Spider-man has been a staple of the video game world for decades. The efforts to bring him to the digital interactive landscape have been met with varying successes. His most recent outings have been spotty and franchise holder Activision has done their due diligence in trying to find a developer that fits the Spider-man mold well. This time they chose Beenox. What they have created is one of the most anticipated Spider-man games in years, Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions.
That Shattered Dimensions does is take 4 different Spider-men from the Marvel Multiverse and pit them against a common foe, Mysterio. Mysterio and the Amazing Spider-man are fighting and accidentally break an ancient artifact that conveniently keeps the multiverse in order. No other back story is really provided. The Spider-men have to find the shattered pieces of the Tablet of Order and Chaos to prevent Mysterio from taking over their worlds.
The four worlds highlighted are the normal “Amazing” universe, the Ultimate universe, the 2099 universe, and the Noir universe. Each Spider-man plays slightly different from the others. Amazing Spider-man has the standard moves you would expect out of a SM game, Ultimate Spider-man has the black suit on and has many of the symbiote attacks, Noir Spider-man doesn’t take bullets as well as his counterparts and must remain in shadow, Spider-man 2099 is very combat heavy and can fall “with style”. The difference in the characters is just large enough to cause you to have to rethink each level before you play them, but isn’t significant enough to make the change hard to overcome.
The levels are laid out in a semi-linear fashion and are selectable from a main menu. The open-world that Spider-man has become accustomed to ever since the movie based Spider-man 2 has been scrapped in favor of this level selection page. Each Spider-man has 3 distinct levels to play through and each level has a specific villain that the Spider-men are pursuing. This seems like a great way to organize things and after the first few levels I got really excited about finding out who was next, but about mid-way through the game I realized that the game doesn’t deviate from that pattern at all.
There’s little exploration, and you goal in each level is very clearly stated up-front “Pursue (insert villain here)”. Even after realizing that little would surprise me after say…the 4th level, I still found it amusing to tear through a rogue’s gallery of 13 Marvel villains. Some creative liberties are taken in the Noir and 2099 universes, but most of the enemies highlighted are very welcomed. Some of the best bad guys are Deadpool, Kraven, Juggernaut and Sandman.
The gameplay in Shattered Dimensions is also an element that has seen huge updates. No longer is Spider-man beating up the same street thugs over and over again. Instead, there is a steady stream of level specific models that have been created to fit the settings. I would assume that Beenox had to sink a large number of man hours just into designing the fodder you tear through in Shattered Dimensions.
If previous SM games were “Grand Theft Spider” Shattered Dimensions is “God of Spider-man”. Spider-man’s move set is reminiscent of Kratos’ moves in any of the God of War games. This is both good and bad news for GOW fans. Finally there is a Spider-man game with decent combat mechanics, but its handicapped by its insane simplicity. Hardcore GOW players should start on Hard. I’m only a pretty decent GOW player and I had little trouble with anything Normal threw at me. Needless to say, this is no Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, but its similar enough to those games to draw direct comparisons.
Another game that Shattered Dimensions shamelessly copies is Batman: Arkham Asylum. The things taken from it may not be as plentiful as the ones taken from God of War, but they are twice as blatant. Things like detective vision, Batman’s lumbering walk during exposition segments and nearly every function of Batman’s grappling hook have been directly adapted to fit the Spider’s needs. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it should be noted, that they are homages to an amazing game. Its just too bad that they weren’t implemented as well as they were in Arkham Asylum.
Still, despite these minor gripes, Shattered Dimensions shows moments of brilliance. In the very first level when Amazing Spider-man is battling Kraven, and there’s a segment that is played in the Second Person perspective of Kraven trying to shoot you, while you fight off his goons is inspired. The entire Deadpool reality show level with Ultimate Spider-man is a hoot and nearly all of Noir Spider-man’s stealth missions successfully avoid the pitfalls of typical stealth games.
During one on one boss battles, segments will pop up where your Spider-man will jump into a first person perspective and you must repeatedly punch your opponent using the analog sticks. While these are very heavily scripted events that are only possible to lose if you aren’t paying attention, they add to the momentum of the fights and are a novel idea.
The biggest deviations in game play come from the 2099 and Noir universes. The freefall segments in 2099 levels (which were not plentiful enough) and the stealth action of the Noir levels are integrated well and do a good job of breaking up the monotony of the other two Spider-men which in essence are the same character with a pallet swap. As I mentioned before the release of the game, Ultimate Spider-man is only a retelling of the Amazing Spider-man’s story line and not enough difference exists in the characters themselves to make them distinguishable without a heavy storyline. Other than repeatedly referring to Ultimate Spider-man as the younger smaller Spider-man, very little is done to distinguish them as characters.
The last thing I want to touch on is the art direction. Whoever is responsible for the art in Shattered Dimensions needs a raise. It is fantastic. Every world feels distinct, and stunningly vibrant. This is the first time the 2099 universe has been seen outside of the comic format, and it does not disappoint. Even though the comic it is based off of wasn’t great, seeing Spider-man 2099 here made me want more of the character and setting in other formats.
The hard black lines and slight cell shading done in the Amazing universe are bold and eye popping and Ultimate Carnage has never looked better. If you appreciate Marvel characters and want to see a fantastic visual representation of them, Shattered Dimensions might be worth the purchase just for that. For a limited time, a spiffy art book is available gratis with purchase of the game at many online retailers (see video).
Your love for Spider-man is going to be the biggest factor in whether you should check out Shattered Dimensions. Its not a broken game (despite glitches that popped up in-frequently) and is pretty easy to pick up and play. I spent about 9-10 hours playing it and easily pulled 500 points out of it, but don’t expect anything too deep or too difficult here.
Verdict: No, I don’t miss the open world
Spider-man Shattered Dimensions Artbook