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Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Men join forces.
Out of all the major comic book characters, Spider-Man has probably has the best track record in video games. There's something satisfying about playing as the webbed wall crawler, and developers have used his abilities to good effect. However, that doesn't mean that every single Spider-Man title is going to be a home run. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, is neither the worst of the worst nor the best of the best. But for a next gen Spidey game, it's not too bad.

The game opens as Spider-Man foils the plot of Mysterio as the villain tries to steal an ancient artifact in a museum. However, in doing so, the artifact breaks, and manages to shatter across all of time and space. Now it's up to not just the Amazing Spider-Man to collect the pieces, but also Ultimate Spider-Man (now featuring the symbiote suit), Spider-Man 2099, and Spider-Man Noir as well.

Splitting the game across four different Spider-Men is an inspired idea. While the basic gameplay mechanics are the same for each character, they all have their own unique mechanics that make them play differently. Amazing Spider-Man is the most straightforward, being a good balance of agility, strength, and speed. Ultimate Spider-Man is stronger, Spider-Man 2099 is faster, and Spider-Man Noir relies on stealth to take down enemies. The variety in the gameplay prevents the game from ever getting boring, even if the plot is threadbare.

The game is split into different levels, some of considerable length. Each level features a new location and a fight with a different Spider-Man villain (including Kraven, Hobgoblin, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, and so on). Since most of these take place in alternate dimensions, the appearance of the villains vary considerably. For example, Doctor Octopus appears in a Spider-Man 2099 level, and is a woman. Each level feels different, due to both the specialized gameplay mechanics and also to changes in graphics. Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man are cell-shaded, while 2099 and Noir feature more traditional 3D graphics. Personally, I was not enamored with the cell shading, and would have preferred all four designs to be in proper 3D mode.

The diversified gameplay also works to the title's advantage. Amazing is the least fun to play for a variety of reasons. For one, his voice, supplied by Neil Patrick Harris of Dr. Horrible and How I Met Your Mother fame, doesn't really fit. I kept expecting Captain Hammer to show up and upstage him. Secondly, he gets some seriously boring villains. Kraven, Juggernaut, Mysterio? Meh. And finally, he has nothing to differentiate himself from the others. He's the only Spider-Man who gets played straight, without some kind of special ability. That being said, combat is finely developed, and as you progress through the game you can unlock more advanced and powerful moves. Whether you're an up close brawler or prefer a long-range ambush, this game will accommodate you.

The other Spider-Men are considerably more fun. Ultimate Spider-Man hits harder and has a "rage meter" that fills as you wail on enemies. When unleashed, you become even more powerful, capable of taking down waves of foes all at once. He's also got the funniest lines and the most entertaining villains (including Electro and Deadpool, whose level is downright hilarious). Spider-Man 2099 features a lot of high-rise acrobatics, and he's all about speed. His levels are especially interesting for the futuristic design. He possesses an "enhanced sight" mode that slows time down, allowing you to hit more enemies at once and evade projectiles. Spider-Man Noir plays like the stealth elements of Batman: Arkham Asylum, except with the added element of light and shadow. Stay out of the light, stay hidden. Step into the light, and your enemies will make short work of you.

Each Spider-Man gets his own voice actor, and aside from Amazing, they do their jobs quite well. Ultimate always cracks wise, 2099 keeps a running dialogue, and Noir is appropriately hard-boiled. The only issue I had was that they only recorded so many quips per level, and set things so that your character says one every few seconds, regardless of context. So you hear the same wisecracks over and over throughout the level, some of which take over an hour to complete.

Adding another layer to the gameplay is the "Web of Destiny," a series of challenges that you can complete in each level to gain points to upgrade your combat powers or character stats. Acting like in-game trophies that actually affect gameplay, these challenges keep things from becoming a mindless beat 'em up, as you try and accomplish specific tasks. They also add re-playability, as it's difficult to achieve 100% the first time out. In addition, you can unlock multiple alternate costumes for each Spider-Man, so your next play through doesn't have to be the same exact thing.

A few times during the game, seemingly at random, I would encounter game breaking bugs that would force me to restart from my last checkpoint. These were few and far between, but these kind of screw-ups were too big to get past the testing phase. Shame on Activision for letting those through.

In all, while Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is not a perfect game, it does carry a satisfying Spider-Man punch to it, both in the gameplay and the writing. Heck, Stan Lee even narrates the proceedings. A more light-hearted outing than several previous titles, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is worth your time if you consider yourself a webhead. Recommended.

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