Reviewed: September 7, 2010
Released: September 7, 2010
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is back and this time the neighborhood is a whole lot larger and at least four times more bizarre. Activision and Beenox shatter the boundaries of creative video game design as well as the space-time continuum in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimension, a brand new web-slinging action game that combines multiple Spidey franchises into one of the most original, exciting, and action-packed brawlers of the decade – and all without a movie tie-in, although if any story ever needed to go to the big screen it would be this one.|
We are introduced to this exciting new world through the almost child-like enthusiasm of Stan Lee’s narration. You either love it or hate it. I love it and I hope I am that excited about anything when I’m Stan’s age. In only a few moments we are witness to Spidey foiling a museum heist by none other than Mysterio, but in the takedown Spidey accidentally shatters an ancient relic; actually the most powerful relic in existence and one that holds the entire universe together, scattering the 12 pieces to the four winds, or rather the four worlds of Spider-Man.
Almost immediately Madame Web (aka, the floating head lady) appears to chastise Spidey for his recklessness then demands that he seek out the missing pieces and return them to her so she can restore order to the universe. To help him out, his alter egos in three other parallel dimensions will also aid in the quest, and that is where things get really fun and totally original, especially if you are like me and haven’t followed the exploits of the Ultimate, Noir, and 2099 variations of Spider-Man.
Essentially, you have four games rolled into one. While they all have a shared combat core system, each variation of the web-slinger has unique traits, custom moves, and a totally exclusive visual design. As you work your way through the 12 chapters you will cycle through the various versions of Spidey, going up against a specific super-villain boss that you might recognize, at least in name, but who you can be sure has been given the multi-dimensional facelift. All of your favorite villains are here, and I was ecstatic when Kraven the Hunter, one of my personal favorites, turned out to be the first. The Vulture, Green Goblin, Doc Oc, Deadpool, Juggernaut, Electro, Sandman, Scorpion, and a brand new villain, Hammerhead, who oddly resembles Quentin Tarantino, are all here to make your life a whole lot more exciting, and by placing these familiar villains in unfamiliar dimensions, the designers were allowed some real creative freedom to explore various design and gameplay nuances.
Amazing Spider-Man plays out much like a living comic book with fully animated cel-shaded graphics that look…well, amazing. Combat is pretty much pure beat ‘em up with a bit of web-slinging tactics. The opening level with Kraven and his own private boy band army set deep behind the doors of Jurassic Park is a great way to learn the ropes and is visually quite breathtaking.
My personal favorite of the four modes has to be the Noir levels. I’m a huge fan of sneaking and stealth takedowns and these levels played (and looked) much like the last Splinter Cell game. Presented in a Sin City black-n-white with bits of color that pop, you’ll spend most of your time sneaking in shadows and scanning the levels through your Steampunk goggles. The stealth takedowns are some of the best animations in the game whether you are pounding a guy into the wall or cocooning him from a lamppost. Light and shadow play a huge part of these Noir levels, especially on the carnival map with random fireworks turning darkness into daylight and eliminating many of your hiding places. This was easily one of my favorite maps and moments in the entire game.
Ultimate Spider-Man is basically Parker in his Venom suit and some overly saturated cel-shaded graphics. While Ms. Web keeps the suit from taking over Peter, you are still able to channel its Rage energy into some spectacularly violent moments and 200-hit combos. These levels play out much like the normal Spidey chapters only you get some bitch-slapping tentacles to lay the smack down on the enemy hordes.
And last (on the timeline) but certainly not least are the 2099 chapters. I wasn’t even familiar with this franchise, but there is some good backstory in the character bio for those who need it. These levels are incredible, both in design and gameplay. Imagine a mix of TRON and The Fifth Element as you swing through glowing neon skyscrapers or freefall through multiple layers of flying rush hour traffic. Words can’t begin to describe the sheer awe and fusion of color, light, and futuristic architecture.
So there you have the settings. When it comes to actual gameplay its mostly a beat-down with a growing arsenal of combat moves and personal Spidey upgrades for health and regeneration and Spidey-Vision. You have light and heavy attacks, grabs, web strikes and dozens of possible combinations and variations on all of these. You also have dodge and counters and air attacks. The only thing more impressive than the moves list is the outstanding animation and seamless integration of these animations into some jaw-dropping combos that will have everyone in the room getting very vocal about this game.
Speaking of vocal, the voice acting is superb with an all-star cast of talent bringing these characters to comical life. Voice actors Neil Patrick Harris, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Dan Gilvezan and Josh Keaton voice a Spider-Man from each of their respective dimensions, all adding their personal sense of style and humor to the mix. Even the villains had me laughing – nothing can prepare you for Deadpool who is now host of his own reality game show.
Shattered Dimensions doesn’t offer any multiplayer modes but there is no shortage of replayability for the solo gamer. Not only are you graded on combos, spider emblem pickups, and completion time (which are averaged together for level ranks of Gold, Silver, and Bronze) there are also 180 challenges spread across the game that make up the Web of Destiny. Most of these are integrated right into the gameplay and won’t require you to deviate from the story. They just require you to exploit certain talents to meet certain combat totals. The only super-hard challenge in each chapter is finding the secret gold spiders crawling around the walls.
Once completed and unlocked you can revisit any chapter to complete missing challenges or replay on a harder skill level. Completing challenges unlocks new skills and upgrades in various tiers. To put it in perspective, I wasn’t super-committed to doing the challenges and I still unlocked 133 of them in my first pass, which incidentally was about 13 hours. As long as you explore the full range of your abilities and explore the maps most of these challenges just happen.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is easily one of my top 5 games of 2010…so far. The level of energy and excitement and the wonder of what could possible come next kept me playing for hours on end. I finished this game in three sessions and the third was just the final boss fight with Mysterio, so that was about two, six-hour sessions where time just flew by and a 30-minute boss fight. Each new boss just kept getting better and better, and each new level design and situation just got more and more incredible. I was in a perpetual state of adrenalized wonder for two days straight. This is easily the best Spider-Man game of all-time and fully deserving of a perfect score.