Spider-Man’s a video game veteran. The wall-crawler’s been in interactive entertainment almost since the start of the home console phenomenon, with the most recent high point being the Spider-Man 2 movie tie-in game. That game adopted an open-world format and gave players a vibrant, virtual New York to swing through. Various Spidey games that followed have experimented with that same structure, but with diminishing results. Spidey’s console future felt uncertain after 2008’s Web of Shadows, which was fun and had great aerial combat but was way too padded. You knew there were going to be more Spidey games, but it became unclear as to whether they’d be any good.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions delivers a sharp Spider-Man experience, by varying up the feel of the game yet keeping the core gameplay mechanics relatively uniform. As previously covered, you play as four different iterations of Spider-Man in SMSD, all looking to recover a powerful artifact that’s broken into the dimensional planes. The playable characters hail from the Noir, 2099, Amazing and Ultimate universes but they all share a basic move-set–swinging, wall-crawling, hand-to-hand combat and web moves. There are certain things that only each Spidey can do, with Noir Spidey, it’s a stealth takedown, Miguel O’Hara in 2099 has freefall combat, etc.
(More on Techland: First Look at Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions)
The styles of the various worlds are nicely differentiated, and it’s not only in terms of visuals or play mechanics. The Noir levels make great use of Grand Central Station as a locale, along with Prohibition-era slang. The cutscenes even unfold differently, approximating more of a silent-movie style. The 2099 levels channel a Blade Runner influence and the Amazing levels are bright and wide-open. Ultimate Spidey’s missions looks like the world’s been polished in Photoshop, with colors that pop a little brighter than the other worlds.
In terms of gameplay, the most significant shift in Shattered Dimensions is the move away from an open-world style game chock-a-block with sidequests. Instead, the level-based design makes things move faster. The levels sport a lot of verticality–especially the 2099 ones–and the choice is agood one for a character like Spider-Man. Any Spider-Man game has to capture the joy of movement that Peter Parker’s superpowers give him and Shattered Dimensions does that. When you get in to a good rhythm of zipping from place to place, you feel fast and accurate. And the quick and inventive combos make you feel as Spider-Man would in a battle.
Certain mechanics borrow heavily from other games, namely Splinter Cell Conviction and Batman: Arkham Asylum. Spider-sense is basically like Detective Vision in Arkham Asylum and the takedowns will seem familiar to anyone who play that game, too. The visual presentation of the stealth–where color desaturates when you’re hidden–in SMSD owes a bit to Sam Fisher’s last outing. But, they’re implemented in a way that feels more Spidey than Batman or Splinter Cell, which makes the borrowing more acceptable. And SMSD features a challenge systems that pops up with secondary objectives–disarm 10 enemies, dodge 20 attacks, etc.–that will earn upgrade points for new abilities. These secondary objectives never feel like they get in the way of the main quests, though.
The tone of Shattered Dimensions is very comic-book-y, which can be good or bad, depending on how grim you want your playable superheroics to be. With an assist from Marvel editorial and Spider-writer Dan Slott , the game packs in tons of Spidey trivia and ephermera, including a cameo from Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham. But the effect of all that Spider-stuff makes the game feel a little too flip at times. Still, you’ll genuinely find yourself laughing out loud at some of the game’s lines.
Overall, Spider-Man is a very good effort from an studio that’s mostly worked on lower profile titles. It’s not without a few bugs, but it’s a leaner, more varied experience than the last few Spidey titles and delivers a lot of the charm that people expect from Marvel’s franchise wall-crawler.
Official Techland Score: 8.6 out of 10