Still pretty similar under the hood
But for all those differences, playing through each world becomes familiar path, which gets a little predictable. All of the levels are just so linear, which is certainly a change from the open world of recent Spidey games, but it gets old fast. You may have noticed me mentioning all faceless nobodies you have to beat up on your way to the boss. Let’s just say that getting the Achievement/Trophy for beating 1000 foes is definitely within the reach of anyone who simply completes the game.
Speaking of Achievements/Trophies, one of the game’s best features takes a cue from the success of that system. The Web of Destiny is how you unlock power-ups and new moves, and you do that by completing different tasks within each level. These little mini-goals make each level a little deeper and gives you something to focus on during parts that get a little repetitive. It scratches the same itch that Achievements/Trophies do, and the hunt for completing the Web of Destiny even distracted me, a genuine Achievement junkie, from increasing my Gamer Score.
Some of the Web of Destiny’s goals are focused around the many boss fights in Shattered Dimensions. The boss battles come in two flavors, normal-sized, tough but predictable baddie, and giant, predictable boss with god-like, but ultimately useless powers. The way you encounter and fight the same boss multiple times through a level is an inventive touch, much better than battling some lame midboss, (not that there aren’t more than a few “special” battles against slightly tougher henchmen). Though once you get to the final encounter with the big baddie, it all goes down pretty similarly to the last intense final fight you had.
Above: Like much of the game, the first-person moments start off cool, but eventually get old by never going any deeper or changing things up
But some effort was made into having each level have its own feel, whether it’s the tight areas in Noir, or the shiny future of 2099. We just wish there were more than the 12 included, as each of the four Spideys gets only three separate levels. Sometimes the levels are long enough, but others feel like they’re stretched to fill time. For example, when a level with Deadpool as the bad guy starts, it feels like easily the best part of the game. But as I swung around for what felt like forever hunting for that one last doohicky, I just wanted it to end.
And there are just too many moments hindered by a frustrating lack of polish. Sometimes it’s a sloppy camera that makes it easy to lose track of whomever you’re fighting, including one heartbreaking situation where I was ONE hit away from scoring the 200-hit combo Achievement/Trophy, only to be denied by an enemy I failed to swing the crummy camera around to see. And though the dialogue is at times legitimately funny, too many lines get repeated or said at the wrong time, hurting their impact and making them just annoying.
Above: Despite our complaints, the Deadpool/Ultimate level is a real highlight of the whole thing
That’s not to say this traditional gameplay isn’t fun, because there is still a place for a standard, action-oriented beat ‘em up. And I’m not saying that web-swinging with Spidey isn’t still a grand old time, it just doesn’t feel very deep. And when you have a scenario like this one, and the possibility of four different types of Spider-Man adventures, it’s a little disappointing to see just how parallel they all are.
Playing to the crowd
Despite those flaws, for long time Spider-Man fans, this is probably the most rewarding of any Spidey title ever. The attention to detail in each universe is astonishing, especially compared to the kind of rough bits in other places. Take for example the 2099 levels. The game continually mentions things that a very small percentage of Spider-Man readers will remember, like what Spider-Man 2099’s secret identity is (Miguel O’Hara) or even where he works. All of the sequences, except for possibly the Amazing Spider-Man levels, would work perfectly in the pages of the comics today, and fanboys will eat that up.
That kind of tone keeps going with the very inspired voice casting that makes each level all the better for it. Each Spider-Man is voiced by an actor who’s played him previously on an animated series, including Neil Patrick Harris who plays the Amazing Spidey, and he’s the real standout of the bunch. The other three Spidey voices are great too, though at times 2099 sounds a little too old for his character.