Written by Administrator Monday, 25 October 2010 10:40
Reviewed Platform: Xbox 360
Spider-Man really is the ultimate super hero. He overcomes obstacles like no one else. If you reflect on his video game past, you'll realize that he's been breaking stereotypes for years now. He's one of the only super heroes out there that has starred in games that are not only playable, but enjoyable. It's a wild idea that Activision has been running with for a good while. Rather than subject fans to legacy-tarnishing nonsense such as Superman 64 or every Batman game before Arkham Asylum, Activision decided that Spider-Man games should be decent, perhaps even fun.
Over the years, the Spider-Man games have never been considered "game of the year" material, but they've rarely been insultive. That may not sound like much of a feat, but you must keep in mind that these were games based on a super hero and therefore should have been like receiving a kick to the chest on Christmas. Not only that, but many of these games were movie tie-ins, games that have a long history of being rushed and absolutely abysmal. To combine both a super hero inspired game and a movie tie-in sounds like the worst formula that man ever concocted, but fighting against the odds, Spider-Man somehow made it work, and that's why he's the best in the world at what he does.
As impressive as Spider-Man overcoming his fate of starring in awful games is, it's a bit difficult to get too jacked up for his next foray into the video game realm. All of his adventures have either been average or above average. They've never reached that top tier level. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a game that conceptually sounds like it could be very unique, but it's more like a familiar face with a new pair of glasses on.
The story is as trivial as the average monthly Spider-Man comic. It's fun and it's silly, but there's nothing of any depth. Mysterio, one of Spider-Man's many villains, breaks into a museum of sorts and steals a dimension altering tablet that houses godly powers. In a scuffle with Mysterio, Spider-Man accidentally breaks the tablet, which results in shards getting displaced in various dimensions. Spider-Man has to recover these tablets, which so conveniently always happen to fall into the hands of well-known super villains such as Kraven andHammerhead. It's a bare bones kind of story that's very tongue-in-cheek. Stan Lee's over-exaggerative narration really makes the game feel like it's been taken out of a time capsule from the 60s. It's incredibly cheesy, but you can't help but smile. Maybe this will be a turn off for some younger people, but old school fans are definitely going to love the vibe. Spider-Man is rarely a brooding kind of guy. He likes to ham it up, tell awful jokes and maybe fight a little crime in the process.
Aesthetically, this game is quite hit-and-miss. Everything is cel-shaded, but a little lazily so. The high point is definitely the character design. The various Spider-Mans'look great and capture their dimensions well, as do the plethora of head villains. The lackey's, while not the most detailed, at least have a unique look from one dimension to the next. Environment wise, the Noir dimension stands out as looking the best, perhaps because it's not something that you see every day. The cel-shaded art style is usually limited to being bright and colourful, whereas the Noir dimension is anything but. It's subtle, but absolutely beautiful and stands out as being the main reason to play this game. The other three dimensions are definitely above average in the looks department, however, they're the typical colourful cel-shaded environments that you've seen a hundred times by now; and in being so typical, their flaws are easier to pick out. To the games credit, the cel-shading may not be the best out there, but the environments hardly repeat themselves. From one level to the next, the look and feel is kept fresh.
There are about a dozen levels in the game and every single one of them ends in a boss fight. Each of these boss fights are relatively unique and plenty of fun, especially if you're a Spider-Man or Marvel fan. A big problem with this game is that almost everything else besides the boss fights in the three dimensions other than Noir feel like pure filler. If you've played a brawler before, you've played most of this game. Each level pretty much starts with Spider-Man pursuing a villain. To get to this villain and the inevitable throw-down, he needs to get through a near endless amount of lesser thugs. In some cases, you can actually just web sling around these henchmen, but there are also several times in which you'll be locked in an area and won't be able to progress until you've defeated them all. You're able to level-up and add to Spider-Man's repertoire of moves. For the first few levels, learning Spider-Man's various combos and testing them out on the lackey's can be fun, but even by the middle of the game, these encounters become an arduous task.
Although there are seemingly four unique dimensions, Noir is the only one that plays any differently than the others. In Amazing, Ultimate and Future, it feels like the same Spider-Man with a different coat of paint. InNoir, Spider-Man can't simply bulldoze his way through everyone. He has to be stealthy. For reasons glossed over in the game, the Spider-Man of the Noir dimension appears weaker than the others. He can't take very much damage and is very susceptible to bullets. Because of this, he must stick to the shadows, taking out his enemies quietly and efficiently. With the dark-art style, the emphasis on stealth and the inclusion of a super hero, it's very easy to compare the Noir portions of this game to last year's, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Spidey's time in the shadows isn't quite up to par with the aforementioned title, but it's still very satisfying. The layout of each level is fairly traditional for a stealth game. They're small, open environments with enemies scattered about. You have to keep hidden in order to avoid setting off alarms and should you trigger an alarm, you must retreat to the shadows until the scare passes. These levels don't rewrite the rules of modern day stealth gameplay, however, it's very satisfying to have Spider-Man's powers at your disposal. Replace Spider-Man with another random secret agent and these stealth levels would grow tiresome, but there's just something undeniably fun about web slinging and wrapping up the various thugs.
The Noir dimension's Spider-Man does his best Batman impression when it comes to speaking. He's upset with the world and doesn't like to smile. That actually sums up the vibe of the Noir dimension quite well. In regards to the other three, you can expect cheesy dialogue and a very jovial feel. The voice work in general is well done and fitting for each of the dimensions. It's a good thing, however, that Stan Lee decided to keep the narration of the Noir dimension to a minimum because he just wouldn't fit. The man is great when it comes to traditional comic book heroism, but dark and brooding has never been his thing. He's not about to be the special guest narrator for a Spawn game any time soon. It would be awesome as it would be quite hilarious, but not for the right reasons. "Oh, watch out, Spawninites! He just found out that his good friend has been sleeping with his wife while he's been burning in hell! This is going to get messy!"
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is the continuation of Spider-Man's long history of appearing in above-average videos games. It's far from an era-defining game, but at the same time, it's pretty much a must-play for long time Spider-Man fans. The staggering amount of boss battles, the interesting feel of the Noir dimension and the solid amount of unlockables all contribute to making it worthwhile. What hurts this game the most is that it comes off as a bit lazy and it's a shame, because it could have been so much better. If each dimension were to have been as unique as Noir, this game would have been an entirely different animal. Although it's a tad disappointing, this game is a step in the right direction for the beloved wall-crawler. The above average glass ceiling is still present, but it's not quite as sturdy as it once was.