First Looks// Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Posted 8 Jun 2010 18:00 by
Activision has got into a bit of a habit, when it comes to movie-based tie-in games - particularly when it comes to Spider-Man. The last few games, while not always following the storylines of the Sam Raimi-directed action flicks, for the most part adopted the atmosphere and style of the Toby Maguire universe.

With the fourth film all gone to pot though, and the dubious quality of film-to-game productions in the first place, it's probably a good thing that Activision has decided to focus on other sources for Shattered Dimensions instead. Specifically, inspiration is being grabbed from various editions of the comic book series.

Four different comic universes will be represented in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, and two of these have already been revealed ? the classic red and blue hero from the Amazing Spider-Man series, and the black-and-white, sullen 1930s era Noir universe. I'll tell all about those in a minute, because Associate Producer Kevin Umbricht announced the third at a pre-E3 event last month.

That universe is that of the Spider-Man 2099 series of spinoff comics that only had a limited lifespan on store shelves. Its relative obscurity ? and thus, its resulting rare and cult status ? makes for an interesting twist to the game's presentation. Obviously set in the future, you play as scientist-turned-superhero Miguel O'Hara (rather than Peter Parker), who becomes the neo-Spider-Man after being bitten by a genetically enhanced spider.

Slight differences in the 2099 story means that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions can put various characters at your disposal, and as a result provide varying gameplay mechanics for each universe. O'Hara's Spider-Man suit, being ultra-futuristic and all, allows him to glide and perform all sorts of crazy acrobatics. Combat is more feral, as O'Hara comes equipped with talons that allow the player to maul opponents at close range. Of course, he can do the webby stuff too. But slashy stuff is more fun.

The short gameplay clip I saw of Spider-Man 2099's world showed a bustling futuristic backdrop ? think of a cross between Futurama and The Fifth Element when it comes to the city skies; flying cars, levitating metal girders to guide traffic, and huge lumbering skyscrapers. The colours are darker than you'd get in a more traditional Spidey yarn ? the suit consists of blood red with a dark, electric blue. Apparently that particular Spider-Man costume design is inspired by imagery from the Day of the Dead festival.

While the graphics were nothing to be sniffed at, in terms of gameplay I didn't see much besides a rather straightforward boss battle. Each universe includes three kingpins (probably even including Kingpin) from that era of Spider-Man comics, with an aim to wreck your day. The only bosses revealed so far by Umbricht include the Hobgoblin from 2099, bog-standard Goblin from Noir, and the jungle-loving Kraven from the Amazing Spider-Man.

But why are so many bad guys getting involved, you ask? Well, it has something to do with the Tablet of Order and Chaos. The story goes that this tablet was sitting there hunky-dory, minding its own business in keeping the different dimensions intact, when somehow the Amazing Spider-Man shatters it, and pieces of it gets spread across different universes. So it's up to each of the four arachni-heroes to get the pieces back ? many of which have fallen into the clutches of their respective nemeses. It's a power thing.

Besides 2099, I was treated to a brief run-through of the other two dimensions as well. The Amazing Spider-Man universe looks very pretty, channelling that traditional comic book feel with speed lines and cel-shading throughout. Spidey's main method of attack is in his web-slinging, which can give him an advantage over strong enemies and allow him to follow through with some melee kicks and punches. He's a lot more agile than his futuristic, super-suited counterpart.

Of the three universes however, the Noir series was the one that grabbed my interest the most. While the other two focused on action and close combat, this dark 1930s world gives the player the benefit of stealth. The Spider-Man of this era is fashioned from a World War I bomber helmet and a leather jacket for a Steampunk look.

With the darker tones, the hero in Noir was able to hide in the shadows of a Carnival stage, traversing across ropes and webbing enemies up without being detected. Fireworks explode in the sky, which helps glitter the landscape with sepia colour but also serves as a method of detection if Spider-Man is caught in the middle of its light radius.

Despite not being much of a comic book fan (there, I left the admission until last so you didn't get put off from reading the preview), there's a level of effort being put into Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions that's rather inspiring. I love the fact that Activision is trying new ideas and drawing from unique sources for this game.

I just hope that, when it comes to actually playing the game, it doesn't fall foul of the same pitfalls as previous Spider-Man games have. The last thing we want to see, in a game that shows so much design potential, is a brainless and linear beat-em-up.

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