Review: More games should steal their storylines from 1990s cartoon shows.
Back in January, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick told Game Informer that he thought all of the publisher's Spider-Man games from the last five years have "sucked." He went on to blame the failure on poor webslinging mechanics and to repeat "They are bad games."
So you'd expect Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
, the company's latest game starring the ol' webhead, to be a radical departure from everything that came before. Instead, the combat engine (and the RT-controlled webslinging controls) have been imported from 2008's Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
. And the game's storyline is heavily based on the series finale of the "Spider-Man" animated series that ran from 1994-1998.
Does that make Shattered Dimensions a bad game? Not at all (and for the record, I think Kotick was wrong about most of the recent Spider-Man games as well). In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the game is a total blast. Fans of Spider-Man will be very pleased with how it turned out.
While Shattered Dimensions feels very similar to Web of Shadows, it does make several major departures from the standard Spider-Man video game formula of the last five years. Gone is the open world New York City, and in its place is a series of self-contained (and very linear) levels that pit Spider-Man against 14 members of his rogue's gallery. The dark themes of Web of Shadows have also been pushed aside for a more lighthearted tone that includes narration by Stan Lee and a story suitable for Saturday mornings.
The story is set into motion thanks to the shattering of the Tablet of Order and Chaos. Mysterio planned to steal the mystical rock to sell on the black market, but after it's broken, the pieces are spread across space and time, attaching themselves to some familiar (and not so familiar) supervillains. These eras match up with alternate dimensions served by alternate Spider-Men including the Amazing universe, the Ultimate universe, the 2099 universe and the Noir universe. Playing as these different Spider-Men is the only way to retrieve the tablet and stop Mysterio (who can now control real
While the "shattered dimensions" concept is interesting, only the Noir levels feel like a different universe. Taking a cue from Batman: Arkham Asylum
, Spider-Man Noir dispatches foes from the shadows, and if he's seen, he must hide in the darkness before he can resume his attack. The constant start-stop of the Noir levels make them feel very repetitive, but they look great (especially the final level, where Spider-Man has to hide from a fireworks display that lights up the whole sky). I have to admit, the Noir levels made me miss the open world city webslinging the most.
More familiar (and providing more fun) will be the Amazing, Ultimate and 2099 levels. All of them feel very close to previous Spider-Man games, albeit with their own little twist. Amazing is a straight Spider-Man game while the Ultimate universe is more or less the same, but with more Black Suit. The 2099 universe includes freefall sections and a glossy futuristic sheen. The cel-shaded Amazing/Ultimate levels come off the best with an oil rig-based battle against Deadpool serving as a true high point.
As with Web of Shadows, a fluid combat system makes battles against henchman hordes within these three universes come to life. Punching enemies across the screen... Swinging away from danger to work out a hit-and-run strategy... Letting loose with the Black Suit's tendrils... Grabbing items in the environment and hurling them at a pack of goons... It's all here.
However, as with its predecessor, the boss battles are little to write home about. It's actually interesting how few of Spider-Man's familiar foes even show up. Doctor Octopus, the Green Goblin, Venom and the Lizard are all no-shows. But developer Beenox did work with Marvel to create all-new versions of Hammerhead Noir, Hobgoblin 2099 and Doc Ock 2099.
The multiple dimensions of Shattered Dimensions allow a quartet of former Spider-Men to once again don the tights of the webslinger. Neil Patrick Harris ("Spider-Man: The New Animated Series"), Christopher Daniel Barnes ("Spider-Man: The Animated Series"), Dan Gilvezan ("Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends") and Josh Keaton ("Spectacular Spider-Man") appear as the Amazing, Noir, 2099 and Ultimate Spider-Man, respectively. Harris' voice work is particularly impressive, but I would expect nothing less from The