Oct 03

Game Review: Spiderman Shattered Dimensions (Xbox360 & PS3)

The superhero game is a funny specimen indeed. Mostly these games are crap attempts at raping a quick buck from the public with a tie-in related to some blockbuster holiday movie. Rarely are they done well with a few shining moments of awesome like Batman : Arkham Asylum, Spider-Man 2, X-Men Origins : Wolverine and (arguably) The Darkness, but even the crap ones tend to have ONE good thing about them. Usually, everything else in the game is terrible. So anytime I hear there’s a new game with a dude in spandex running around town being all goody-two-shoes, I prepare myself for the worst.

Spiderman : Shattered Dimensions is not tied to a movie or even a comic book series but has a whole new story made for this game. Essentially, the very fabric of space time continueum has been disrupted by a Spidey bad guy called Mysterio which sends ripples through the alternate realities of Spider-Man’s world, affecting the “Amazing Spider-Man” universe, the “Ultimate Spider-Man” universe, the “Noir Spider-Man” universe and the “2099 Spider-Man” universe and your friend, Madam Web, helps the 4 different Spidermen to put things right. Confused yet? To be honest, you tend to forget the story as they tell it because it’s just boring and too complicated to remember really. But story isn’t everything, right?

Spidey : SD is a very linear beat-em-up which came as a huge surprise to me since every other Spidey game has had some sort of free roam, open world feel to it. When you are a character who is largely defined by his mode of transport (web slinging), fans tend to want that ability but at most, you’ll be using it to get over a hole that can not be jumped across. The game layout is done through a series of lengthy boss battles played out as entire levels. After completing a set of 4, another will unlock. You can’t even just pick a universe and go from start to finish which really upset me because the four different universes play so differently and have their own pros and cons.

In the “Amazing Spider-Man” universe, gameplay is very similar to the God of War/Wolverine style beat ’em up with the camera being too slow for the lightning quick attacks of the hero. More often than not, you will find yourself just button mashing to get anywhere with some working results. Using your webs as extensions, you can pound the tar out of all the bad guys relatively easily. Graphically, they’ve touched up everything with cell shading, which actually looks nice and gives rich colour to everything around but best of all, is Neil Patrick Harris as the voice of amazing spiderman. The dialogue is witty and, at times, laugh out loud so fans of the original character won’t be completely let down.

In the “Ultimate Spider-Man” universe, the game seems to switch into a more acrobatic and speedy fighting game. Strangely though, the lazy ass camera issues of the Amazing universe don’t seem to exist in this dimension. The controls feel a bit tighter and you do feel more powerful as enemies tend to die a bit quicker at your hands in this particular game mode. The voice acting is quite good here too with the same voice actors involved with the Ultimate Spider-Man game from the PS2/Gamecube days. The script for this section will make you laugh hard and generally you get the feeling that the makers do favour “Ultimate” over “Amazing”.

Okay, then there’s the “Noir universe”. Based on the new series of comics started in 2008. Set in 1933, Noir Spidey is all about stealth. No new tech gadgetry. Stay in the shadows and take your enemy down silently. Which would be great if the AI wasn’t as dumb as one shoe! You can take down a gangster in full view of everyone and no one seems to care. Accidentally step into a spotlight and suddenly everyone gets pissed off. Also, you are encouraged to use the walls and ceilings to your advantage but the controls just don’t agree. To stick to a wall, you have to push the stick towards it in conjuction with the camera. Which changes because you are moving towards the wall. Needless to say, this universe made me say bad, bad words. Stealth Spidey just doesn’t work and feels like a bad high school experiment.

I have purposely saved the best for last. I have been a big 2099 fan since I got issue #1 when I was a kid so to see a fleshed out 2099 universe almost brought a tear to my eye. This is the mode the game was made for. Everything feels right. The fighting is a bit slower, which it needed to be, the graphics are hyper real and the camera works in your favour for a change. Miguel O’Hara is not a smart alec so his lines are much more straight forward but his voice is a bit over-heroic. Overall, the 2099 levels feel so much better than the others by a long way. Makes you wonder why they didn’t just make a Spider-Man 2099 game.

So here’s yet another superhero game that just doesn’t make the cut. Crap controls and confusing mode changes make the experience so frustrating. If you have wanted to see a 2099 universe realized well, rent this game because it’s the only one we’re going to see. Unfortunately, everything else, barring the voice acting, is terrible in different ways for different reasons. Even hardcore Spidey fans would be hard pressed to find anything to make them keep this title. Things were looking up, with Web of Shadows being a step in the right direction but this just feels cheap and nasty and with the huge amount of titles coming out over the next 2 months, this one can be gratefully forgotten.

– Grant