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Trevor Wagner

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (Xbox 360) Review

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Spider-Man is a household name for most people nowadays. The webhead has had comics, cartoons, movies, and games for as long as most people can remember. As far as games go, the results have been mixed. Some aspects work well in some games, but not as well in others; but they've all been at least decently enjoyable at the time. It's time for the latest installment of Spider-Man games: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. The premise of Shattered Dimensions is that in the Amazing Spider-Man's universe, special effects guru Mysterio breaks into a museum to steal a mystical tablet, and everyone's favorite neighborhood Spider-Man shows up to save the day. In the ensuing scuffle, Spidey ends up breaking the tablet into fragments, which scatter themselves into four different dimensions of Spider-Man: The Amazing Spider-Man, which is the standard Spider-Man universe that most people know about and remember; Ultimate Spider-Man, which is an younger version of alternate reality based off of Amazing in which he still has the symbiote suit; Spider-Man Noir, which is a black and white, 1930's pulp version of Spider-Man where he acts more as a detective than a regular super hero; and last but not least, Spider-Man 2099, a future, high-tech version of Spider-Man. To sum up the premise shortly, it's up to all four Spider-Men to get the pieces of the tablet back, and keep Mysterio from collecting all of them and using their power.

The mechanics of the game are split into four different aspects, one for each universe. Unfortunately, Amazing and Ultimate are pretty much the same, with only slight differences to distinguish them. At a base level, Amazing, Ultimate and 2099 are mostly combat based, while Noir has a focus on Batman: Arkham Asylum-style take-downs and stealth. The worlds of Amazing and Ultimate Spider-Man consist of fighting a group of enemies, running down a danger filled corridor, fighting a boss, and repeating the cycle a few times, with the occasional group of civilians you have to save from environmental hazards, or in one case, a number of items to destroy. 2099 is mostly the same thing, with one or two “free-fall” sections, where you're falling, and have to dodge obstacles and attack the boss while you do so. Noir, on the other hand, is based on performing stealth take-downs, rescuing people, before fighting a boss and repeating the cycle. If you hadn't guessed it, Shattered Dimensions is a game that could easily be described as repetitive, as none of the levels really feel any different, and you can pretty much point out where the next battle will be, and what you'll be doing next. That's not necessarily a bad thing, if it's done well, but here, it just feels lazy. On a brighter note, as you defeat enemies, pick up spider emblems, and complete in game challenges, you can use the points you earn on new moves, combos, character upgrades, and alternate outfits for all 4 Spider-Men. The system is nice, just because it lets you feel like you're accomplishing something, and lets you diversify the combat, which is nice. The mechanics themselves work well enough, with the combat feeling a little looser than would be expected, but it does it's job. However, the web swinging is another story all together. Most of the time, you'll find yourself just using a web zip technique that takes you to a point rather than trying to swing, because unless you have a lot of open space, it quickly becomes unruly, and awkward to use. The other prevalent issue are the bugs – I can't count the number of times that I knocked an enemy through a wall, then had to restart because I couldn't get to him to finish a section, or the number of times the game straight up froze. There are checkpoints every few minutes, so you rarely have to replay long sections of the levels, but that's no excuse for having bugs that happen as frequently as they do.

Visually, the game shines nicely. The four different dimensions all have unique looks (though Amazing and Ultimate look a bit too similar), throughout the world and character models. Amazing and Ultimate feel like the 90's style comics most people recall of Spider-Man, while Noir is a gritty, pulp version of the wall crawler, with ideas that seem like they came from something like Sin City, not Spider-Man; 2099 is also impressive, showing off a high tech city covered in lights, holograms, and reflective metal surfaces. The models all look like they were ripped from the comics, and the world fits whichever dimension you're in perfectly. Explosions, lasers, bullets, fire, and other effects all look nice, and don't cause any noticeable lag when there's quite a bit of all of them on screen at once. The only negative thing to say about the game visually is that there are only a handful of enemy types, with the models just recycled and re-skinned. It's not that big of a deal, but for some reasons it's particularly noticeable in this game. The audio presentation of Shattered Dimensions surprised and impressed me. To start with, Stan Lee narrates the game, which is a nice touch. Beyond that, the Spider-Men all fit which universe they're in, with Amazing being cocky, and Noir speaking in a gritty, rough voice. The voice acting roles are cast well all across the board, and it really helps add to the game's credibility. The writing is also pretty good; Spider-Man's quips are fitting, and they help the game feel familiar, with the usual Spider-puns and jokes being thrown out quite often. The sound effects are fairly standard, with nothing really jumping out at you besides the voice acting. Punches sounds like punches, and grunts sounds like grunts. There were a few times when the music cut out, or Spider-Man would taunt enemies that weren't there, but it wasn't really too much of an issue.

The controls work fairly well, though they feel outdated; loose and kind of clunky, it feels like you're playing something from last generation. Running around feels fine, but when you start jumping around from platform to platform, the controls feel laggy and unresponsive. Combat works alright, though just like I mentioned earlier, it feels loose. Trying get onto walls, let alone climbing around on them, is an ordeal in and of itself. There's few things more frustrating than trying to climb onto a wall, and either climbing immediately back off, or not being able to get onto it at all. Web-swinging is a mixed bag, as sometimes it seems to work perfectly well, while other times it feels like you might as well just use the web-zip over and over to hop from point to point. The controls do their job, though not admirably, and I can't help but think that the controls could have been just fine with just a little more work put into them.

Overall, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is the perfect example of a game that's got a great premise, with some great ideas about gameplay and design, but just fails in the most crucial part – execution. The universe(s) are well designed, the story is something you'd expect from Spider-Man, and the characters are all voiced and written really well, but the gameplay is what kills the experience. The game does have some nice touches, including unlockable costumes that will make any hard-core Spider-Man fan smile, but with such lackluster gameplay, coupled with such a short length, the best I can do is suggest that if you love Spidey, rent it, but that's about it.

Trevor Wagner

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  1. SteveSawyer's Avatar
    Poor Spiderman,

    He keeps getting the short end of the deal in every form possible. The comics have been lame for a few years, the movies started on a high note, and then ended with the disaster that was Spiderman 3, and they're already getting rebooted which is a terrible sign, and then the last few spidey games have really missed the mark. Will someone please do spidey some justice?

    Honestly the best super hero game I played in recent memory was Prototype, and that wasn't a hero game at all. He ate people.

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