While aimlessly roaming the streets of San Francisco today, the GameXplain crew ran into the inestimable Douglass C. Perry. Mr. Perry was on his way to check out Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions for the first time, so naturally, we decided to crash the party. I was already planning on attending the panel discussion at WonderCon, but this seemed like an even better chance to grab a sneak peak of a game that is actually shaping up pretty nicely. For this latest Spider-Man game, Activision looked long and hard at reviews and fan reception for the recent Spider-Man titles and attempted to craft a title that would make Spider Man fans proud. So far, this effort seems to be paying off.
The first thing to note about Shattered Dimensions is that the development studio, Beenox, is doing away with the open-world stylings of the last several Spider-Man titles entirely. Instead, the game will be using a more traditional level structure to help contextualize your missions. Shattered Dimensions is split into three Acts, each of which will contain four missions. This is where the second major change with SM:SD comes into play: Each of the four levels takes place in a seperate universe, with alternate art styles and gameplay mechanics to match. Naturally, the challenge with achieving this goal of defining these independent Spider-Man universes was choosing which source material to draw from. To accomplish this, the devs looked at all the various universes in the Spider Man comics, and tried to borrow from some of the most evocative visions of Spidey that they could find.
Earlier this week, Activision debuted some trailers for the game that showcased the first two dimensions: Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man Noir. Going into the event today, I was hoping for a reveal of Spider-Man 2099 and Spider-Man: India. Unfortunately, the reps on-hand weren't biting, and the best I could get out of them were a few chuckles. Oh well, if I can't get exclusive info for my readers, I can at least make a room full of PR professionals laugh! Despite their tight lips about the final two universes in the game, the gracious folk from Activision and Beenox did show off a fair amount to interest even the biggest Spider-Man haters amongst us.
This has undoubtedly been mentioned before, and is clearly visible in the trailers, but each of the universes in the game features its own unique art style, grraphical tricks, and gameplay mechanics. "Amazing" Spider-Man uses an ink-on-paper technique for the graphical style, which applies a line-art treatment to everything in the world. This is more akin to Prince of Persia 2008 than it is to Wind Waker, as the lightning is not flat-shaded, despite the black lines around everything. This was meant to evoke the style of the comics, and though it isn't quite perfect, does look pretty cool. In contrast to "Amazing" Spider-Man's luminescent pastels, Spider-Man "Noir" is all darkness and shadow. Since Spider-Man Noir is a relatively new comic series, and hasn't gotten much attention yet, Beenox was actually allowed to play around with the character design a bit to make him more recognizably Spider-Man. While I'm not exactly in love with the steam-punk Spider-Man they decided on, I do like that they ditched the trench coat, as it alwasy felt out of place to me anyway.
Along with the drastically different art styles, the way that each of the various dimensions actually plays is distinct as well. The "Amazing" universe plays more like a traditional Spidey title, with our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man slinging webs, throwing quips, and generally beating face. During these stretches, you'll find yourself battling foes up close with flashy skills like your Web Hammer. From a distance, you'll be trashing your opponents with well-timed shots of web and aerial acrobatics aimed directly at the head. The "Noir" universe differs greatly from this splashy approach. In it, you'll largely be creeping through the shadows and dispatching your foes via stealth maneuvers. Though the producers disavowed any connection, it seemed liked Arkham Asylum-redux. Not that this is a bad thing in the slightest. Gliding through the rafters as Spidey made a lot of sense, and the stark visual style certainly brought the Noir feeling to life to some extent.
Both of the levels we were shown centered around a different villain from Spider-Man's vast rogues gallery. While the "Amazing" level had you trading blows with Kraven deep in the vast jungles of central park, the "Noir" level pitted Spider-Man against a redesigned version of Hammerhead. Though the two never faced off in Spider-Man Noir, Beenox got permission to run with their revamp of the character due to how well he fits the tone of the "Noir" universe. I certainly didn't have any objections. The boss battles against these two opponents seemed pretty fun, if unpolished. At different moments during the fight, the perspective shifts to first person and allows you to see through the eyes of Spidey as he pummels the crap out of these malevolent cads. These segments are designed to be fairly easy, as the focus is more on looking your opponetn directly in the eyes as you wipe that stupid smirk off his face. The voice acting hadn't been finished yet, so I didn't get to see how it would all play out, but the devs promised that you'd be able to smack Kraven in the face and shut him up mid-taunt.
The reps on hand were characteristically tight-lipped, and even my Jedi mind tricks couldn't get them to spill the beans on a single new detail regarding the voice talent on this title. All I found out is that Mark Hamill may or may not be in this game, and that Nolan North does not voice any of the versions of Spider-Man. On the other hand, Christopher Daniel Barnes, who voiced Spidey on the '90s animated series, will be filling in his spandex for the "Noir" universe. Fans can rest somewhat easy, as Beenox seems to be paying a lot of attention to the voice acting. They have promised that everyone involved is an industry professional who have worked on Spider-Man in the past. I'm excited to see how it pan out.
That's pretty much how I feel about the game as a whole. I really like the idea of centering the levels around a different member of Spidey's rogues gallery, and I hope that it can really bring to life the super heroic qualities of the character. I like the idea of ditching the open-world experience in pursuit of a more structured experience, but I can't help but be slightly disappointed by the lack web-slinging through the skies of New York (from what we've seen thus far). Still, I'm excited to see what the last two universes hold, and will check this game out once it comes in September 2010.