Review: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a unique new entry into the Spider-Man series of games, which itself already makes it an interesting game. Does it do the Webslinger justice even without the famous city of New York to swing around in?
- Worth The Time?Yes, to all Spider-Man fans who invest in the games.
- Things LovedThe four Spider-Man universes, the great graphics and fantastic art styles for each universe, the fluid, simple and fun combat, the enjoyable boss battles, the lighthearted tone of the game, the awesome cinematic cutscenes.
- Things HatedThe repetitiveness, the somewhat tedious XP gathering.
- RecommendationIf you're a Spider-Man fan, you can't really go wrong buying this game. Shattered Dimensions isn't entirely out of the picture if you're looking for a good action game either, but it's really the fans of the webslinger who have invested in prior titles that will love this game the most.
- Name: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Beenox
- Publisher: Activision
- Price: R439-499 (PS3, 360), R368-399 (PC)
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Usually when you hear about a game with Spider-Man in the title, you’ll most likely be thinking either about a game based on a movie or just another cash-in and, in terms of gameplay, about a sandbox New York City that’s open for Spidey to swing around in. Enter Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, a game that takes the opportunity to cast all of that away and instead introduce us to something completely fresh and exciting – an entirely different concept for a Spider-Man game. Change is often a delicate and controversial matter, as it can either greatly improve something or do the exact opposite. So the real question to answer here is whether or not Beenox’s new idea did the webslinging hero justice. Let’s find out.
The premise of the game is simple. At the beginning, Spider-Man clashes with Mysterio, who is after an artifact known as the “Tablet of Order and Chaos”. During their fight, the tablet is shattered into pieces, and this causes a number of problems with various Marvel Universe realities. Taking action, Madame Web calls on four different Spider-Men from four separate dimensions in order to bring the realities back into balance. Once summoned, the Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man 2099 and Ultimate Spider-Man are informed that strong villains in their realities have gained enhanced abilities due to finding and using fragments of the tablet, and it’s up to them, the Spider-Men, to defeat these super powered villains, put the tablet back together and then stop Mysterio once and for all, before it’s too late.
The story element is definitely something to enjoy about Shattered Dimensions. The game has a very lighthearted feel to it, and understands that it doesn’t need a deep or intense plot. In fact, the main purpose of the story is simply to have a reasonable foundation to enable you to play as the four Spider-Men from the various dimensions, and to allow you to take on popular villains from the comics. And that’s exactly what you’d be here for, to play as Spider-Man, four of them to be exact, and not have to deal with anything that isn’t necessary to the game. The game, at set points, is narrated by a very comical voice, almost like a children’s TV show, and this eases the atmosphere and brings a smile to your face rather than being unintentionally or “facepalm” corny. Of course, while playing a level from each dimension, the Spider-Man involved in there will do the narrating, and all of them have great voice overs and enjoyable quips. It’s definitely welcome to hear Neil Patrick Harris voice Amazing, and he does a really great job at that, as do the others.
Rather than the usual sandbox New York City regurgitated experience, Shattered Dimensions throws you into not one, but four completely new worlds, which makes the experience exciting from the word go. After the initial tutorial level that quickly gets you up to speed with the basic gameplay of each of the four dimensions, you’ll then unlock four levels, one for each universe, and will be able to choose which level of the four dimensions you’d like to tackle first. Naturally, you’re required to beat all four levels before you advance to the next lot, but the order is up to you. Each level has a well-known villain as the boss, respective to each dimension, and the villain is who you will have to go through to get to the finish line. Shattered Dimensions follows a linear approach to level progression, but the majority of levels are greatly designed and are quite often large and very open, allowing you to swing around and have freedom to move. However, sometimes you’ll feel that it would have been nice to have more space and freedom, but this isn’t a deal breaker.
As you’d expect, the highlight of the game is the four Spider-Men, who each bring a different style of gameplay into the mix. Amazing focuses on fast-paced acrobatics and web-based combat, Noir is all about stealth, patience and striking from the shadows, 2099 is futuristic combat and aerial battles and Ultimate is all about unleashing the power of the symbiote to annihilate all your enemies. For the most part, you’ll be fighting and swinging your way through baddies in levels that are designed to suit their respective villain. For example, Kraven the Hunter’s level is a closed up, jungle environment with traps set up to catch you unawares. This helps each level to feel a little bit unique, and the boss battles themselves are all different and lots of fun to play. Focusing on things Spidey, like swinging, it’s only used as a means of travel and platforming in this game rather than a pastime, and alongside it Spider-Man can web-zip to vantage points, kicking enemies off if they’re occupying one, crawl on walls and gain altitude by webbing himself upward.
Combat in the game is simple, fluid and very enjoyable, despite the fact that button bashing can get the job done easily. There is a good variety of moves and abilities and the animations look fantastic. The combat system is made up of light attacks, heavy attacks, evasion and webbing. It’s designed to be free-flowing, allowing you to be continuously moving and attacking. Spider-Man has a variety of ground and air attacks and also retains the great webstrike ability from Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, where he is able to latch onto an enemy using a web-line, while in the air or on ground, and pull himself towards his foe to unleash a powerful set of attacks. Webbing can also be used to slow down enemies or to grab surrounding objects, such as explosive barrels, and throw them at your enemies. It can sometimes be problematic to lock onto an object in the environment when a lot of enemies are surrounding you, but it isn’t game breaking.
While there are noticeable differences between each universe, the combat mostly remains the same throughout the game. Still, there are solid changes to gameplay between the universes to ensure that the player gets something new or different, such as the stealth sections in Noir, sky diving or “free-falling” sections of 2099, Ultimate’s rage mode or 2099’s ability to slow down time. The four worlds were really pulled off excellently, and one can appreciate Shattered Dimensions’ effort at tackling four gameplay styles in one game. It would have been nice to see a few more combat moves and abilities overall, as the combat, especially in the Ultimate universe, which is centered around it, can become tedious towards the end of the game after you’ve had your fair share of fights. It’s not overly deep, but it’s definitely varied. It’s a fun system and, as you unlock more fighting techniques, it only becomes better.
Another combat orientated feature is the defensive stance, where Spider-Man will lock onto an enemy and automatically dodge any light attacks from them. This stance allows you to strafe, focus on one enemy and dive out of harm’s way quickly. It’s very useful in combat and saves you the frustration of getting bullied while you’re trying to target lock a particular enemy. Shattered Dimensions also incorporates first person into the game, which turned out surprisingly well. At set points during in-game cutscenes or boss battles, the game will shift to first person, giving you a whole new view of the world. For the purpose of the boss battles, it allows you to get up close and personal with the villains and punch their lights out, being careful to dodge their attacks using the correct button prompts. It’s both satisfying, sadistically so, and fun. The game also enters first person if you take a huge fall, where you’ll then see Spider-Man’s arms flailing about in the air, and you’ll have a few seconds to press the swing button and web yourself up to solid ground.
With regards to unlocking more moves and upgrades, that’s done using acquired experience from killing enemies, collecting Spidey tokens and completing levels and challenges. Every level in the game comes with its own set of challenges, such as kill a certain amount of enemies, dodge a certain amount of attacks or find all the hidden spiders – I’m sure you get the idea – all of which earn you extra experience to buy combat moves, upgrades such as increased health and extras such as bonus costumes. The system works well, and the game pleasantly manages the purchasing of upgrades across the four dimensions by making some, like increased health or certain combat moves, apply to all four Spider-Men while others are unique to only one or few. The only gripe here is that upgrades quickly become very costly, and it can become labourious to collect the experience to purchase them. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to earn experience, the amount earned can be increased via an upgrade and completing levels with a good ranking, based on your time taken, Spidey tokens collected and such, can provide you with a hefty bonus.
It’s not just the gameplay that changes between each world. Each of the four dimensions has a completely unique graphical and art style, and they all look awesome. From Amazing’s cel-shaded world, to Noir’s dark, gritty and black overhaul, to 2099’s futuristic 3D spacey universe, to Ultimate’s comic-like visuals – all are portrayed and stylised beautifully and brilliantly. If that isn’t enough, each of the four dimensions has their own visual style for their CG cutscenes, which look pretty damn impressive and are very enjoyable to watch. Shattered Dimensions graphics, overall, are really great, and it’s hard not to appreciate the art direction of each dimension. With regards to audio, most characters are voiced over well, with only a few managing to be annoying, but due to the lighthearted nature of the game, it’s difficult to outright dislike any of the voices or characters’ trash talking, despite it being continuous throughout the game.
Perhaps the worst things about Shattered Dimensions is that it can be repetitive, it can be tedious at times to collect experience to purchase new moves, upgrades and extras and now and again, hardly often, there would be a graphical bug like an enemy going through a wall during a kill animation. Another issue is that, depending on your pacing, the game could be over too quickly, but there is definitely between 10-12 hours of enjoyment to be had on your average play-through. There are incentives to play some more after you’ve finished the single-player, if you want to up your rankings on each mission, complete them on higher difficulties, finish all of the challenges or purchase all of the upgrades. Although that depends entirely on you. However, these issues ultimately aren’t too severe and can be partially overlooked as you get into the swing of things – excuse the pun. Despite the repetitiveness, Shattered Dimensions is still a game any Spidey fan would enjoy seeing through to the end.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a unique and exciting entry in a long line of Spider-Man games – one of the best. It is yet another comic book super hero game given the justice it deserves. Shattered Dimensions also further proves that the time has finally arrived where we can now begin to expect a much higher standard of all future games involving our favourite super heroes. It’s not perfect, but it’s undeniably entertaining, and definitely is a title worth playing for all Spidey fans, and an action game worth considering for others.