The Spiderman series of games has faced something of an unfortunate lull in recent years. Ever since Spiderman The Movie 2 was praised for its free roaming web swinging series has been stuck in a rut of the same old recycled junk ad nauseam . Don't get me wrong, I love Spidey as much as the next man, and his web swinging is one of the coolest looking powers out there. However that alone doesn't prevent me from growing bored of swinging through a repetitive city fighting mugger after mugger after mugger and catching runaway red balloons. Thankfully Activision's Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions set out to wind back the clock to a simpler time and change all that.
The story for Shattered Dimensions is simplicity itself; and really a little cheesy when you stop to think about it. Spiderman (The Amazing One) is busy doing his rounds when he finds one of his lesser villains; Mysterio, stealing a mystical tablet from a major museum. Spiderman manages to put a stop to all this nonsense, but in the course of battle accidentally shatters the tablet into 12 equal pieces, scattering them throughout 4 different dimensions in time and space. This fortunately stops Mysterio from becoming an all powerful God, but means that unfortunately (there's always a catch) any villain finding the fragments will become instantly more powerful, and if the tablet is not reformed then all dimensions in space time will implode and everybody will die. Spiderman's ally Madame Webb is on hand to stop this madness and guide the efforts of 4 different Spidermen from each dimension to retrieve the tablet.
Obviously you have the classic Amazing Spiderman to kick everything off in his own action packed way. Then you're quickly whisked away to a possible future with the more technologically advanced Spiderman 2099. Into the 1930s prohibition era New York with the stealthier Spiderman Noir before concluding in epic style with Ultimate Spiderman.
The first thing you notice when all of this starts is just how accurate the atmosphere of the Spidey universe has been captured. Everything from the narration of Marvel scribe Stan Lee to the voice acting from Niel Patrick Harris (The Amazing Spiderman: The Animated Series 2003) creates an atmosphere of total geek heaven as you chase Kraven The Hunter through a deadly jungle for the first piece of the tablet.
Since you can't really wonder off from the set route this level also sets you up for the basic formula that the game will take. Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions is essentially a 3rd person beat-em-up where you find yourself running around using your web skills to navigate a linear environment. You essentially have to chase a bad guy who has a fragment, beat them down, then chase them some more before they activate the tablet's power and you must try to beat them down again. Between you and this final boss battle will be a wealth of enemies to fight using a variety of web based combos. However thanks to the variety of different characters on hand, and the superb level design being shown, this never feels even slightly boring. Each level is themed around the villain you're chasing. So on Sandman's level you have to push against his large hurricane form by zipping from one piece of flying debre to another, but on Deadpool's level you have to fight through hundreds of mercenaries to destroy his TV cameras and interupt his show. Plus with each different level the enemies will take on a simarly themed form, such as electric monsters vs electro or mercenaries when chasing Deadpool.
Of course The Amazing Spiderman levels manage to set the pace with all the moves you'd expect from previous Spiderman games. I honestly lost track of time as I chased bad guys like juggernaut or The Sandman (awesome level) feeling like the odds were genuinely stacked against me while I laid the smackdown on their run of the mill minions by throwing them around with my webs. Plus the superb cel shaded graphics give everything the perfect comic book look.
Then when I was zipped into the future for Spiderman 2099 I found myself in a far more realistically rendered city as the pace changed and I started jetpacking down buildings after the bad guys. With these levels though came a whole new move set as I started to slow down time and divert enemy missiles right back at them in an effort to plough through them. I'm not even a fan of the 2099 character and yet still found myself enjoying the swings across a vast futuristic cityscape in my bid to beat the evil Alchemax megacorporation to the fragments. Even the voice acting from Dan Gilvezan (Spiderman and his amazing friends 1981) managed to make Miguel O'Hara (that's the guy with the spider powers) into a likeable, funny character, worthy of the Spiderman name.
Then the move to Ultimate Spiderman kicked things into even higher gear with some of the games best levels against some of Spidey's best villains. Fortunately you don't have to face all of these threats alone as Madame Web has given this version of Spiderman temporary control of his black symbiote suite. While this could have easily been a simple graphical change to differentiate the superb looking cartoon visuals of the Ultimate World from the Amazing world, it does actually have a drastic impact on the gameplay. As you're beating down the various minions of the levels bad guy you can build up Spidey's rage meter, allowing you to unleash an insanely powerful attack. However the catch is that while you're beating enemies down in this form you need to keep your rapidly diminishing rage topped up and so you throw strategy out of the window in an all out effort to hit people before you return to the weaker teenage Peter Parker. As always the voice acting from Josh Keaton (The Spectacular Spiderman 2008; or Leisure Suite Larry LOL) manages to keep the humor of the character intact.
However the biggest variant; and the most talked about, has to be the darker world of Spiderman Noir. If you're not already familiar with the Noir character then the sudden change of pace might just catch you off guard. This is not a colorful, larger than life Peter Parker making wise cracks as he dodges bullets. This is a darker Peter Parker whose frustrations with his unjust world are driving him to vengeance. He wears a black World War 2 costume with a gas mask and sneaks around in the shadows waiting to use one of his brutal takedowns on an unsuspecting enemy. Like Batman you can't really engage armed enemies head on unless you want to die fast, so you have to plan your attacks for them to be successful. It's a lot like the stalking sections of a certain Batman game and that fact is impossible to ignore. However Spiderman Noir is also a lot like Batman, and so fits into the same mechanics easily. At the end of the day you'll either love or hate the similarities between the 2 games, but I challenge anyone not to get drawn into the dark atmosphere of chasing the nightmarish vulture while listening to the voiceover from yet another Spiderman alumni Christopher Daniel Barnes (Daredevil Vs Spiderman).
Fact is that having this change of pace ultimately worked at keeping the game fresh enough for it's relatively short run time, and the sheer wealth of unlockable combos ensured I didn't mind replaying levels to find hidden spiders. You just have to ask my wife what time I was rolling into bed if you don't believe me.
Of course this is not me claiming the game is perfect because far from it. You can't really escape the flaws of a game where every level throws a selection of 3 enemies at you hundreds of times over, or where certain sections you're not supposed to explore flash up with a 'no spider powers' sign while you're searching for extras. You can also give the usual complaint that the 3D camera can go a little wonky a little to often for comfort.
However if you can get caught up in the atmosphere of the whole thing then you'll find these flaws are nothing more than minor irritants in an otherwise fantastic game. It's definitely the best Spiderman game since the long past days of the SNES and manages to be just as good at capturing the Spiderman essence as Arkham Asylum was at capturing the Batman essence. There's more than enough web swinging throughout the linear levels without any of the superfluous trash you used to put up with. Definitely one of my favorite super hero games ever.
(this review was originally posted on epinions.com but is the first step in an attempted move over to Dooyoo.)
The graphics were good during the cutscenes but sometimes it would go to the game and i'd be wondering what just happened. the gameplay was great good fighting parts my only compliant is that they didn't really provide any strategic upgrade system becuase it was you buy an upgrade for everyone and thats great but i would love to be able to get a bit more variety for the fighting. The bosses are pretty challenging which suprised me usually I can find the bosses weakness and then within 5 minutes their done so this was a great part of it. one thing that I was wishing they had done was free roaming it would be awesome to go around town stopping criminals in whatever spider form you chose. Overall this game was like an explosion of fun at first but after the a few hours it got slightly repetitive and boring.