. Each incarnation of Spider-Man has its own unique voice acting, script, rogues gallery and a special emphasis on a certain aspect of the Spider-Man repertoire of abilities. They are also divided into individual levels, so that each Spider-Man has a chance to shine in their own world.

The Amazing Spider-Man is voiced by none other than Neil Patrick Harris. NPH was the voice of Spider-Man in The New Animated Series and his voice acting is quite simply astounding and fits perfectly for the ideal model of a classic Amazing universe Spider-Man. The quips are well timed and delivered flawlessly and everything about the attitude that Neil provides screams classic Spider-Man.  The script for the Amazing Spider-Man sequences is pure gold in every aspect. Each interaction between Spider-Man and his villains is something right out of the comic books.

Spider-Man Noir is an alternate take on the Spider-Man mythos set in 1933 during the great depression. This incarnation of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes, who portrayed Spider-Man in Spider-Man: The Animated Series… so most players will likely be familiar with his voice. The script here also fits very well with the character and the world. Spider-Man and his foes will speak in a very “detective / mobster” style. The verbage chosen for the script fits perfectly for the 1930’s era environment and draws you into the characters. The banter and voice acting in this part of the game really does make you feel like you’ve entered into a Noir detective film.

Spider-Man 2099 is voiced by Dan Gilvezan, who was the voice of Spider-Man in the early 80’s cartoon show, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. Gilvezan does a great job of portraying the sarcastic wit of a person battling against the oppression of the massive corporations. There is just enough restrained anger in his voice to really sell you on the role.

Ultimate Spider-man is voiced by Josh Keaton, who lent his voice in the 2008 series, The Spectacular Spider-Man. Keaton does a great job portraying the youth of this universe’s Spider-Man and you can hear the rebellion as well as the concern in his voice as he struggles with the symbiote suit, balancing the rage that is not entirely his own.

The entire game is also narrated by the big cheese himself, Stan Lee. His enthusiasm and his voice lend the game an unofficial stamp of approval from Stan the man himself.

Players will also note that unlike most other games, the recorded audio for each section does not loop back in on itself. When Spider-Man idles, there is a wealth of quips and sayings to the extent that after a full week I have yet to have them loop back and repeat.

Each section emphasizes one aspect of the wall crawler’s personae. The Amazing Spider-Man implements different web-attacks, such as web hammers that combine webbing with the environment to pummel foes, and zip-line attacks to draw you into close combat with your foe, mixing up-close and long range combat in a very traditional Spider-Man style.

Spider-Man Noir uses stealth and timing to defeat his enemies in combat.  When the player is in the shadows, the screen turns black and white, signifying concealment. When the player is exposed in light, the screen becomes colored meaning the character can be seen.

Spider-Man 2099 uses high flying acrobatics and his suit’s advanced abilities in combat. He has talons which give him a close combat advantage, and while he doesn’t have true spider sense, he has accelerated vision similar to spider-sense which allows him to dodge attacks.

Ultimate Spider-Man uses the powers of the symbiote suit to destroy enemies, forming the symbiotic spikes and tendrils which act like extensions of his own body.

The controls are fluid throughout each incarnation whether you are swinging through the trees of a jungle or fully stealthed, creeping through the train yard. The combat combinations are simple to learn and there are a number of them available for each version of Spider-Man. The game operates on an upgrade system similar to B:AA, and players can earn points by completing challenges, such as defeating a certain number of opponents in a specific manner, as well as finding silver spider idols that are spread out throughout the worlds. Players can then upgrade specific bonuses for different Spider-men, like more rage for the Ultimate version or better stealth, as well as upgrading health and regeneration for each version. New web based attacks and combos can also be purchased with these points. Some upgrades only become available after a certain number of in game challenges have been completed which helps re-playability for the completionists out there, and it helps to ensure that you won’t over power the game and be completely unstoppable. The entire game and control scheme is very intuitive and does not require the instruction manual of a Russian MIG to learn, so you will be in the thick of battle and having fun as our FNSM in no time flat.

Visually, the game is very well put together and each world is given its own special flavor. Amazing’s world is reminiscent of the cell-shaded worlds of Borderlands, Torchlight or Champions Online and makes the game feel very warm and vibrant. That particular style of artwork lends itself very well to a comic book game. 2099’s world is filled with neon edged buildings and flashing holograms that fly by you in beautiful detail as you engage in free-falling combat. Noir gives you the muted colors and sepia tones that puts you right into the world of the 1930’s, and the Ultimate universe is full of more vibrant colors and wild cel-shaded animations with the suit’s tendrils. Everything about this game captures the spirit of not only the comics, but of Spider-Man himself.

The story of the game is also something of great importance here, and something that really got some care and attention. The game opens up with narration from none other than Stan Lee and any fan boy (or girl) will feel a chill of excitement as his enthusiasm pours out of every word. Spider-Man interrupts Mysterio as the villain breaks into a museum in order to steal an artifact known as the “Tablet of Order and Chaos”.  The players are greeted by familiar banter as the Amazing Spider-Man and Mysterio battle. In the course of the combat the artifact is shattered into pieces causing problems with multiple Marvel Universe realities. Madame Web calls on four versions of Spider-Man from four realities to assist her in bringing the realities back into balance: the Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir (a 1930s version of Spider-Man), Spider-Man 2099 (the Spider-Man of a possible future), and a symbiote-bonded Ultimate Spider-Man (the younger Spider-Man of an alternate present). The Spider-Men are informed that villains in their respective universes have received enhanced powers due to the fragments of the tablet in their possession. Each villain possessing a fragment is granted power to accomplish what they desire most; defeating the Spider-Man of their respective universe. Meanwhile, Mysterio discovers the tablet fragment that he has bestowed upon himself enables him to perform actual magic tricks.

The story for each universe follows a classic comic book setup, full of twists and turns and appearances by many classic villains and allies as each Spider-Man attempts to recover the missing fragments. It is hard to talk about each story arc without giving away any of the surprises. It plays out very much as a hybrid of our childhood cartoon series and the comics that we collected (or still do collect). Some critics bash the game for the story, but in truth it is as robust as any comic you can pick up. My main criticism rests with the auto-targeting system. Occasionally it just snaps to the wrong place, and the camera can have a mind of its own when you’re climbing walls. This can make maneuvering difficult at certain places and can disorient you when going from ceiling to wall or vice versa.

Overall though, the developers should be praised for a game with such lofty goals. They built one story encompassing four worlds, four main characters and tackle a big name super hero with many devoted fans. The end result is a polished, action packed, sharp witted game with great re-playability and stunning visuals. The writing is spot on, and characterization of all the various NPCs is very well done. If you liked Batman: Arkham Asylum, are a fan of super heroes and comics or just someone who loves action packed games, Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions is worth the price, and well worth the time to it play through.


spider-man-shattered-dimensions-2099 spider-man-shattered-dimensions-amazing spider-man-shattered-dimensions-noir spider-man-shattered-dimensions-ultimate-spider-man-screenshot

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malagaj's avatar
malagaj 09:01am, 09/21/2010

I have to say that for one who played all of the latest spiderman games that this is the best and I am having a good time. I love the villains on this spiderman plus I love the fact that they aren’t all the rundown the mill ones. And the noir is the best of them all. Sure i love them all but the noir spiderman kind of feel like he is on the edge and want to kill the villains. All the other are kind of same mold so noir just feels spiced. Plus the whole stealthy thing is really good and makes the pace somewhat different.

Samodean's avatar
Samodean 05:06pm, 09/26/2010

I played through Act I this weekend and had a total blast. The dialog in many parts, especially the Electro level, had me dying with laughter.

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