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Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Preview

Posted July 3rd 2010 by Jordan Mammo.

While Activation has consistently released games that make it entertaining to swing around cities as Spider-Man, it's no secret that they've had trouble making it interesting to do much else as the clingy wonderboy. That being the case, it wasn't much of a surprise when we found out that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions would be a dramatic departure from it's predecessors. In fact, the first thing creative director Thomas Wilson told us was that they were moving away from developing a free roaming world in favor of more level-based gameplay. Since the lure of Shattered Dimensions is not the ability to freely swing wherever you want and take things at your own pace, the developers at Beenox are instead trying to emphasize just how diverse the webbed hero can be.

Shattered Dimensions takes place in four different eras that the developers have ripped from the Spider-Man universe, each with its own unique graphical style and gameplay focus. That means four different versions of Spidey and four different ways to play. One can be forgiven for thinking that Beenox is just throwing ideas at a wall and hoping that some of them stick, because to some extent that does seem like what they're doing. According to Wilson, however, they're just trying to stay true to the many ways that Spider-Man has been realized in the comics.

The first era that was demonstrated for us took place at a circus in the comic's "noir" universe. Featuring a Spider-Man sporting goggles and adorned in black, this level placed a heavy emphasis on stealth. Spider-Man would watch his enemies from the tops of tents and ropes, wait until the perfect moment, then swoop in and catch them off-guard with surprise attacks. Spidey sense allowed our hero to see better at night and also sense movement through walls, which was helpful because the higher Spider-Man climbed, the darker the atmosphere around him became. This lowered his visibility but also enabled him to move around unseen, so knowing when to descend from the shadows and when to keep your distance appears to be key.

While the demo was impressive, all this sneaking around and stalking from above seemed a little familiar, so we asked Wilson if they were at all inspired by the recent Batman: Arkham Asylum. He replied that to them, Arkham Asylum really came out of nowhere, and that they had been planning to venture into Spidey noir for years. Even so, he said he was very impressed with how the developers really cared about crafting an authentic Batman experience, and that Arkham was an influence in that Beenox wanted to ensure that their vision was true to Spider-Man as well.

Wilson then went on to show us an area from the Amazing Spider-Man era, which featured a boss fight with Kraven the Hunter. Taking place in the jungle, this level involves the Spider-Man we all know and love in his vintage blue and red suit. Vibrant colors are all over the place in this era, and the emphasis is on web-based action and melée attacks. The combo system seems very fluid and dynamic, with Spidey leaping around and using his webbing to link attacks together and even pull up parts of the ground to use in his assault.

Finally, we were shown Spider-Man 2099. Obviously set many years down the line, this level had a nearly Spawn-like Spidey diving off a gigantic building in order to chase down the hobgoblin. According to Wilson, this era will be more aerial-based, involving mid-air battles and chases as you free fall. Players are also afforded the ability to slow down time in order to catch and/or deflect projectiles and inflict more damage to opponents. It was also at this point that we were told Spider-Man can still swing around if he pleases, but if he goes too far off the intended path he turns himself around.

Taken separately, each era on display (with one more still to be revealed) seems to offer a unique and entertaining experience. The big question mark is just how they're all going to work together. Are they going to be substantive enough to complement each other or will the final product lack cohesion? How far will the developers stretch their ideas for each era? Is the project focused enough? So far the game looks promising, but we'll have to wait until September to find out if it lives up to its potential.

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