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Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, PC, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox Studios
Release Date: Sept. 7, 2010


Wii/PS3/X360 Preview - 'Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 8, 2010 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions will allow players to travel through four different worlds as distinctly different versions of Spider-Man from four universes across Marvel lore, including The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man Noir.

In Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, a mysterious object called the Tablet of Order and Chaos has been shattered, and its destruction causes all sorts of problems with the fabric of reality. As if that weren't bad enough, the pieces of the tablet have been sent to four of the different shattered dimensions, and the only way to restore the tablet is for a hero in that dimension to find the pieces. A group of Spider-Men, one from each dimension, must work together to find the four tablets and restore reality.

The major idea behind Shattered Dimension is that there are four different Spider-Men who are trying to save the day, each with a unique set of abilities and powers. They're all Spider-Man, but that doesn't mean that they're all created equal. Each is based on a pre-existing version of the iconic character, and each play style is designed to match the respective comic book appearance. Since we have multiple Spider-Men, it also means that we have multiple villains. Each of the four dimensions has three levels, with each level built around an iconic Spider-Man villain. The villains might not be as recognizable in other dimensions, and even those with a perfect knowledge of Spider-Man should be in for some surprises.

The first dimension that we saw at E3 was Spider-Man Noir, which is a new comic series from Marvel that is a retelling of the Spider-Man story as a 1930s crime drama. It follows the story of Peter Parker, a young man who accidentally gets powers from a magic spider statue while investigating the criminal activities of a mysterious crime lord known as The Goblin. Doing what any self-respecting noir character would, he dons a makeshift outfit and begins fighting crime. The story of Spider-Man Noir isn't based entirely on the Marvel comic, and it also features new elements exclusive to the game. The first major villain that Noir goes up against is Hammerhead, a classic Spider-Man gangster villain whose most notable feature is an unbreakable metal plate in his skull. It's an ideal choice for taking on Spider-Man Noir.

The art style of Noir is like that of a Frank Miller comic, including Sin City-style visuals and a film grain filter over the gameplay. The entire thing looks like an old-fashioned movie, and the interesting art style choices really make it look like a comic book. It isn't quite cel-shading, since the way that it uses lighting wouldn't work as well.

The best way to describe Noir's gameplay would be to compare it to Batman: Arkham Asylum's Predator mode. He doesn't deal well with being shot at, and even less well with direct confrontations with multiple heavily armed enemies. Instead, a large chunk of the gameplay revolves around stealth. Color plays a very important part in the Noir levels, as the stage's color palette indicates how your character is progressing. As long as Noir is in the shadows, the color palette will be a washed-out black-and-white, and he's all but invisible to enemies. He can now take out enemies with special takedown attacks from the shadows, using his webbing to pull them close and then brutally dispatching them with a few punches. It's extremely similar to the Batman gameplay.

Darkness is Spider-Man's only protection against enemies, and it can be fleeting. If Spider-Man should step into the light and get spotted by a foe, he'll have to scurry for cover or get blown to pieces. Borrowing a bit from Splinter Cell, the game will mark Spider-Man's last-known location with a glowing red spider symbol, allowing him to sneak up behind an alerted enemy and take them by surprise if he's careful. Since Spider-Man can crawl on walls, this is easier than it sounds. However, the environment can also work against him. The amusement park level is usually dark, but every so often, fireworks would launch into the air and illuminate the entire area. If Noir is in the open when this occurs, his protective shadows are stripped away and he's left vulnerable. Noir is also pretty good at fighting guys who aren't armed with guns; he can handle larger groups, as long as he isn't dealing with bullets.

The second dimension in our demo was Amazing, which is best described as regular Spider-Man with the classic blue-and-red outfit, classic powers and classic villains. It's probably the most straightforward of the worlds, although we only got a brief glimpse. This particular sequence involves a boss fight with Kraven the Hunter, who seeks only the finest prey. Somehow, Kraven has a piece of the tablet, which grants him great powers, and the Amazing Spider-Man must fight him to regain the piece. An interesting change of pace is that this fight takes place in a jungle, far from New York City. Previous Spider-Man games have rarely traveled outside of Spider-Man's home turf, so it should be interesting to see where they go with it.

Amazing is a pretty classic Spider-Man, and his combat is heavily based around webs. He can fire balls of impact webbing at foes to damage or stun them, and unsurprisingly, he's quite agile. Despite Kraven's supernaturally improved speed, Spider-Man is more than capable of keeping up with the dastardly hunter. He can craft his webs into objects, like maces or hammers, which he uses to smash Kraven into the ground. We were told that certain elements of combat will switch over to a first-person view that plays like Punch-Out!.

The third dimension is Spider-Man 2099. Unlike the other announced worlds, Spider-Man 2099 doesn't tell the story of Peter Parker. Instead, it is set in the distant, Blade Runner-like future of the Marvel Universe; corporations have far too much power, and the world is a neon-filled, dangerous place. Miguel O'Hara, a research scientist at a corporation called Alchemax, is drugged after he tries to quit. This drug leaves him permanently addicted, and only Alchemax can supply it, so he must remain enslaved to them. Miguel's attempt to cure himself accidentally gives him amazing powers, which he uses to fight evil and corruption as the Spider-Man of the year 2099.

Although Spider-Man 2099 is still a Spider-Man, he's pretty different. He has more advanced technology and more powers, and this comes into play in his sequences. Our brief demo began with him chasing a new version of The Hobgoblin through the neon city streets. This resembled base jumping, with Spider-Man's suit allowing him to glide and chase The Hobgoblin through an on-rails segment, occasionally dashing forward to engage in hand-to-hand combat with the villain. After they land, a second part of the fight begins, where 2099 grabs the Hobgoblin's bombs and hurl them back at him. Part of this is assisted by his accelerated vision ability, which is his equivalent of Spider Sense. His super-enhanced senses let him sense fast-moving objects that normal people can't. This is represented in the game by a bullet time ability that can be activated to slow down fast-moving opponents while he remains at full speed.

Afterward, we got to see 2099 fight the corrupt security forces of the city. Unlike the other Spider-Men, 2099's fighting style is all about being up close and personal. He has claws and talons, and he's used to fighting multiple enemies at once, so he can tear through large groups of foes with ease. He also has the ability to enter a defensive stance, which lets him automatically dodge bullets from enemy attacks. We're told that all Spider-Men have a defensive stance, although some are more effective than others. Noir can't dodge bullets, while a properly prepared 2099 seemed untouchable.

The final dimension is still a mystery at the moment. We're told it will be revealed at Comic-Con later this month, but there's no clarification about what the world could be. There are some interesting tidbits for Spider-Man fans who are wondering if their favorite version will be in the game. Even if a Spider-Man doesn't get a world, there will be a huge number of bonus costumes available. At the moment, the only absolutely confirmed costumes are Iron Spider for Spider-Man 2099, which you can get by pre-ordering the game from, and the Cosmic Spider-Man outfit for all four universes, which comes with a Gamestop pre-order.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a far more structured take on the hero. The giant free-roaming New York of games like Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Web of Shadows has given way to a more structured, linear environment. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it allows for a lot more variety. The three revealed dimensions couldn't be more different, each one focusing on a different play style and different powers. Batman: Arkham Asylum is a great example of how superhero games don't need to be open world to be good, and if Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions keeps to the high standards set by Arkham Asylum, it could be the best Spider-Man game to date.

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