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Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions First Look
by Ryan Davis on
We see Spidey's pan-dimensional adventure in person for the first time.
The quality of Activision's Spider-Man games has been, let's charitably say, varied. The movie-based games suffered from pitfalls typical to movie-based games, though I'll admit to having some conditional fondness for 2008's Web of Shadows, the first game (I felt) to really nail the freewheeling chaos of Spidey's particular brand of urban traversal, which also featured some appropriately zippy combat. Coming later this year from Activision workhorse studio Beenox is Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which promises to apply some of the lessons learned from Web of Shadows, while also acknowledging several of the approaches that Marvel has taken to the web-slinger over the years.
If you've seen the first trailer for Shattered Dimensions, which dropped earlier this week, you should already have a basic understanding of the game's big hook, which hinges on leaping between different Marvel sub-universes, each with its own unique take on Spider-Man. All told you'll play as four different Spider-Men, two of which have been revealed thus far. There's Amazing Spider-Man, which is your most standard of the bunch--the vivid red-and-blue suit, the wiseacre attitude, and a telltale cel-shaded art style that nods towards his colorful comic-book roots. More intriguing is Noir Spider-Man, a grim and gritty pre-war take on the web-slinger whose darker tone makes comparisons to currently fashionable flavor of the Bat-man somewhat justified. Some information concerning preorders leaked out suggesting that Spider-Man 2099 may be one of the other Spider-Men you'll play as, though Activision isn't saying anything official either way. Either way, that still leaves a fourth Spider-Man as a mystery, though my favorite candidates at the moment are Spider-Ham and Marvel Zombies Spider-Man. Longshots both, but a man can dream, can't he?
In addition to featuring four distinctive visual styles, each Spider-Man will feature a unique voice actor, with Activision currently confirming that Christopher Daniel Barnes, the voice of Spider-Man from Fox's mid-1990s Spider-Man cartoon, will provide the pipes for Noir Spider-Man. The differences between the four heroes, though, aren't just skin-deep. You can expect a certain amount of consistency within the fundamental movement and combat systems between Spider-Men, though each will also come with a distinct combat focus. Amazing Spider-Man, for example, will focus more on web-based attacks, letting you slow down or disarm enemies with your web-shooters, as well as fabricate concussive weapons with your webbing on the fly. Noir Spider-Man will still have web-spinners for traversal purposes, though that Spider-Man will be more about stealth, sticking to the shadows and silently subduing foes from behind.
Written with an assist from Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, Shattered Dimensions' story jumps off with the destruction of a mystical artifact called the Tablet of Order and Chaos, an event that compels our four Spider-Men to work towards the same goal--hunting down the villains that have since gotten ahold of these shards and restoring order to the multiverse. The game will be presented in a three-act structure, with every act featuring a chapter that focuses on one of the four Spider-Men involved, though you'll be able to approach the chapters within each act in whatever order you desire. Specifics weren't given, but there will be some kind of persistent upgrade system that will carry between all four Spideys, affording a certain level of combat consistency.
According to Activision, the big feedback they got from Web of Shadows was that people enjoyed the boss fights, but felt like there was too much padding between those encounters. This means two things for Shattered Dimensions: gone is the open-world format--something I'm personally a little sad to see go, particularly after Web of Shadows handled it with such panache--replaced with a smaller, level-based design. It also means that you can expect a greater number of Spidey villains to pop up in the game, and during my brief demo of the game, I saw Spidey take on both Kraven the Hunter and Hammerhead--the former as Amazing Spider-Man, the latter as Noir Spider-Man. During the Kraven fight, I got to see more of the first-person combat that was shown fleetingly in that initial trailer. It's something that will be triggered automatically at a specific point during a boss encounter, and the folks at Activision weren't shy about drawing comparisons to Punch-Out!!, which makes sense based on what I saw, which was a raw, up-close, two-fisted slugfest that showed off Kraven's character model in brutal detail.
The actual content of the demo of Shattered Dimensions I received was quite rough, as should be expected from an early, work-in-progress version of a game. I'm thoroughly intrigued by the premise, and definitely saw some potential. With the game's scheduled fall 2010 release, and with both E3 and San Diego Comic-Con between now and then, it's a safe bet you'll be hearing more about Shattered Dimensions at both of those events.