Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Hands-on Preview

By Xav de Matos, Aug 20, 2010 11:30am PDT Although its critical response was lukewarm, I rather enjoyed Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. After the critical flop that was Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (compared to the original) and the game based on the terrible Spider-Man 3 film, I was ready to hang up my webshooters and walk away from Peter Parker's world.

When I first saw the concept behind Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions I was cautiously optimistic. Taking Spider-Man through his multiple comic-book universes seems like a good way to keep the game fresh throughout its campaign. Although Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions -- developed by Beenox -- does away with the open-world concept, the design presents a variety of locales in which to fight crime. And each era's version of Spider-man has a new set of abilities to play with.

At Microsoft's X10 event in Toronto I had my first chance to take control of the webhead in his multiple appearances. Here, Spidey's from every "dimension" must work together to find pieces of a "shattered" tablet that have broken apart and made its way to the worlds of the Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, and Spider-Man 2099.

First, I ventured into the dark world of Spider-Man Noir. In this universe, Spider-Man is best served fighting crime from the shadows. Enemies are heavily armed and attacking the threat head-on with the Friendly Neighborhood crime figther is tantamount to suicide.

The level I was presented with was a train yard bathed in black and white. Pressing the D-Pad up activates Spider-Sense, allowing Spidey to see where enemies and friendlies are hiding throughout the level. The basis of this section was to disable all hostiles and save trapped hostages.

Spider-Man can easily webzip from pieces of geometry and watch as guards patrol the area. If enemies are directly under him, a simple button press grabs them and spins them into a cocoon. For enemies that walk around in a pre-determined path, the best way to take them out is to get behind them and set them in their own silk trap. The difference is, Spider-Man cannot use his cocoon ability in the light. Although I often fell into lighted areas where enemies spotted me, the entire level was easy enough. Once all the friendlies were saved, the lights in the yard activated and the level's main foe, Hammerhead, sent a swarm of baddies to fight me hand-to-hand.

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My demo ended before I could get into any hand-to-hand action and I walked away uncertain about Noir. Although the world looks fantastic, coupled with each universe's own stylized motion comic-style cutscenes, I worry that Noir will just resort to a series of "stealth" missions. I want more from the universe but if the crux of its existence is to slow down the action, I'm going to personally be disappointed.

The second section was Spider-Man 2099, a futuristic look at the classic character first introduced to comic readers in 1992. Here, Spidey's core mechanic is the ability to glide and slow down time. The level opens with Spider-Man in a free fall, chasing a demonic-looking Hobgoblin. Here, Spidey can dash quickly in the air toward the fleeing foe, pull him in with webs and whittle down his health. Later, the pair faceoff. As Hobgoblin throws bombs the only way to defeat him is to toss them back. Grabbing them is easy enough, another simple button press, but using the slow motion ability it's possible to grab multiple bombs and send them toward the flying adversary. At one point I fell off the platform that staged the battle; rather than immediately die, I was able to continuously press the jump button and shoot straight into the air.

The look and frantic gameplay of Spider-Man 2099 was a lot of fun, adding freshness to the Spider-Man series I haven't seen since developer Neversoft brought Spidey to the PlayStation in 2000.Although the first two sections were entertaining and very different from anything we've seen in the past, the last part of my demo went back to basics. In the Ultimate series, Spidey is outfitted with his infamous black suit -- a living simbiotic entity that feeds off his power and desires.

Sadly, this is where the demo fell off for me. During this level Carnage has broken loose from his prison at S.H.E.I.D. headquarters and unleashes a virus upon the agents, transforming them into zombies. The gameplay simply resorted to the same basic punch-punch-kick combo until the mass of enemies disappeared. Spidey's special ability in this universe is a Rage mode which can be activated to speed up his attacks. As he continues to hit enemies, his depleting "Rage Meter" builds, essentially allowing players to keep the power active as long as there are people to punch (then punch and also kick).

The Ultimate Spider-Man level ends with a battle against Carnage. Like the previous battle against Hobgoblin, there is a specific pattern at play in order to defeat the classic adversary. Once Carnage has received enough damage, a giant 'B' button appears over his head, allowing me to activate a first-person mode.

This new mode, let me use the analog sticks to dole out damage to the lethal menace. Sadly, as things were getting a little more interesting, I was told that I couldn't defeat Carnage in the demo for fear that I would spot what would happen next. My guess? Punching and kicking was involved.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is certainly unique. I'm excited to venture back to the world of Spider-Man 2099 and Noir. Ultimate and Amazing -- which I did not see -- seem too close knit based on the comic franchises to be vastly different in terms of gameplay.

All superhero games have to follow the same core mechanic: Beat-up bad guys. I get that. But I'm hoping there's more to Ultimate and Amazing to make it interesting. Hopefully the way the game splits between levels helps to maintain its overall freshness but as it stands now, I'd rather skip the sections labeled "Ultimate."

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