Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions

Last year, console gamers were alight, with a new Spiderman game, promising an interesting new take on a familiar hero.  Without a PC release in sight, it looked like we’d be left out in the cold, missing a great gaming experience.  Then, a store exclusive version appeared on shelves, without fanfare or heralding, making us wonder if this game could shake the bad aura of value-priced, store exclusive ports, and be great, or if it would get trapped in it’s own web.

The Story

At the game’s opening, Spiderman(of the red and blue, tried and true, ‘Amazing’ variety) is tracking one of his arch-enemies, Mysterio, into Manhattan’s Museum.  Mysterio has his sights set on the Tablet of Order and Chaos, but a scuffle quickly ensues, and the tablet becomes shattered into pieces.  Mysterio makes his getaway, but Spiderman is contacted by Madame Web, who quickly brings us up to speed on the consequences of breaking this mystical tome.  Breaking the tablet, has scattered it’s fragments across space and time, specifically the four dimensions of the Spiderman universes, the Amazing, the Ultimate, 2099 and the Noir.  Each Spiderman will have to find the fragments scattered to their region, and ensure that sinister hands do not get access to the limitless power the fragments behold.  Madame Web, grants each Spiderman, an augmented Spider Sense, that will help them achieve their goal, much more so then her dull as a spoon wit and helpless comments, that plague you during the game’s frustrating sections.

The Gameplay

Don't bring a web shooter to a knife fight!

As the player, you get to control each of the four Spidermen, in their quest for the fragments of the tablet.  In a departure from Web of Shadows, and an obvious embracing of the criticisms of it, Beenox has crafted a game that takes a more linear path, across the different dimensions.  You unlock waves of levels, one in each dimension, that must all be completed before unlocking the next wave.  Personally, I have always enjoyed the more linear Spiderman games, rather than being bogged down in the open world setting Spiderman has inhabited, since the game adaptation of the second movie.  On the surface, this may seem like four sides of the same picture, with a different skin.  It’s obvious that Beenox really tried, and succeeded, to make each dimension feel unique.  The Noir universe is the easiest one to set apart.  This dimension plays very similar to the stealth segments in Arkham Asylum.  Clearly outgunned, the Noir Spiderman hunts his prey from the shadows, and relies on stealth takedowns, rather than brute strength and combos.  These levels are much more strategic, and must be approached from a completely different mindset.  I’ve heard accusations that the other 3 dimensions feel like the same levels, with different aesthetics, but I question how much of the game someone making that statement actually played.  The Ultimate universe stars a more anime Peter Parker, donning a version of the black symbiote suit ,

that has been altered by Madame Web, to make sure it doesn’t overtake Peter.  These levels are much more visceral, using the suit and a rage meter to achieve an almost over the top approach to combat and combos.  The 2099 Spiderman, inhabits a universe that has seen the city run out of space, much more so than today’s cities.  The solution to that, was to build vertical, and, consequently, the 2099 levels have a much more aerial focus, integrating sequences that use that feature.  Of course, the Amazing sections of the game, are the most familiar, with the straight up combat and combos we’ve come to expect from Spiderman games of the past.  I would have liked to see the game capture the free-flow feel of Web of Shadows, within it’s combat system, but Beenox did a great job of customizing the engine for each setting. The game uses a mechanic, similar to that of Prototype, to track challenges the player can unlock, for each level.  Completing challenges earns you more experience to use for the unlocking of combos, special suits, and stat boosting attributes, like faster health regeneration or an larger health bar.  Combos purchased vary from universe specific combos, to all encompassing ones, but choose carefully!  Certain combos are not only crucial to the completion of challenges, they also help give some much needed breathing room and tactics in the games more difficult and crowded sections.

Bitten By A Virtual Radioactive Spider

I'm Batman! Oh wait....

I know that the PC port was not the primary focus, for the game.  I can appreciate that the console market can be far more lucrative, and I accept that.  Unfortunately, I spent the majority of this game feeling like I was fighting the controls, rather than the villains in the game.  Button presses were incredibly unresponsive, and made the crowded sections of the game, and the final boss battle, much more work than fun.  For example, simply trying to jump, activate the Ultimate Rage mode, Spider-Sense, or even pause the game, frequently required 3-4 presses of the button, before getting a response.  On top of that, when those button presses did register, they would stack, so a paused game would quickly revert back to the unpaused screens.  Most of the game, it was frustrating but manageable, up until the final boss battle at the game’s end.  During two of those segments, your character was incredibly outnumbered, required to maneuver  environmental hazards and attacks, in addition to the hordes of enemies, all of which necessitating a grand amount of precision.  Precision which the controls would not allow for.  I’m not the type of gamer that would shy away from a challenging game, but fighting the game engine and controls are not my idea of an effective or desired mechanic to challenge the player.  I can’t say whether this was unique to the PC version, or if the console versions suffered similar faults, but I would have loved to see a patch emerge to address some of these issues.

The Verdict

Webs by Parker, voice by NPH.

I am a huge Spiderman fan, and, despite the faults of the game, I had a great time with it and really feel as though I got my gaming dollar value from the game.  On the flipside of that, I really do think the poor controls hampered the experience.  Beenox did a fantastic job immersing the player in not just one, but four beautifully crafted environments.  They also did a great job separating those experiences from each other, and found some fantastic audio tracks and voice acting, to really bring the immersion home.  It’s just a shame to see the game trip and stumble on poorly responsive controls.  There is a ton of fan service, and definitely a draw to go back and unlock challenges and content by playing the different difficulty settings.  One of the nice perks, was that, in addition to the four suits the player could unlock in each universe, PC players got access to the Cosmic Spiderman suits, in all four dimensions, right from the start of the game.  Sadly, I’d still have to recommend experiencing the game on a console, rather than the PC.  I am really glad to hear that Beenox will be doing future Spiderman releases, and I can’t wait to see what their team has in store for ol’ webhead!  Shattered Dimensions was a great game, an interesting concept, and a lot of fun.

[starreview tpl=46 size=’30’]

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