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Friday, September 10, 2010

Swing into video game Spidey heaven with Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions!

Timzster's back, and he's gotten something awfully good to review from the video game department!

Sensational. Spectacular. AMAZING.

These words are famously paired and associated with Marvel Comics' flagship character and web-slinging superhero, Spider-Man. As it goes, everyone's friendly neighborhood wallcrawler has dedicated his life to using his powers responsibly by defending his fellow man from just about every little freak and evildoer out to terrorize society. His feats of strength, agility, and heroism have inspired and awed readers over the years, and more than once, the character has sprang over to several other mediums like movies and games where fans can see first hand how savvy a guy with radioactive spider powers can be when he goes toe to toe with the bad guys. Yes, Spider-Man is a hero and popculture icon throughout the entire world, and he continues to see publication and exposure to this very day.

All that being said, it should come as no surprise that ol' webhead has a new game out in the market today... and it's not an ordinary one at that. Oh no, this is a Spider-Man game that not only stars the main guy we all know and love, but his alternate reality counterparts as well! We're talking about 3 other Spider-Men from different worlds and universes, and some of these guys have their own cult following that's as large as the original's! They're not some mere palette swap colored freaks thrown in for variation. The three have their own distinct personalities and wit to share, and in fact one of them isn't even another Peter Parker! More explanations to that come as we progress with this review, but for now, here's a taste of the good stuff with the launch trailer to SPIDER-MAN: SHATTERED DIMENSIONS.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Launch Trailer

Looking good, noh? I've been enjoying this game too much, and as of this writing, I'm still playing and unlocking stuff as I go with things! Yes, it's been quite a wait, but finally, Activision's newest and latest attempt at making the definite Spider-Man game has come to pass... and it's pretty damn good to boot! I kid you not, true believers, this is the real deal here, and it's an experience no diehard Spider-Man fan should miss!
From the get go, Shattered Dimensions looks like your typical Spider-Man free roam adventure game at first glance, but the truth of the matter is that it's far from that. Rather, it's a linear mission-based action and beat 'em up game filled with gameplay elements unique to each of the Spider-Men featured in this game. For instance, our original "Amazing" Spidey specializes in agility and technique, while his Ultimate counterpart is endowed with the Symbiote costume, focusing on raw power and might in his adventure. Spider-Man 2099's heightened abilities give him the speed and prowess needed to combat evil forces in the future, while Spider-Man Noir relies on the shadows to keep him concealed from enemy sight and on the edge to deliver a powerful stealth attack. So in effect, while there are basic combat skills that apply to all, each Spider-Man nevertheless plays differently from the other. It's a stunning change, but a brilliant concept for a game that tries to mix things up and deliver a solid Spider-Man experience all around.

As far as story goes, it's pretty simple - Spider-Man has a tussle with his old archnemesis Mysterio in the museum, when the latter tries to steal an ancient tablet that will supposedly grant him immense power. When said artifact gets damage during the fight, the pieces scatter into different realities, causing a disturbance that will spell the end of the multiverses. Madame Web, a powerful telepath and trusted ally of Spider-Man, then appears before the wall crawler to warn him of the implications, and sends him swinging to retrieve the pieces, with the help and cooperation of three other Spider-Men from different realities as well. It's at this point the player takes control and gets a refresher course on controlling each webhead and his abilities.

The gameplay is pretty standard and simple for an action game. Spidey swings, jumps, fires web, and beats his opponents to a pulp using the moves at his disposal. A combination of punches, kicks, and timed web attacks is useful, but more abilities become available as you progress, with signature abilities like the "Spider-Sense" applied and put to good use through the game. As mentioned earlier, there will be unique abilities specific to a certain Spider-Man, like 2099 having the "Slow Mo" effect that allows him to move past enemy fire while everything slows down.

Spider-Man and his counterparts do differ and vary with their playstyles, but they do share a common general movelist, which can be upgraded as the player progresses and earns points by collecting emblems, beating bad guys, and acquiring trophies. These points are used to purchase new moves, some unique and most shared, in order to better Spider-Man/s arsenal. There will be moments when the game shifts into first person view mode, but it usually only happens in key moments like boss battles, where a short mini-game is prompted to get the hero out of a fix. Overall, the learning curve isn't too hard to grasp, and after the initial tutorial, you'll be swinging like crazy to get your Spidey fix.

What can I say about Graphics? Fantastic. The finest blend of CG and Cel-Shaded a game of this type has ever seen, and it comes flying straight in your face like a sucker punch from a web-spun Spider-Fist! The visuals are gorgeous and look very comic like, and they'll keep looking pretty as you mesmerize yourself with every detail and scenery the game has to offer - past, present, and future. In fact, the 2099 reality has to look the most stunning of them all, with all of the neon color lights and monitors flipping around as you swing by the city. I also like the Noir domain, and the dark gangster setting kind of gives a Batman-esque feel to his scenario. Of course, if you want old school or modern, you can always go Amazing of Ultimate, and both are brimming with the standard Spidey that many are accustomed to.

You can't go wrong with production values like these, and to top it off, the musical score is excellent and the voice acting is fantastic. In fact, the latter selection is so exceptional, since Marvel and Activision have gone the extra mile and hired professional voice acting legends who have voiced Spider-Man before! I'm talking about none other than Neil Patrick Harris, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Dan Gilverzan, and Josh Keaton! Nei, who's famouly known for playing the title character of Doogie Howser MD, reprises his role as Spider-Man from the 3D Spider-Man animated series, (based on the 2002 Movie) lending his wily talents once more to voice the Amazing Spider-Man! Josh Keaton, whose credentials include voicing a young Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, has voiced Peter Parker and his alter ego before in the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series. Now, he returns to a similar role by voicing the modern and hip Ultimate Spider-Man! As for actor Christopher Daniel Barnes, he's probably best known for voicing Spider-Man in the 1994 animated TV series. It was one of the longest superhero cartoon series ever, and now he returns to voice an incarnation of the character in the form of the Noir Spider-Man! Finally, we have Dan Gilverzan, and this legendary actor needs know formal introductions. He has voiced Peter Parker in the classic "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends" series, but he's probably best known for providing the voice of Bumblebee in the original Transformers cartoons in the 80's! Now, he lends his iconic talents to a web headed role once more, by emerging as the voice of Spider-Man 2099! That's an A-List cast you got there, and with Stan "The Man" Lee on board as narrator, everything is truly Excelsior!

Without a doubt, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a Spidey fan's wet video game dream come true. It may lack in some departments like an open world to explore, but it serves up a fresh new experience by allowing the player to cycle and play four different Spider-Men, all icons and definitely heroes that continue to inspire people to this day. I can't for the life of me imagine a person who loves Marvel Comics and Spider-Man NOT try this game out. In a way, it's Marvel's version of DC's 2009 epic superhero game - Batman: Arkham Asylum, and look what happened there - it was awesome! Don't see any of your other Spider-Man incarnations? Fear not! You can purchase alternate costumes as you progress and earn points, and you'll be able to wear costumes of the Scarlet Spider, Iron Spider, and heck, even Manga Spider-Man! Bottomline, if you love Spidey and you want a taste of true wall crawling goodness, you must pick this game up! The true experience is available for PS3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows, while the Wii and Nintendo DS get decent versions. So go forth, swing around, and save the world as Spider-Man!

Rating - 5/5

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