by Al Warwick
previewed on PS3
Another attempt at a decent Spider-Man game
It is no secret that films based on videogames are questionable in quality. They’re usually not terrible (see Bloodrayne for that) but merely passable for the average gamer. Alas, the same rarely applies when the concept is reversed – the film-inspired videogames are mostly god-awful, rather than passable. Lazy, uninspired ports riddle the shelves weeks before a big movie release and always to lukewarm reviews. Crushingly, the quality of the big screen counterpart has little bearing on the game, as seen most recently with Avatar, but also with any of the Transformers and Lord of the Rings games.
The recent Spider-Man games are no exception – Friend or Foe and Web of Shadows weren’t movie ports, of course, but they were insipid entries which quickly forged a new, tired and unloved image for Spidey in the gaming culture.
With Activision-hired Beenox developers at the helm for Spiderman Shattered Dimensions, there is a sharp intake of breath: Yep, these guys were behind those Transformer PC ports, and we all know how bad they were.
The truth is, games like these face even more scrutiny from today’s all encompassing market that expect titles with Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto quality every time – such landmark titles are now ruthlessly used as benchmarks for any new product, regardless of the differing levels of money and experience behind each production team.
How about the latest for Mr. Parker?
Well, my first overall impression is really rather positive – and I’m about as far away from a comic book and superhero movie loving guy as you can get! If you look past the solid-yet-unspectacular graphics and the rather silly story, you may find some truly innovative stuff going on here which might tempt most of us away from their cold harsh shooters and emotionless racers.
Firstly, the story has its roots (or web if you like) interlaced firmly within the comic book culture, written in fact by Dan Slott, who is one of the current writers of the Marvel comic Amazing Spider-Man. Naturally then anyone – including me – unfamiliar with just how wacky and convoluted such narratives can be are likely to be wary at first.
In short, a mystical artefact known as the Tablet of Order and Chaos apparently keeps reality in order (rather important then), but during a robbery, which Spidey tries to thwart, it gets smashed into four pieces and the four pieces are lost in four different, parallel universes. Eh.
So far so unoriginal, but some nice touches seem to await us in these four environments. Spider-Man, his enemies and environments are all vastly different in each universe. In one – a jungle locale much like Snake Eater’s – we have our familiar hero donned in his red and blue clobber and lithely dodging enemies and playing it straight. In another dimension the atmosphere is overwhelmingly film noir, and our protagonist has withered into a stealthy figure – think Sam Fisher and Rorschach from Watchmen combined with some Spidey senses.
How about gameplay?
The graphics and the whole feel of the game is vastly different in each world, and this is refreshing as such a mini-game approach gives a sense of ‘four games in one’. It will also keep the game fresh as you will not get dulled by repetitive missions and environments.
Environments and action look to be more spacious and fast-paced than in recent entries – the jungle levels especially should offer much freedom. The noir levels, as mentioned above, are stealthy in their set up: shadows offer solace and success as a Depression-era Spidey slinks around to take out his enemies.
Details thin on the ground
The game isn’t finished of course, so if the above doesn’t yet wet your appetite, then the unveiling of two more universes, graphical and gameplay styles and additional guises for our hero may yet do so. Details are also thin on soundtrack and dialogue and these are often elements that can really enhance a comic book or movie adaptation/re-imagining.
Also characterisation is so far rather sketchy. Some faceless foes and boss battles litter the preview material, but not much can be said about them, other than it seems that the boss fights all seem to play out differently from each other. This is naturally a crucial factor for the title's success, as repetitive boss battles are amongst the biggest turn-offs.
That the moment, all signs are very promising for this title and it may - against all odds - deliver a satisfying, loyal to the source material and very playable game come the autumn this year.