Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Review
With the resurgence of comic book movies around a decade ago, we've seen some great efforts to tie in video games with them. From Raven Software's Marvel: Ultimate Alliance series to the fantastic Batman: Arkham Asylum to Activision's many attempts to give people a fun, exciting Spider-Man to play, there are a lot of options for fans of both comics and video games. Activision's latest effort is Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, a reality-bending, genre-crossing action game that arguably is the best game yet in the series.
You'll start off as the standard Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker in the red and blue suit. When villain Mysterio tries to steal some ancient, mystical tablet and Spidey catches him in the act, a fight breaks out and the tablet is shattered into pieces. Now, the shards are spread across four different Spider-Man-laden dimensions, and you'll play through thirteen missions (each lasting around an hour) that feature one of four versions of our web-throwing hero. Your goal is to put the tablet back together, but the villains that Spidey has seen many times before are also drawn to the tablet pieces, too.
The four dimensions all look and feel very different, and each version of Spidey has similar basic attacks and powers (like web swinging and wall crawling), but each is significantly different in how you play - and finding hidden objects and unlocking powers will make each version of our hero that much more unique.
There's Noir Spider-Man, where you rely on hiding in the shadows and taking people out through stealth to win - his playground is a gray, washed out nighttime world filled with 1940s gangsters and crooks. Ultimate Spider-Man puts him in the black corruption-infested suit, sending tendrils everywhere with super-powerful attacks. These levels have tons of enemies and you'll have to manage your Rage meter and unleash its power at the right time to take out enemies. There's the classic Amazing Spider-Man which takes place in a cel-shaded New York City right out of the comics, and he uses his webs to create "weapons" to hit people with in combos and makes use of his athleticism and blinding attacks to fend off attackers. Finally, there's Spider-Man 2099, which is not Peter Parker, but a new guy who's just learning his new claw-based, martial arts-inspired Spidey powers amongst the rooftops and high-up walkways of an NYC with super-high skyscrapers.
Throughout all this, you'll be fighting specific, well-fleshed-out villains in each mission. Each chapter has one level for each of the four Spider-Man dimensions, and in each one you'll be tracking a particular villain who Spidey banters with throughout the whole level. There's a lot of interesting gameplay here, where you'll see from the villain's perspective through a sniper scope (Battletoads reference, am I right?) or be forced to save civilians while staying in the shadows as Noir Spider-Man. Throughout all of this, you're finding hidden stuff and getting huge combos to earn points and upgrade powers, some of which work for all versions of Spider-Man, some of which are only for a specific one.
What I enjoy most about Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is that the whole story stems from his conflicts with classic Marvel villains like Juggernaut and Carnage, and the developers at Canadian studio Beenox didn't try to throw a kitchen sink worth of Marvel characters at this game like what was done with the previous one, Web of Shadows. Here, you've got simple, interesting matchups and lots of fun dialogue and trash talk between the four heroes and their nemeses, plus a ton of evil henchmen to fight in a fun combat system that eases you into advanced techniques.
I spent most of my time playing the Xbox 360 version of the game, but I got a chance to play the PS3 and Wii versions as well. The PS3 version seemed to have an unlocked frame rate that allowed the game to often close in on 60fps (while the 360 version seemed locked at something in the 30s), but the PS3 port would still dip down into the low 30s fairly often. The 360 version also seemed to have slightly better lighting, so if you want mildly better graphics and a stable frame rate, that's the version to get; if you want frame rate at any cost, the PS3 version might be best. The Wii version is the exact same game you see on the other consoles, but it's got a few basic Wii-waggling controls and some general adaptations to the Wiimote/Nunchuk control scheme. If you're used to playing action games on the Wii already, then you'll be fine; for the rest of us, well, I kind of wish there was an option to plug in my Classic Controller to play it with a standard 360-style control setup.
While this isn't going down in history as a revolution in comic book video games - there are few that even could - I feel that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is the best Spidey game to date. It keeps things fresh with the four versions of our hero, but doesn't confuse people with entirely different move sets or control schemes. The bosses and villains you fight are interesting and have some real personality due to some great voice acting, and the four Spideys are voiced very well, too. While this doesn't quite have the shotgun approach to mixing in as many Marvel characters as possible, the gameplay is much better than in past games and the classic conflicts shine through better. Even if you're not a huge comic book or Spider-Man fan, you could do a hell of a lot worse than to grab Shattered Dimensions and play through it before the "real" fall season of game releases starts.