I think Spider-Man may rank in first place for having the most alternate dimension spin-offs. You have Spider-Man 2099, Ultimate, Manga, India, 1602, Reign; the list goes on and on. Despite the fact that there’s dozens of Spider-Men to draw inspiration from for a game, we’ve generally stuck to the same old Peter Parker with a few exceptions (such as last gen’s Ultimate Spider-Man). Franchise new-comer Beenox decided to tap into the rich tapestry of Spidey’s history and bring together four different version of the web-slinger-Amazing, Noir, 2099 and Ultimate-for a cross-dimensions web-fest. With four different play styles and multiple possibilities, how well does Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions do in delivering the definitive Spider-Man game?
The game gets off to a good start by having Stan “The Man” Lee narrate over the cinematics, obviously meant to be a call back to what many consider the greatest Spider game, the N64 era’s Spider-Man. The basic premise of the game is that the Tablet of Order and Chaos was stolen by Mysterio and broken by Spidey accidentally during the fight. The Tablet fragments and lands in four different dimensions, and everyone’s favourite reality-bending clairvoyant, Madame Web, assembles the different Spider-Men to get the pieces back.
Each reality has its own visual representation from the comic-book like cel-shading of Amazing and Ultimate to the gritty visuals of Noir and the high-tech sheen of 2099. All of the dimensions look amazing (pardon the pun), but 2099 is probably the least favourable of them. 2099 is just so thick visually that it is hard to distinguish exactly what is going on at any given time. Not that it’s impossible to play in, but compared to the clean look of the other dimensions, the cluttered environment of the future does get in the way.
Just as the graphics for each Spider-Man are different, so too are their fighting styles. Amazing Spider-Man forms giant flails and mauls from webbing to clobber foes, and Noir Spider-Man lurks in the shadows, picking goons off one-by-one in an almost passable imitation of Arkham Asylum. Ultimate Spider-Man uses the Venom suit to engage in long range tendril attacks, and Spider-Man 2099 is a straight up brawler.
Spider-Man 2099 and Ultimate Spider-Man make use of two gameplay altering mechanics called Accelerated Vision and Rage Mode, respectively. Accelerated Vision is used to slow down time and dodge missiles, but I didn’t find it that useful. While it can sometimes help you with gaining an edge over your foes, the time doesn’t dilate enough to make a difference, and you even seem to be slower as well, hardly making this mode any use at all. Conversely, Rage Mode is super useful, causing Ultimate Spidey to “hulk out” as it were, and gain a damage boost in addition to lessening the amount of damage and knock back he sustains. Rage Mode fuel is accumulated by defeating foes, so you can keep bashing away with this for a long time if you have a sufficient number of adversaries. 2099 also has a unique gameplay segment called Freefall, where Spider-Man glides past the massive skyscrapers of the future. I tend to play on inverted, so the controls for Freefall kept messing me up as they retained their regular configuration. Again, you would think Accelerated Vision would be useful for dodging debris, but given the cluttered visuals and the fact that this mode slows your reaction time, you can slam into obstacles over and over again, which can get pretty annoying.
Despite their different play-styles, each of the Spider-Men will sometimes go toe-to-toe with their levels respective bosses in a new first person fighting mode. While it’s essentially a glorified quick-time event, I found it to be a lot of fun and useful for breaking up the pace of a boss fight, which usually goes “block and evade until there is an opening”. My only complaint about the first person fighting is that you have to hold the right and left stick back to doge, where the in-game prompts would have you believe that you’re only supposed to tap them. Not a major issue, but it took me a couple deaths to figure that out.
Beating on your enemies in Shattered Dimensions isn’t just for working out your aggression, though. True to form for any brawler, defeating foes earns you Spider Essence, which can be used to purchase new moves and augmentations to your Health, Accelerated Vision and Rage Mode meters. New costumes are also obtained this way, and let me just take a moment here to say that this is the first Marvel game in a long time (except Wolverine) that does alternate outfits right. Each Spider-Man has three variant outfits (four if you count the pre-order Cosmic Spider-Man get ups), and all of them are really cool to use. While I did prefer Noir and Ultimate’s base outfits, all of the costumes are well worth the Spider Essence to unlock.
To help you with gaining the Essence, Shattered Dimensions also has a Web of Destiny which tracks little mini-achievements throughout each level. These can be simple things like collecting Spider Tokens or specific challenges like throwing a certain boss into a jet-engine five times. Some of the challenges are harder than others, naturally, but all are doable and add a nice meta-game layer to each level.
While Shattered Dimensions does offer a lot of Spider action, it does start to repeat itself fairly quickly. Each level follows the same route of introducing you to the boss, having you follow him for a bit, fight him, rescue some civilians, then have a climactic showdown. While it is a nice trip through Spidey’s rogue’s gallery, doing the same song and dance over and over gets a bit weary by the time you reach the third act. Also, whoever thought up the Sandman level should be barred from game design. Constantly having to soak foes in water to defeat them gets really, really tedious, especially for the larger creatures.
Speaking of over and over, I do want to mention the dialogue in Shattered Dimensions, which would be great if it didn’t repeat itself every two seconds. Spider-Man scribe Dan Slott did a fine job of making Spider-Man’s quips consistently amusing, but he just didn’t write enough of them. It’s not unusual to hear the same conversation loop repeatedly in a fight, and sometimes the audio will just plain glitch out, spewing the same bit of dialogue out until you want to smash the disc. While it is a treat to hear the various voice actors who have leant their lungs to Spidey over the past however many years he’s been on TV voice the different versions, I really wish that there had been more to go around as opposed to relying on the small selection as a crutch. Hearing 1994’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series’ Christopher Daniel Barnes do Spider-Man Noir is a real trip for fans of the cartoon, and having Nolan North reprise his role from Hulk vs Wolverine as Deadpool was fantastic as well. When he wants to, North can play a deranged psychopath pretty well. Neil Patrick Harris, who acted in the short lived Spider-Man: The New Animated Series also returns to do Amazing Spider-Man, so fans of NPH will enjoy his work in the game.
This is the part of the review where I would make a joke about how Spider-Man isn’t the only bug in the game, although spiders are arachnids, which are technically not “bugs” but an invertebrate animal. Annoying specifics aside, Shattered Dimensions does have a fair share of issues, mostly to do with the camera. I mean, its common sense that, when crawling on a ceiling, you would like to look at the ground below you, right? Not so with Shattered Dimension’s camera, which insists on showing you Spidey’s frighteningly well-modeled ass. Combat is also a frustration as the camera will sometimes swing up into a crotch shot after defeating foes, leaving you running around while you adjust the view. While part of me thinks that these camera issues are part and parcel to Spider-Man games, another part thinks that the programmer was kind of perverted. Various other glitches are present, like one that makes Spider-Man lock in place until he’s hit, or fall into the ground, or disappear. Bosses are not immune to this either, and there are several occurrences where my enemies would either disappear or get stuck in an animation loop, forcing me to re-do the fight.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions came so close to giving us a great Spidey game, but it’s bogged down by repeated level design, annoying camera issues and aggravating sound issues. While it is great fun to swing around, beat up foes and experience what each dimension has to offer, you’ll find yourself getting burnt out in the final stretch of the game. There’s just enough variety to keep it from becoming completely stale, but it runs very close to that fine line. If you’re a Spider-Man fan, pick it up, because Beenox definitely has enough fan service in the game for the web-head’s ardent supporters to overlook the various issues plaguing this title.
That’s what I though of Shattered Dimensions, folks! It may not be a perfect Spider-Man experience per se, but I would recommend a rental, at least. Anyone else played this, or are hoping to play it soon?
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