Before heading over to the Moscone Center on Friday for Day One of WonderCon, ComingSoon.net/SuperHeroHype were invited by our good friends at Activision to get an early preview of their new game “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions,” which is scheduled for release in September. Senior producer Meghan Morgan, Beenox’s Creative Director Thomas Wilson and one of the senior programmers named Dennis were on-hand to give us a demo of an early build of the game and talks us through how it differs from previous “Spider-Man” games.
Written by Marvel Comics’ Dan Slott, who has been one of the primary writers on the “Amazing Spider-Man” comic book since it was relaunched with “Brand New Day” a few years back, the principle of the game involves four very different takes on Spider-Man that each have their own look and feel and style of gameplay. Each incarnation of Spider-Man represents a very specific dimension where its main Spidey super-villain boss, their minions, the graphic style, props and gameplay interactions are all tailored specifically to it.
Essentially, the game will begin with an opening cut scene that acts as a framing sequence for the overall storyline in which an ancient artifact called the Tablet of Order and Chaos is broken into many pieces that are scattered throughout the four different universes, falling into the hands of that dimension’s villain. This event ties together the respective Spider-Man of each universe who are then called upon to work together (but separate) in order to retrieve the piece of the artifact from a location in their dimension.
Besides the unique premise of being able to play four very different versions of Spider-Man, the game will get away from the open world design of “Web of Shadows,” which involved a lot of “travel time” to get from one mission to the next. Instead, “Dimensions” is more of a level-based game where each of the four dimensions will have its own main boss who you’ll encounter three times in different incarnations as the story progresses. We were told that they’re working hard to build upon the relationship Spider-Man has with each villain in the comics. More on that below.
After the introduction, you’ll have a chance to play the first level of one of the four dimensions, and once you’ve finished that, you can move onto one of the first levels of another dimension. Essentially, you’ll be alternating through the four dimensions in whichever order you’d like and once you finish all four, you’ll get another cut scene setting up the second leg of the storyline, and you’ll move to level 2 of each dimension.
First, we were shown an early build of the “Amazing” dimension, which is basically the Spider-Man we know and love from the comics. Unlike “Web of Shadows,” this level doesn’t take place in New York City, but in a jungle environment–we wondered if it could possibly even be the Savage Land–and in this dimension/level, Spider-Man is trying to find Kraven the Hunter in the jungle, a twist on how Spider-Man is usually being hunted by Kraven. Despite the jungle setting, this level looked the closest to “Web of Shadows.”
In the “Amazing” dimension, Spider-Man’s fighting is very much web-based, and we were shown a bunch of examples of how his webbing is used, and we were told this will have a similar upgrade path to “Web” so that Spider-Man’s power will evolve as he completes different challenges, giving him new ways of fighting bad guys the longer one plays. We were shown some of the boss battle between Spidey and Kraven in an arena surrounded by his minions, and one of the coolest new things we saw in this level was that at certain points, the game can switch into a first-person interactive sequence that’s similar to the boxing game “Punch Out.” When you earn enough hit points on the boss–and we’re not sure if this is in each level or this particular level–the game cuts to a sequence where you see the opponent up close with Spider-Man’s fists on either side ready to belt out some damage against him.
Based on the recently-introduced Marvel Comics series, the “Noir” dimension looks very cool, dark and shadowy, a very distinctive look not just for a “Spider-Man” game, but any video game. We were told that this was an older and darker version of the character, and they had modified the costume from the comics, so that instead of wearing a long flowing trenchcoat, Spider-Man is wearing a dark vest. In this dimension, Spider-Man uses stealth to get around, trying his best to avoid being spotted by enemies before he can sneak up behind them and take them out. It’s similar to the main gameplay of something like “Metal Gear Solid” or sections of “Batman: Arkham Asylum.” Because Spider-Man’s costume is mainly black and he’s mainly moving around in shadows, there’s an outline of light surrounding the character so that one can see him while he’s melding into the shadows. We were actually surprised how well the different elements of the environment were able to translate into this almost completely black and white world.
We also were shown the start of one of the boss battles with that dimension’s main baddie, Hammerhead – who hasn’t yet been introduced in the Noir comics yet. In this level, Hammerhead is stationed at a giant gatling gun spraying bullets at our hero, and Noir Spidey has to navigate around the area in shadows to sneak up on the boss. We were told that each of the three levels for each dimension ends with Spider-Man facing that dimension’s boss, but each time he fights them, they’ll be in a different form, having been transformed by their possession of the tablet fragment. The tablet will give these villains different powers and make them stronger as the game goes on, which is a little different from normal games where you fight a lot of minions or underbosses and then finally face the big boss at the very end. This means you’ll essentially face Kraven and Hammerhead (and the other two undisclosed bosses) three times in the game in different forms.
So far only the “Amazing” and “Noir” universes and their bosses have been announced, but one safely assume the other dimensions and bosses will be announced over the summer as Activision attends E3 and Comic-Con in San Diego. In the meantime, Spider-Man comic book and video game fans should have fun trying to guess what other dimensions they might go for, whether it’s the 2099 or Ultimate universes or something completely mad like the Marvel Zombie universe, as one of those at the game demo suggested. Either way, each dimension will be very different and unique from the others both in look and gameplay, which should keep the game interesting.
Likewise, all four versions of Spider-Man will be voiced by a different actor, all of whom have voiced Spider-Man before. Christopher Daniel Barnes, who voiced the character in the beloved ’90s animated show, has already been announced as voicing the Noir version of Spider-Man. We were also told that the Nintendo DS version of the game will have a similar four-dimension philosophy but include different villains for Spider-Man to fight.
It looks like Activision and Beenox are on their way to creating something truly special for Spider-Man fans that could be on par with “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” in terms of bringing the comic character to game consoles while offering a lot more different types of gameplay than earlier games.
If you’re at WonderCon on Saturday (today), you can check out the Activision panel at 3:30PM where they’ll probably be showing more of the cool gameplay we watched. You can also watch the previously-released trailer below.