Also available on: PC, Xbox 360
Genre: Action adventure
Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is back, but this time he's not alone. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions features four different versions of the web-slinger, each with their own particular visual style, gameplay flavour and cheesy wisecracks. Rather unfortunately for developer Beenox, the game comes in the wake of the hugely successful Batman: Arkham Asylum, which showed just how good superhero video games can be if all the elements are intelligently put together. Shattered Dimensions lacks Arkham Asylum's coherency and impact in its main story, while the odd design error and repetitive gameplay moment takes away some of the game's lustre. However, Shattered Dimensions is still a genuine return to form for the Spider-Man franchise and is well worth checking out for fans of the web-crawler.
The game's story sees the pantomime villain Mysterio attempting to steal the hugely powerful Tablet Of Order And Chaos to transform himself from a mere conjurer to an all powerful sorcerer. In initially foiling his efforts, Spider-Man inadvertently smashes the tablet and scatters the fragments across four different dimensions. The web-slinger must then take on four guises - Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Man 2099 - to recover the fragments before Mysterio can get his mitts on them. Each version of Spider-Man has their own visual style - from the bright, cartoony world of Amazing Spider-Man to the dark, shadowy and bleak universe of Noir Spidey - as well as their own voice actor, including Dan Gilvezan from the Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends series. The graphics are superb and Beenox has obviously lavished a great deal of attention on creating the differing worlds, along with the villains that dwell within them.
The greatest thing about Shattered Dimensions is the chance to take on a different Spider-Man villain in each chapter, including Sandman, Goblin and Juggernaut. The battles are woven really well into the levels and take place in stages, culminating in the boss being juiced-up by the power of a tablet fragment for a final blowout. Another strong aspect is that some of the villains have been tailored to their dimension, including a twisted Noir Vulture, a futuristic female Doctor Octopus and a version of Electro made up of pure electricity. There is a genuine sense of excitement in moving through the levels to tackle each boss, which is more than can be said for other Spider-Man games in recent years. The game also ends with all four Spideys being brought together really intelligently for the final battle, giving the game a fitting finale.
A big change in Shattered Dimensions compared with other Spidey games of late is that it's not based on a sprawling open-world, but rather takes a very linear path. Obviously that limits the options for the player, but the guided approach actually works really well and serves to focus attention on the fast-paced gameplay. Combat is really satisfying in each world, with different options put forward to the player, such as the skulking stealth of the Noir world and the heavy hitting of 2099. There is the usual range of bag guys to pound on, while the game also mixes up the challenge admirably to ensure that the player is kept on their toes, especially at higher difficulties.
Amazing Spider-Man plays pretty much how you would expect, including web sling attacks, extreme manoeuvrability and quick-paced combat. He also has a good range of unlockable combo moves to try out, which are all very satisfying. The other Spider-Men bring different gameplay quirks, such as the hugely destructive Rage mode as the Venom-suited Ultimate Spider-Man or Spider-Man 2099's Accelerated Vision that allows him to slow down time to evade missiles or catch shield-bearing foes unaware. The Noir Spider-Man relies on staying in the shadows and using stealth takedowns to subdue foe as his reduced strength makes head-on confrontations virtually unwinnable. The stealth system is generally satisfying but certainly far from perfect. In the already shadowy Noir world, it's sometimes hard to judge whether Spidey is hidden or not, leading to some frustrating moments getting around the twitchy guards.
Despite being written by Amazing Spider-Man scribe Dan Slott, the game's story lacks a bit of coherency and impact. Sure, a tale of four different Spider-Men chasing a fragmented tablet around the multi-verse was never going to be rooted in reality, but there are moments when the plot seems massively convoluted. Nobody was expecting Dickensian storytelling here, but the problem is that the four universes never feel knitted together particularly well. It's as though the idea of four different Spider-Men came first and the plot was shoehorned in later on. The problem is certainly not a showstopper, but it does serve to stop Shattered Dimensions from ever feeling like the definitive Spider-Man game.
The game makes a concerted effort to mix up the levels, including each dimension featuring different challenges, such as HALO jump sequences as 2099 Spidey or first-person sections in some of the boss battles. However, there is definitely a 'lather-rinse-repeat' factor about the missions, especially with the recurrent forcing of the player to rescue stricken civilians (or smash cameras as in the Deadpool oil rig level), which just gets rather tedious after a while. Another problem is the camera, which often completely fails to effectively track the action, leading to the odd frustrating moments when the player can't see where they are going or what is going on. The camera sometimes focuses wrongly on Spidey rather than where he is heading, particularly in sections where he is hanging on the roof or walls.
Shattered Dimensions is not among the guiltiest offenders for unnecessary repetition or design flaws, but its lack of a more impactful plot really serves to highlight the occasional moments of frustration. However, the game's flaws certainly do not mean that it's not a complete blast to play through. Each level also has 15 different challenges to master which unlock skill or character upgrades, as well as a range of bonus costumes, such as Iron Spider-Man or Manga Spidey. Taking into account the strong visual presentation, oodles of villains, lashings of comic book action and additional bonus content, Shattered Dimensions still works out as a web-slinger's delight.
In closing, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a real return to form for the franchise, aided by its innovate approach of having four different Spidey dimensions, each with their own particular flavour. It's perhaps unfortunate for the game that it comes in the wake of Batman: Arkham Asylum, which proved superhero licences can produce genuinely special games if the elements are put together with thought and intelligence. The visual presentation and core premise of Shattered Dimension stands up to Rocksteady's Arkham Asylum, but the lack of coherency in its plot and occasional design errors mean that the game just falls short of excellence. However, Shattered Dimensions is still the best Spider-Man game for years and well worth checking out for fans of the web-crawler.
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