keskiviikko 31. heinäkuuta 2013

REVIEW - Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions | Xbox 360 | 2010

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: September 7, 2010
AVAILABLE ON: PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was one of the most highly anticipated superhero games of the recent years, and for good reasons; quality Spider-Man games had been coming out for years, and given the cult popularity of all of Spider-Man's different reincarnations, this game was going to bring something for everyone into the table, for old-school fans and fans of the obscure alike. It was to star three different Spider-Men in addition to the classic Amazing version of the webslinger, all with their own gameplay styles and all working together to bring down the largest gallery of rogues ever seen in a single game, to offer a similar kind of all-star treat for Marvel fans as Batman: Arkham Asylum was for DC fans. Beenox were a little over their heads with ambition, that much is certain from the beginning - but Marvel buffs at the very least will find that Shattered Dimensions is definitely a game to watch out for.

One damn bumpy thrill ride

Neil Patrick Harris : Amazing Spider-Man
Josh Keaton : Ultimate Spider-Man
Dan Gilvezan : Spider-Man 2099
Christopher Daniel Barnes : Spider-Man Noir
Susanne Blakeslee : Madame Web
David Kaye : Mysterio
Jim Cummings : Kraven the Hunter / Green Goblin
John DiMaggio : Hammerhead
Steve Blum : Hobgoblin / Vulture
Nolan North : Deadpool

Spider-Man catches Mysterio robbing a museum, and during their struggle, he inadvertently breaks a magical artifact known as the Tablet of Order and Chaos, which the villain is after. Pieces of the Tablet end up in the hands of Spider-Man's arch enemies across four different realities. Four different incarnations of Spider-Man must work together to bring down a whole host of power hungry supervillains - including the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Deadpool and Carnage - before dealing with the master of illusion, whose piece of the Tablet has granted him the gift of true magic.

Amazing vs. Kraven.
I was struggling to find the right words to begin this review with, but when they finally popped into my mind, it was clear as day: if I was 11 or 12 years old, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions would be my favourite game in the world right after Batman: Arkham Asylum. I wouldn't give a damn about the details, how it plays out and all that; the production values and the cast of characters would be quite enough to do the trick.

Let's rewind a bit, though - I have to accept the fact that I'm almost 30 years old. I love RPG's, and RPG-like games. I love intense action games. I love unique games. I love good stories. I love great gameplay, regardless of the genre. Well, the truth is that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is none like any of the aforementioned games, nor does it benefit from any of the aforementioned qualities. It's not too intense - actually combat can get quite boring in large doses - the gameplay has its gaps, and the story is whacked beyond belief, albeit irrelevant. Finally, it's a comic book license, none as exciting or open-ended as Arkham Asylum. I know some of you might be pissed at me for constantly bringing the game up, but hey, that's what they were obviously going for. Just look at this cast of characters - complete with spectacular voiceover work - and tell me it isn't what ultimately makes this game stick, and tell me it wasn't meant to be Marvel's very own killer app in Asylum's vein. I dare you.

The game features four different Spider-Men from different continuities or universes - call them anything you want, in this game they are Spider-Men from different "dimensions". Hence the title Shattered Dimensions, duh-duh-duh. All of them face off with bosses and their own peculiar types of henchmen in a total of 13 levels; three bosses for each, then they face the big cheese together. Some of the alternative versions of familiar boss characters such as Doctor Octopus and Hobgoblin make their very first appearances in this game, making it a must for any Marvel completist right off the bat. Stan Lee himself narrates the game for the first time in years, which is another piece of solid proof of how serious they were with this game, and how they wanted to present these sidestories to people who might've not appreciated them in the past in a whole new light. It's funny I should use the word "present", because the next thing I was going to say is that the presentation of the game is off the charts; it's the one thing right on par with Batman's Arkham debut.

Ultimate vs. Deadpool.
Let's start with the cavalcade of voice actors. Long-time, well-educated Spider-Man fans will surely know the names of Christopher Daniel Barnes (Spider-Man Noir) and Dan Gilvezan (Spider-Man 2099), who voiced the Amazing Spider-Man in the 90's animated series and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends from the early 80's, respectively. Then we have known voice actor Josh Keaton (Ultimate Spider-Man), who previously voiced Spider-Man and Peter Parker in a more recent animated series, The Spectacular Spider-Man. Finally, we have Barney Stinson himself, Neil Patrick Harris, as the very original article, doing one fantastic reprisal of his lead role in the short-lived continuation of the first Sam Raimi movie, Spider-Man - The New Animated Series. Then we have Nolan North delivering one of his greatest performances ever - and that's got to be GREAT - as Wade Wilson/Deadpool, someone who was long overdue for major screen time in a video game, in his original and priceless comic book form. Jennifer Hale is Silver Sable, John DiMaggio is Hammerhead, and both Steve Blum and Jim Cummings lend their voices to a whole host of Marvel stalwarts. In the end, just about everyone you'd expect to see here IS here... except for Venom. Even though my favourite Spidey villain is ousted from the fray, there are very good reasons for his dismissal, and considering he had been a part of almost every Spider-Man game ever made up 'til the release of Shattered Dimensions (and after), I think it was only fair and logical to give him a rest. The introduction of the Ultimate dimension kind of explains Venom's absence from the get-go, so pretty much the only question in my mind is: where is any version of Curt Connors?

It should be pretty clear by now that for a comic book nerd, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions would be a must-purchase even if it outright sucked, which it fortunately doesn't. Not by a long shot. It looks great, too. Each dimension has a different graphical style; in fact, I think these graphical styles differ from each other more than the gameplay styles of the different dimensions, with the exception of the specific stealth layout of Noir. Amazing and Ultimate sport absolutely fabulous cel-shaded graphics, looking exactly like a comic book come to life. 2099 takes the safer, more realistic road, and borrows a LOT from sci-fi games of the last decade. Finally, Noir's unique, shadowy approach is fully complimented with relatively realistic graphics, and with the colour palette switched to black and white with a hint of yellow. The music's good enough and the voiceover work's just supreme, basically, but what I didn't mention before is that especially during tricky boss fights, you might want to mute your monitor to prevent your sanity flooding out of your ears, due to the very repetitive banter between Spider-Man and the boss, plus Madame Web telling you her one single, less helpful hint each time you accidentally do something that doesn't work that well. I swear, if I ever hear Scorpion saying "RRRRRip you to shRRRRRedssss!!!" and Web immediately cutting in with some fashion of "That won't work" one more time, I'm going to rip my own ears off.

I won't hide the fact that I'm most comfortable playing as the Amazing Spider-Man (I still hate that "Amazing" exclamation, but it helps here), but I've got to say that in the end, Ultimate Spider-Man's levels are the most fun and he gets all the best bosses to trifle with in Electro, Deadpool and Carnage. Like I said, both of these Spider-Men play out pretty much the same - it's just that Amazing uses traditional webbing while Ultimate plays around with a tamed Venom symbiote. Oops, I spilled it. Not much of a spoiler, though - the cover art makes it quite clear. Spider-Man 2099 is the most lame character in the bunch, and the only one with a completely different alter ego (Miguel O'Hara) and backstory. It seems that when it comes to future-related reboots and sidestories such as this one, I tend to hate 'em, just like I hated Batman Beyond. It just doesn't feel right, and Spider-Man with technological gadgets and augmentations just isn't my cup of tea, or a Spider-Man that isn't Peter Parker.

Noir vs. some unlucky punk.
Noir sounded good enough; I was not familiar with the Spider-Man Noir mini-series before this game came along. Stealth games have definitely been my cup of tea for a long, long time, and I was expecting this part of the game to rock my world. Well, it didn't. It has a good enough plot - the _thing_ that ties all the dimensions together turns welcomely irrelevant on the go - and I dig its very profound noir presentation, but when it comes to gameplay, it's one poor excuse of a stealth action game. There's absolutely no logic to enemy placements, and it's incredibly easy to escape an alerted guard in any environment by just swinging around in circles - even if right above the guy, occasionally. If for some reason you cannot escape - probably a glitch preventing you from latching on to anything, happens a bit too often - you can't do SHIT to the guard. You can punch and kick him to your heart's content - hell, even use special attacks that are usually extremely hard to block - and he just shrugs it all off and keeps shooting at you until you manage to escape, return, and take him down quietly. It's ridiculous. Oh, and apparently these guys hear no evil, see no evil - in other words, you can slap a guy screaming his lungs out to a wall and tie him up right next to a patrolling guard. As long as his back is turned, he usually won't notice a thing, and he won't look twice at a thick web cocoon that was once his best pal for life. It's not only ridiculous, it's easy - the challenge lies in the very essential gameplay feature surprisingly known as "Challenges".

Like just about every respectable action game, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions has extra motivation for conquest to offer in addition to the always effective Trophies and Achievements, in the form of 180 Challenges evenly divided between all levels except for the Tutorial and the final boss fight. These Challenges range from simply making progress to optional goals you may or may not figure out right in the beginning of the level. To name a few examples, first from the least obvious end. In one of the 2099 levels, you need to melt down doors by throwing acid eggs at them, but you can also melt down wall fans with those very same eggs, and melting down ten of them nails the challenge. In any of the Noir levels, you might be given a number of successful quiet takedowns in a row without alerting one single guard. Or in any of the levels, a time limit to reach a certain destination, and in every single level, a number of Spider Emblems to collect. The challenges are fun, and definitely raise the bar of replay value here, and what's best about them, is that they're not just for show. By conquering a set amount of challenges, you unlock new sets of upgrades for your characters, as well as their combat skills, ranging from maximum health to faster and more devastating combos. You need Spider Essence (EXP) to purchase the unlocked skills, and that you get from pretty much everything. The combos are not that useful, I'm afraid, but neat, and should add at least some depth to the game's otherwise somewhat shallow and messy combat. Other unlockables include character bios, special costumes and figurines, pretty much everything you're used to seeing in these types of games.

2099 vs. Hobgoblin.
There's still a bit more. You are ranked after each level, according to the following criteria: the sum of each combo performed, emblems collected and the time it took you to pass the level. As per usual, getting gold in each level on the hardest difficulty level is the ultimate goal, and should keep you in the game for a long time, assuming you're enough of a Spider-Fan to be able to manage the game's most vicious outbreaks of bullshit. These include just about everything going on in the more crowded levels of Noir, the total randomness of a certain 2099 freefall section (you'll see), the game's all-around occasional refusal to follow orders (most evident in the free-swinging sections), the camera (how "nice" to see an old favourite emerge), glitches that prevent you from reaching objectives which are usually hard enough to reach as they are, and finally, the endless broken record the otherwise stellar voiceover track slaps on for a spin every once in a while, especially during the boss fights, some of which have otherwise awesome potential - and every single one of them's different. From shadowplay with Hammerhead to the all-out chaos of Sandman, the slapstick mayhem of Deadpool and finally, the epic Mysterio fight which is pretty much ripped off God of War, the boss fights are some of the most enjoyable and positively surprising bits of the game.

All in all, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a very entertaining, heartfelt superhero game which no true Marvel fan can live without, but unlike its DC Comics counterpart and especially its sequel, it falls far from its true potential. The challenges and enjoying the magnificent performance by the cast are things that will keep you going for quite a while.

+ To date, perhaps the coolest graphics I've seen in a licensed game of this generation
+ Great cast of characters, with compliments of a great voiceover cast
+ Great presentation altogether, true Spider-Man spirit especially when it comes to the humour
+ Hefty amounts of different challenges and unlockables
+ Some brilliant boss fights

- A dumb story that is luckily left in the shadow of the individual plot of each dimension
- Majority of the Noir game is a wasted opportunity
- Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the 2099 dimension
- Crummy webslinging mechanics
- The camera's a bitch...
- ...That rides on a glitch
- Extremely repetitive combat dialogue

< 7.5 >

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