Spider-Man. Oh, Spider-Man. He does, you know, whatever a spider can. Except that bit about getting stuck in baths, presumably. And all that old wives stuff about being averse to a conker.
He also does a bit more, of course. As far as I’m aware, no garden insect has, as yet, had a number of cartoon series and video games based on their activities. Mind you, given the quality of some of those, it’s not necessarily a good thing.
Anyway, after months of speculation, sneaky demos and a brief hands-on preview, the full game hits the shelves. On the one hand, this is exciting because some of the Spidey games have been excellent. Others however – and yes I mean you, boring, repetitive Web of Shadows – have been, er, boring and repetitive.
Fortunately, all involved seem to have thrown their hands up to admit Web of Shadows wasn’t good enough and it was back to the drawing board for Shattered Dimensions. We can now declare that, while it isn’t the absolutely perfect experience we were hoping for deep down, this reboot contains more than enough to give the wisecracking web-slinger another shot.
The biggest change is, as you know, the variety. Instead of one Spider-Man to play with (or one-and-a-bit if you include the symbiote suit) there are four. Or, er, four-and-a-bit if you include the symbiote suit. We’ve already mentioned these but, just to recap... There’s the traditional Amazing Spider-Man. There’s the symbiote-suited Ultimate Spider-Man. There’s the 1930's monochrome stylings of Noir Spider-Man. Rounding it all off is Spider-Man 2099.
According to people who know such things, all of the Spider-Men here come from “proper”, fan-boy approved comic incarnations of Spidey. All I know is that they look spectacular. The Noir sections are moody and magnificent, and Ultimate and Amazing – particularly the latter – feel like you’re playing with an animated comic book. By contrast, 2099 is slickly done, highly impressive but a bit of a disappointment. Trust me: that says more about the visual qualities of the other three designs than it does about 2099.
Each Spidey has a different skill set too. Amazing is the old school web-slinger and fighter. Noir exploits the monochrome for its stealth-heavy lurking and sneaky takedowns from the shadows. Ultimate’s suit gives you the tentacle, frenzied attacks of “Rage” mode while 2099's adapted suit (and futuristic architecture) allows controlled freefalling, which manifests itself as gravity-induced chases.
What’s particularly satisfying given the likely individual preferences for the different eras, the game structure isn’t of the straightforwardly linear “complete Amazing, move on to Noir” style. Instead, each variation rolls around in turn (or, after you’ve put away the first villains, as a slab of four missions allowing you to choose the order). This is a canny device, as it makes the game play appear more varied than it actually is. It also helps hide the fact that the story is a little basic. The Tablet of Order and Chaos is broken! The shattered pieces have drifted through time! You must find them! Oh and they’ve ALL been found by villains from Spidey's history... Man, what are the chances of that eh?
The free roaming aspect of previous games is replaced with purely linear action which would be a shame if this wasn't so lovely to look at – the cut scenes are often stunning - and wasn't offering quite so much to the devoted fans, from the adherence to recognised universes to the roster of bad guys present: Hammerhead, Sandman, Electro, Vulture, Kraven and assorted Goblin variants to na,e but a few.
The notion of side challenges is also present within the confines of the game’s linear progression. These are accessible through a web – funny that – and cover some fun bits and pieces, from collecting the spider emblems throughout the levels to disarming bad guys, completing so many stealth takedowns in a row, etc.
There are other positives too. The script, while inevitably repetitive, is often laugh out loud funny. There’s a raft of unlockable content. The voice work, all by actors who’ve played Spider-Man in various cartoon outings, is excellent. Game play throws in some variety: the occasional moments of first person fisticuffs is a particularly pleasing addition.
But, as you’ve probably guessed, there’s a “but” coming. While the good bits are very good, the frustrations seem so... avoidable. There are camera issues which make the controls highly confusing. This is particularly evident while ceiling-crawling in the Noir level, where the camera whirling and control switching makes it really bloody tricky to move in the direction you want. Fights, while fun and potentially involving all sorts of unlockable combos, will generally come down to so much button-bashing. Certain boss fights, while lengthy, are actually a little too easy. Also – and I stress this may just be my copy as others haven't reported such issues – I suffered some random freezes and a hugely annoying partial load in the final showdown with Electro which randomly sorted itself on the 14th attempt. Insert your own Spider-Man / buggy gag here.
- Lovely graphics
- Varied gameplay
- Lengthy and stuffed with content
- Avoidable camera issues
- Fights generally sorted with frantic button action
- The inevitable repetition
The Short Version: Overall, Shattered Dimensions is a very decent title if not the absolute classic we hoped for. Definitely worth a look.