After hitting some amazing highs in the videogame industry with the likes of Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man, everyone’s favorite web-slinger suffered some crushing lows in recent years with titles Spider-Man: Web of Shadows and Spider-Man 3. This pretty much dimmed the hopes of fans in recent years, convincing many that we wouldn’t be seeing a good Spider-Man game anytime soon. Now, looking to turn all of that around, Activision Publishing, Inc and Marvel Entertainment has released the video game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions to the masses. Featuring four different Spider-Men, is this game fans have been waiting years for? Does it shatter all expectations? Well, swing past the synopsis for more!
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, the latest video game adventure starring everyone’s favorite web-slinger, may feature Spidey’s most ambitious battle to date! An artifact known as the “Tablet of Order and Chaos” is shattered into pieces during a skirmish between Spider-Man and Mysterio, causing problems with multiple Marvel Universe realities. Madame Web calls on four versions of Spider-Man from four realities to assist her in bringing the realities back into balance: the Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir (a 1930s version of Spider-Man), Spider-Man 2099 (the Spider-Man of a possible future), and a symbiote-bonded Ultimate Spider-Man. The Spider-Men are informed that villains in their respective universes have received enhanced powers due to the fragments of the tablet in their possession. Each villain possessing a fragment is granted power to accomplish what they desire most: defeating the Spider-Man of their respective universe. Experience the adventure in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.
Before I go any further, let me just say that Spider-Man fans can breathe easy. To be blunt, this is a good Spider-Man game. The best to come along in sometime, actually. And, as a Spider-Man fan myself, it’s nice to see a bit of a twist on the standard Spidey game, forgoing the open world aspect (which honestly did need a bit a break after the last few clunkers) in lieu of a more straightforward and defined sense of gameplay.
As the synopsis above says, four different Spider-Men are seeking out pieces of a mystical tablet to save the world. That’s all you need to know, honestly. It’s a basic set-up that allows us to watch four very cool interpretations of Marvel’s best character tussle with a host of thugs and big-name baddies. As you know, you duke it out as Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099 and Spider-Man Noir, all four characters having their own unique worlds to explore (to an extent) and do battle within. All have their own strengths and weaknesses. In fact, at times it seems as though some of the levels are taken from completely different games, so disenfranchised from each other until they start patch themselves together nicely toward the end of the game.
For these different levels you’ll need to use (naturally) different approaches, like in the Spider-Man Noir world you’ll need to be stealthy but in the Ultimate Spider-Man world you can just cut loose. It’s a great way to get some variety into a game that can get very repetitive very quickly. In fact, even with the variety some repetitiveness does kick in, given the levels usually tend to follow the same general set-up with different coats of paint, but it’s no different than any other regular action title. That being said, I rarely found the different levels tedious or frustrating, and while I can’t really pick a favorite all four worlds have their own pros and cons and they all look pretty amazing.
In terms of controlling our four excellent heroes, Activison managed to hit plenty of positives here. The controls were quite responsive and are never an issue. If I needed to web-swing, it was a cinch to do. It’ll take a couple tries to get it right, but I found the learning curve to be pretty quick. Needed to whale on someone? Done and done without any fumbling or extraneous button-mashing. Everything worked well on that regards, and there is plenty of battles to be had and won, making the overall experience a positive one. Even the first-person punching scenes, which are basically quick-time events, are pretty neat.
Just to quickly expand upon that last paragraph, the foes you’ll be fighting against is pretty impressive. The line-up of bad guys, a mix of classic Spidey baddies with a few newbies and revamped villains, is really pretty impressive. They’re always instantly recognizable, even some of the “new” villains, and they clash perfectly with our webbed hero. A few are even a good callback to some of the more classic Spider-Man tales from the 1980s.
Generally, there’s a great amount of freedom here in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Sure, it’s not an open-world game like previous Spider-Man titles, but that works well here. I found I was still able to satisfyingly explore each level to my content, peaking into corners to find hidden Spider Emblems and extras here and there. I didn’t miss the sandbox approach to the game, to be honest. Once the game got going, it really does suck you in. You can web-swing, jump, and pretty run and hop all around to explore. There’s plenty to explore, so I think those upset this isn’t an open-world title will be satisfied with what they find here. It just feels like a Spider-Man game.
However, what I did have issues with in this game is the camera, especially in the Noir levels. I found myself, particularly during the odd boss battle, the camera would make it difficult to track where my opponent was, resulting in me taking a few unexpected hits (until I got used to it). However, in the Noir levels, which requires plenty of wall-crawling and web-slinging from time to time, the camera can really get aggravating, sometimes to the point where you have to just hope you’re jumping or moving in the right direction, etc, and not into gunfire. While I found Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions to be a fun game, the odd camera hiccup can get a bit frustrating, but it passes. Also, be wary of the odd bug. You may stumble upon them on occasion, the worst of which I’ve found will cause you to restart the game from the last saved checkpoint.
And, in all honesty, the buggy camera is the only real problem with the game. And it’s only really a major issue with the Spider-Man Noir levels, and is pretty fine the rest of the game except for the odd hiccup. The rest of the game is pretty darn exciting and fun, but I’m a Spider-Man fan going way back, so that may be my bias sneaking in (as I said before).
And this game really does evoke the feel and the sense of the comics. A fan of the Spider-Man Noir comics? It’s perfectly reproduced here. What about the regular Spider-Man books, or the Ultimate line, or the beloved Spider-Man 2099 comics from the 1990s? Well, they’re all here and the attention to detail, bringing these comics alive, is very admirable and impressive. The Amazing Spider-Man levels have a cel-shaded look that make it look as though Dan Slott’s latest Spider-man comic script has sparked to animated life. It’s easy to tell that crew at Activision spent plenty of time slaving over countless Spider-Man comics, pulling out everything possible to make sure fans are left feeling fulfilled after playing each level.
On top of the design, the writing also brings the characters to life. Jokes come fast and furious here, with each Spider-Man bubbling over with personality. The jokes and banter feel authentic and true to each different Spider-Man, and will definitely elicit laughs from the audience. Naturally, the Amazing Spider-Man gets the lion share of the quips. Some of the jokes even feature nice nods to classic Marvel continuity and tales new and old.
What really gives this game an air of authenticity, and a sense that Activision and Marvel are really trying to re-establish Spider-Man as a viable video game franchise, is the incredible level of voice talent present in the game. We get a host of note-worthy and high-level voice artists giving life to our Spider-Men, plus the bad guys themselves get a good shake as well. You got Neil Patrick Harris, Josh Keaton, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Dan Gilvezan (as our four Spider-Men), Nolan North, Steve Blum, John DiMaggio, Jim Cummings and, lord, the list goes on and on. Even Stan Lee makes an appearance! This list is easily on par with any recent Marvel or DC Comics animated series. And, in all honesty, this voice cast does help in make this game feel like an established game that should be taken seriously as part of Spider-Man’s overall story. Not just a disposable entry, but one worth noting. It just feels like a Spider-Man story through and through. Heck, this game would make one heckuva great DTV feature!
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is the best Spidey to come along since Ultimate Spider-Man. The graphics are excellent, the voice work is top-notch, and it’s an easy game to pick up and play. While the camera may cause some problems on occasion, specifically for the Spider-Man Noir levels, and some could find the game repetitive, it’s a very positive gaming experience from start to finish. It’s a game that kind of gets under your skin, but in a good way. It sticks with you and you can’t help but get sucked in with it. The four different dimensions, and a plethora of bonuses and challenges, add plenty of incentive to come back, as does the easy fun gameplay and the multitude of challenges.
Definitely a fun trip, fans should definitely give Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions a chance. It’s no Ultimate Spider-Man, but it never tries to be. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions sets off to be its own thing and pretty much succeeds. It’s not perfect, as the game has a flaw or two, but it’s still an excellent game that fans should love. I have a feeling that many will definitely be surprised by what they find. It’s a top-notch game that’s worth checking out, even for a quick weekend rental, but I believe there’s plenty here that makes it worth a purchase. Recommended.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is now available for the PS3, XBox360, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS. The PS3 edition of this title was provided for review by Activision Publishing, Inc. Further media for this title can be found at Marvel Animation Age.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Video Game Talkback (Spoilers)