With Treyarch busy working away on the next Call Of Duty, Activision took the opportunity to bring in some new blood for this latest entry into the adventures of Peter Parker, and Beenox has taken the web-slinger in a very different direction with Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.
Ditching the open-world sandbox route taken by Treyarch, Dimensions is a much more traditional take on the Marvel megastar, and instead delivers a series of linear levels, spread amongst the game’s major feature, four different Spider-Men.
The story revolves around an ancient tablet, which is broken into pieces during a fight between Spider-Man and Mysterio. This tablet, supposedly the most powerful artefact in the world, has fractured reality, and its pieces have been spread throughout various dimensions. Well, four dimensions, which each just so happen to have a variation of Spider-Man.
These four include the Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man (black suit), Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Man 2099. Each Spidey has his own unique abilities and moves, and each world is themed after the comic/cartoon series that applies.
The game flows from mission to mission, alternating between each Spider-Man (although you can choose the order in which you play each group of missions) and each involves one of Spider-Man’s many super villain opponents, including the likes of Sandman, Electro, Hobgoblin, Scorpion and so on.
As each mission is linear, the action is much more focused than in the recent Treyarch outings, is more detailed and includes a host of impressive boss fights, situations and locations. You’ll swing through jungles, power stations, sand storms and train yards to name but a few, and throughout you’ll make use of a whole host of moves and abilities.
Many of these abilities are lifted straight from Treyarch’s games, and feel very similar, whilst others are entirely new, including specific abilities of each Spider-Man. Web-swinging, zipping and shooting are almost identical, but other general features, although familiar, are tweaked.
Combat is the most refined of the lot, which is lucky, as you’ll spend a great deal of time scrapping. Controls are a little more responsive than previous games, and the mixture of combos, throws and specials are more accessible. They’re also far more integrated into the core game.
For example, whereas using web-slinging in combat was more of a cool optional feature before, here it’s essential, and Spider-Man can pick up objects and throw them around, use webs to disarm foes and generally use his mobility to get the drop on his enemies. Some foes, like Sandman and his minions, can’t be beaten until you use some web-slinging action to douse them in water by throwing barrels at them, for example, and battling larger enemies will require some nifty web-zipping.
As you progress, the combat system evolves, and by collecting spider tokens and defeating enemies you’ll earn points to spend on upgrades, including more powerful moves, greater health and boosts to special abilities of the various Spider-Men. You can also complete challenges to earn points and upgrades too, such as hitting a set number of foes with objects or causing bosses to break parts of the environment.
Of course, combat isn’t the limit of Spider-Man’s abilities, and this time he’s also outfitted with an upgraded Spider Sense that helps track objectives and reveal foes. The different Spider-Men also have various unique abilities too, some of which totally change the feel and flow of the game.
Perhaps most notable is Spider-Man Noir. Switching to a black and white visual style, this darker incarnation of Spider-Man is more about stealth and speed than brute force. Much of the time spent as this incarnation is focused on silently dispatching enemies and avoiding patrols and, although not entirely polished, the stealth elements are welcome and certainly help break up the other dimensions, which, although slightly different, feel much the same with a different look.
Sadly, although the Noir levels are great (my favourite, in fact, so much so that I’d like to see a Noir-only themed title), they also highlight the downright broken wall crawling abilities.
Trying to crawl around walls and ceiling is a total nightmare. Making a transition from wall to ceiling often reverses the controls, resulting in you spinning around in circles, and the camera has what appears to be a fit, spinning around wildly unable to focus. As the Noir levels benefit from this ability, used to sneak up on foes, it’s a glaring fault.
Camera issues are also present throughout the other worlds too. The camera in Dimensions is usually ok, but, worryingly, often it’s a total mess. It can move around at random, making it hard to make specific jumps, and during hectic situations you’ll have absolutely no idea what’s actually going on.
Other flaws aren’t as notable, but are nonetheless a problem. The quick web-zip move that lets you quickly zip to various perches and ledges is difficult to use with any form of accuracy, and often you’ll zip to a totally different location than you wish, and even web-swinging is clunky and awkward, with long delays between swings.
This is demonstrated a lot in the Spider-Man 2099 levels, where you’ll often be swinging around hundreds of feet in the air amidst towering futuristic skyscrapers.
Perhaps the most problematic issue, depending on your outlook, is the repetitive and often predictable nature of the levels. When you arrive, you’ll usually encounter your super villain of choice, and then you’ll pursue them through the level.
Many times you’ll fight this enemy, and upon defeat, they’ll then run away and get stronger for the next fight. When they’re at their strongest (after using the tablet’s power) you’ll fight their final version.
It’s all samey stuff and, to be honest, there’s little variation, save the Noir levels, and if you get bored of the same thing quickly, you’ll probably lose interest fast.
Still, even with such issues, I have to confess that I found the game to be enjoyable, if a little irritating due to the faults at times. There’s no denying the repetitive nature of the game, but the four separate dimensions do help to keep things interesting, and while the story is paper thin, it’s a good excuse to cram in a boatload of Spidey’s greatest foes.
There are some other cool little features too, such as the close up, first person melee sections that allow you to beat seven shades out of Spidey’s enemies, and many of the boss fights aren’t simple slug-fests, but instead rely on tactics and your ability to make use of Spider-Man’s various powers, as well as the environment.
Visually, the game is a huge improvement over the previous sandbox entries, which is to be expected, and the changes in visual styles between dimensions is a nifty touch.
The voice acting is also far improved. Anyone who’s played Web Of Shadows will know what I mean here. Spider-Man is his usual wise cracking self, of course, but the vocal performance and scripting is much better, and actually funny at times, and the accompanying music suits the various themes well.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a far better game than I’d expected, if still a flawed one. After Spider-Man 2 the series has been in freefall, with each subsequent release getting worse and worse. This entry has reversed that trend somewhat and, although many will, no doubt, miss the open world nature and the hypnotic web-swinging Treyarch offerings, this is a far more focused and well-rounded Spider-Man adventure, and one that you should certainly check out, whether you’re a Spider-Man fan or not.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.