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In comics, Spider-Man has taken many forms but in video games he has always stayed about the same. The video game Spider-Man has almost always been an agile webslinger who wears a bright red and blue suit and swings from skyscraper to skyscraper. However, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions developer Beenox wants to pay tribute to the other incarnations of Peter Parker. Their game allows players to inhabit the roles of four very different versions of Spider-Man. During Comic Con, I was able to try out two of them.
The demo started out with Noir Spider-Man. This is a Depression era Spidey that's not quite so super-powered as the other versions. He can still climb up walls and shoot webs but he's not very good in a straight up fight. In order to take out enemies, he needs to take them by surprise. When close enough to an enemy who hasn't spotted him, he can perform a quiet takedown.
In this segment of the demo, Spider-Man needed to rescue three hostages in a train yard. To do so, he had to take out the patrolling guards. The sequence played out a bit like the Invisible Predator parts of Batman: Arkham Asylum. I swung up to the top of train cars with my web and then stalked the guards, taking them out once they wandered off from their friends. Whenever I was spotted, I escaped by swinging off into a far corner of the yard. There was no point trying to duke it out with the guards, as they shrug off frontal attacks.
The other dimension I played, Ultimate Spider-Man, was the complete opposite. Here you're expected to beat up everyone. This particular Spider-Man is wearing a symbiote suit that gives him super-strength and allows his body to sprout deadly tendrils. He fights a bit like the protagonist from Prototype. You stomp around unleashing combos and tearing through entire packs of enemies.
The difference between the two dimensions is striking. These are two completely different gameplay experiences. Furthermore, they're each rendered in very distinct styles. Noir Spider-Man wears a leather suit with goggles and his world is cloaked in black, white, and brown. Ultimate Spider-Man's dimension is quasi-science fiction and drawn with very saturated colors. His suit is a shifting, almost liquid material. The other two dimensions, the futuristic Spider-Man 2099 and more classic Amazing Spider-Man (the variety seen in most other games), present striking contrasts as well.
While the idea of four games in one sounds very appealing, my concern is that the developers will spread themselves too thin. Having four different Spider-Men only works if they're all fun. While Noir and Ultimate proved to be competent stealth and brawler games, the fact is that they're going to be measured against "pure" games in that genre. Perhaps both dimensions get more complex in later stages. Hopefully so. Right now I get the vibe that a lot of people are going to be impressed that Beenox fit four games in one but won't be necessarily impressed by these individual games.