Spider-Man's latest video game adventure has four times the Spidey, a quartet of multi-dimensional webheads working toward a common goal. Last night, I played in two of those dimensions, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions' versions of Metal Gear and God of War.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions takes four iterations of the classic character and gives each a unique world and set of abilities. The four dimensions are the standard Amazing, the futuristic 2099, the last-century Noir and the alternate reality Ultimate.
The "Noir" and "Ultimate" Spider-men in Shattered Dimensions look and play quite differently. The former is more focused on playing stealthily in a Saboteur-like desaturated world, the latter a more action oriented beat 'em up set in a cel-shaded, brightly colored and more modern era.
Noir Spider-Man, in the first slice of a level we played at Activision's Comic-Con preview event, was set loose upon a dark and boxed-in industrial area, tasked with recovering five civilians held by a group of mobsters. While our primary goal was to free those hostages, Noir Spidey's main concern was not being spotted by any of the tommy gun-wielding bad guys.
We kept quiet by leaping from wall to wall, from railing to crate via Spider-Man's trademark web swings, trying to stay out of sight. A tap of the right trigger on the Xbox 360 controller zipped us from spot to spot, a small yellow icon indicating where web travel would take us next.
After sneaking close enough to each thug, a red ring of light surround them. A quick tap of the B button issued a complicated takedown. There appeared to be plenty of variations, on which we had no control, with Noir Spider-man issuing a variety of beatdowns, wrapping them up in webs and sticking them to walls and floors.
Noir Spider-Man could also kick into Spider-Sense mode, which let him detect enemies, hostages, power-ups and hidden items, by tapping up on the controller's digital pad. Similar in style to Batman: Arkham Asylum's "Detective Mode," it's a powerful device.
The action played well. The camera was less cooperative and quite disorienting as Noir Spider-Man sticks to any wall easily. Taking cover behind crates often meant unintentionally sticking to them and climbing up and over them. It's a handy ability, but the camera needs to be bitten by a radioactive something to improve.
After Noir, we traveled to the future of Marvel's Ultimate universe, playing as
man-made symbiote-wearing Spider-Man hunting down the symbiote-powered Carnage.
Ultimate Spider-Man pulls the camera back slightly, giving a more God of War-like perspective in which to play some God of War-like action. The punches, kicks and throws of Ultimate Spidey are powered by whipping tendrils of symbiote flesh, giving this Spider-Man more range. That's helpful, given the flood of foes that attack Spider-Man in the Ultimate dimension, enemies that include armed soldiers and massive mechanical Spider Slayers. Since the demo version of Spidey was maxed out with upgradeable powers and abilities, it was a breeze.
A few new tricks, like the ability to blind foes with a splatter of symbiote goo and the option to steal their guns with a web grab, also made tackling the hordes easier. This Spider-Man also has a "Rage" meter that builds quickly as he takes damage and deals damage. When full, flick it on with the left bumper, and Ultimate Spider-Man becomes faster and stronger. It's fun to kick it in and it appears you'll have the opportunity often.
After scrapping with a few Spider Slayers and more troops, we finally caught up with Carnage, our first boss fight and the first time I've ever played a first person Spider-Man game.
Carnage was tougher than the rank and file, that's for sure. He would attack with the occasional unblockable swipe. Fortunately, Spider-Man's trademark "Spider Sense" can predict those attacks, displayed by the squiggly tingle lines that appear above his head. We just had to hold the left trigger and tap A to do a dodge roll.
The trick to beating Carnage was to avoid his floor covering symbiote tendril attacks and, when he tried to make an escape, follow him by web swinging to high ground, then kick him into some whirring generator type thing.
After doing that three times, we tackled Carnage and Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions kicked into first-person mode. The controller's two analog sticks controlling Spider-Man's arms, we rained blow after blow onto Carnage's face, only pausing to pull back on both sticks to dodge his claw swipes. After a three round pummeling, we had the controller yanked from our hands, Activision wary of spoilers afterward.
The variety in gameplay and art styles in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was perhaps the most attractive aspect of Beenox's take on Marvel's super hero. While some of the gameplay felt familiar and even hampered by technical quirks, like that Noir camera, the fan service and solid mechanics—beating down foes felt good, web swinging did its job—should keep in any Spider-fan's radar.