Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Review
By - Richard J.
For years, developers have been trying to craft the perfect Spider-Man game. After Rocksteady unleashed the ultimate Batman game last year, tensions were growing higher for a Spider-Man game to reach critical acclaim. Beenox has now taken up the difficult task of developing that critically acclaimed Spider-Man game. Can Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions reach critical acclaim, or fall from a Manhattan sky scraper?
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions tells the story of the "Tablet of Order and Chaos" that Mysterio attempts to steal. While Spider-Man is thwarting Mysterio's plan, a scuffle between the two breaks the tablet. The broken pieces float across four different Spider-Man dimensions, leaving it up to the Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Spider-Man 2099 to recover the pieces and reform the tablet. To make things more difficult on the Spider-Men, 13 pieces have been spread across to 13 super villains. Each Spider-Man dimension receives three tablet pieces, with three super villains to defeat.
Just like any Spider-Man game, the core gameplay revolves around swinging and fighting enemies. But unlike most recent Spider-Man games, you will not be left in an open New York to find your way around. This time, you will playthrough cleverly designed levels. What Shattered Dimensions does best with these levels is give you a small bit of freedom and removes a lot of the linearity. It seems that this nice mix is the recipe for a great superhero game, and Spider-Man is no exception. So don't worry, you will still be doing a ton of web swinging, just like any Spider-Man should do. While you may enjoy web slinging, be warned. Sometimes getting Spider-Man in the correct direction, or at a certain height to reach a platform can become very frustrating. Especially when the camera is not in your favor. Players can also press A while in the air to do a web jump. These jumps work quite great, and I often found them to be the cure for frustrating web slinging. Despite these small frustrations, the pay out of being able to freely web slinging is well worth the frustration.
Most of your web swinging will be related to exploring the level to find the goal you must complete. When deep exploration is needed, a tap of the up directional button will unleash the infamous "Spider Sense". Using Spider Sense you can see through walls, and see the locations of goals and collectibles. Spider Sense has no limit, and works very well. This feature is a nice alternative to just swinging around blindly, trying to follow a radar.
As mentioned, a large portion of the exploration in Shattered Dimensions involves collectibles. The only collectibles in Shattered Dimensions are "Spider Emblems" and hidden spiders that are spread throughout the levels. Spider Emblems serve as a collectible and also replenish a bit of health. If you need more health, rarer gold emblems are also spread throughout levels. However, these emblems are usually easier to find. For those who feel that Spider Emblems are too easy to find, there are super rare hidden spiders spread throughout the levels. Compared to Spider Emblems, the hidden spiders are in much shorter supply.
Where the gameplay really starts to break up between dimensions is in the combat. Each dimension follows the core combat mechanics, but are different enough to fit with the different dimensions. Every Spider-Man has the ability to do two different attacks using the "X" and "Y" buttons, and are able to pull themselves towards an enemy with some web by pushing "B". For defense, every Spider-Man can jump out of the way, and also pull off some special maneuvers to dodge incoming attacks. Things change up when it comes to each Spider-Man's special ability. The Amazing Spider-Man is the only one exempt from this. Spider-Man Noir has the ability re-gain health quickly, Spider-Man 2099 can entered altered reality where everything slows down, and Ultimate Spider-Man can unleash the symbiote in his suit for extra attack power. Both 2099 and Noire's abilities have gauges which must be filled in order to unleash.
The combat really gets different when you break away from the core gameplay, and get to the meat of it. Each Spider-Man has some great gameplay styles that are similar between them, but different enough to be refreshing. The Amazing Spider-Man focuses on web combat, by using web hammers and other web abilities. Spider-Man Noir takes a stealth approach to combat. In each level, the majority of your time as Spider-Man Noir will be spent in the shadows, awaiting the perfect time to tap the "B" button and unleash a "Silent Take-Down". If Spider-Man Noir is detected in the light, he will be shot at and his health will deteriorate quickly until he goes back into the shadows. Ultimate Spider-Man uses the powers of his Symbiote suit to unleash devastating attacks. Thanks to the symbiote suit, Ultimate Spider-Man is easily the strongest of the four when it comes to melee combat. Finally, Spider-Man 2099 is very acrobatic. He flips and flops around the screen while dodging attacks and taking out enemies. Thanks to his acclerated vision, Spider-Man 2099 can dip and dodge around tracking missles.
Ultimately, the combat works great. Everything is quite easy to pull off and fluid. Most of the problems come down to slight bugs and disadvantages. First off, combat with The Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man are nearly perfect; there are nothing wrong with them. A few frustrations come from Spider-Man 2099, especially when there are a large amount of enemies, and he becomes easily overwhelmed. His lack of combat ability and increased acrobatics make it frustrating as there should be less enemies, with more constant and difficult long-ranged attacks. Unfortunately, the worst combat comes from Spider-Man Noir. The premise is great, but the execution isn't so much. As I mentioned earlier, the goal is to hide in the shadows until the "B" button flashes on the screen and tells you to tap it in order to unleash a slient takedown. The problem is that you have to wait for the game to tell you to do it. That means if you have a great spot in the shadows, but the game doesn't think so, you are left waiting until you find the perfect spot. This gets even more frustrating when you accidentally walk into the light, and a guard notices you from behind. Apparently people had eyes in the back of their heads in the 1950's. Apart from this frustration, a few times the game forces Spider-Man Noir to engage in melee combat without using the shadows. It becomes a huge pain because although Spider-Man Noir's health regenerates quickly, it also deteriorates quickly. I don't understand why they didn't just stick to the same gameplay mechanics throughout Spider-Man Noir's levels, instead of trying to horribly tie melee combat into it.
There is one more gameplay mechanic that is quite prominent in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. This is a first person mode that appears more often than expected. Usually appearing in boss battles, players use the left and right analog sticks to punch the bosses when face-to-face. Also, when the boss swings back, players must quickly push down the left and right analog sticks to avoid the attacks. This works a lot better than I thought it would, but it is not without its fair share of problems. For some reason in one boss fight, pushing down the analog sticks to avoid attacks only worked about 40% of the time. Before and after this boss battle though, the analog sticks worked perfectly.
Despite the fun gameplay that I thoroughly enjoy, there is one huge problem that ruined my opinion of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. It comes down to each level following nearly the exact same structure and feeling excruciatingly repetitive. The majority of levels follow either of these two templates:
"Fight a few groups of designated minions for the level/achieve a goal, fight the boss in a mini battle, fight a few more groups of enemies/achieve a few more goals, fight a second mini boss battle, fight the boss in his final form in order to gain the tablet piece."
"Fight the boss in a mini battle, fight a few groups of designated minions for the level/achieve a goal, fight the boss in a second mini battle, fight a few more groups of designated minions for the level/achieve a goal, fight the boss in his final form in order to gain the tablet piece."
While these levels are great at first, you quickly become used to this routine and get bored. I really wish that the levels had a been a little more varied to keep interest. If they had done this, Shattered Dimensions easily would have been the greatest Spider-Mangame in my opinion. Unfortunately it misses the mark by just that little bit, and Neversoft's 2000 PS1 game "Spider-Man" remains my top Spider-Man game.
Graphics in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions are really good. The CG cutscenes are top of the line and beautiful to see in action. Once you get down to the gameplay, the graphics take a bit of a hit, but still look nice. They go for a cell-shaded look which doesn't look as good as most new games, but keeps it looking unique. Best of all, even with a great increase in enemies on-screen, Shattered Dimensions never has any graphical faults or slow down. So while the graphics may not be the greatest, it is a nice pay off for absolutely no graphical hitches.
Sound wise, Shattered Dimensions once again hits it high. The voice acting is easily some of the best I've heard from a game this year. Stan Lee takes his regular seat as the narrator for the game, and sounds as great as ever. Each Spider-Man and villain has a great voice actor that you can tell is excited to do what they are doing. They nail the voices and the emotions perfectly. Shattered Dimensions doesn't feature a memorable soundtrack -- or much of a soundtrack for that matter -- but that is unimportant when the voice acting is up to such a high caliber. The dialog is once again top notch, filled with light hearted, funny, and entertaining quips from the different Spider-Men and villains.
Shattered Dimensions gets a bit shaky when it comes to its replay value. After beating each level, it becomes unlocked for multiple playthroughs. You can select between three difficulties: easy, medium, and hard. Also, you are ranked with medals on your combo scores for the level, emblems collected, and time taken to complete the level. The three medals are of course bronze, silver, and gold. If that isn't enough, Shattered Dimensions also features a bonus gallery for all unlockables. Completing certain levels on certain difficulties determines what unlockables you get, such as special images or costumes for the different Spider-Men. The big downfall to the replay value in Shattered Dimensions is the complete lack of multiplayer. This isn't a huge problem, but I feel that a game like Shattered Dimensions could have done multiplayer well.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a great game with a few faults. Nearly everything about it is done well, but the repetitiveness of the levels becomes incredibly boring and nearly ruins the entire game. If the gameplay had been a bit more varied, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions would have easily been the best superhero game of the year. While it still might take that crown, it won't be quite as easy. If you are a huge Spider-Man fan, I easily recommend the game for the experience and the villains alone. If you aren't so much of a Spider-Man fan, I still recommend you go for the game, but at a reduced price.
- Great story
- Excellent gameplay with only a few hitches
- Beautiful cutscenes and unique graphics
- Fantastic voice acting and audio
- Some faults in the gameplay
- Horribly repetitive levels
- Graphics could be improved
- Moderate replay value, with a lack of multiplayer