Beenox Weaves a Web… Slinger
June 8, 2010 – For all his Amazing, Spectacular, and Astonishing gifts, Peter Parker and his high-flying alter ego haven’t been very successful lately when it comes to the video game world. That may be an understatement. The Marvel comics frontman could hold the record for most consecutive ho-hums in a single franchise. The past ten years alone have seen the first, second, and third Spider-Man movie games, Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Friend and Foe, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, and Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects.
Most of these were resounding critical flops, even if their stories were unique enough to attract a few preorders. A few even featured a handful of downright pleasant mechanics. Who among us doesn’t remember the awesome web-slinging in Spider-Man 2? However, those few gems notwithstanding, those games and many others went the way of so much discarded webbing and faded into the gaming ether.
Writers like modern-day super-scribe Brian Michael Bendis have tackled Spider-Man’s world alongside developers from Activision to Jakks. At Activision’s recent Pre-E3 event, we got a chance to take a gander at Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, and we found out how Beenox Studios and Activision are getting back and in the, *ahem,* swing of things, hoping to make a Spidey game that sticks.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is aiming to give gamers a new way to experience the wall-crawler’s world; or, more accurately, four new ways. ‘Shattered Dimensions’ begins with the story of a magical artifact that is split into four parts. Each of the four parts is spread across the multi-verse into one of the games four universes. Since the game’s initial announcement, two universes — Spider-Man Noire and Amazing Spider-Man — have been announced. At their LA showcase, Activision pulled the lid off a third: Spider-Man 2099. Each of these worlds is represented through radically different art styles and, hopefully, play mechanics. Variety is the key to ‘Shattered Dimensions’ appeal but, unlike other games, Beenox Studios’ new project is aiming to trim the fat from Spidey’s recent adventures.
A huge issue in past games has been the temptation to follow the trends. A good number of the last few Spider-Man games have been sandbox titles with open-world elements like seemingly random crimes to stop or races across the skyline. Critics found these elements a cheap and gimmicky way to create a sense of scale. Apparently there are only so many times you can respond to an “ambush” before it loses that all-important surprise factor. Who knew? By making a much more linear game, Beenox is hoping to create a closer, more intimate experience for players.
Each universe is designed to play differently with a combat system based on that particular Webslinger’s powers and personality. Spider-Man Noire is all about stealth; a level showcased at the event featured a darkened carnival under the intermittent blaze of a brilliant fireworks display. Players are challenged to stay hidden by the shadows as long as possible as they move through the tents and carousels taking out thugs. The Amazing universe is more typical Spidey fare – a much brighter world and a very acrobatic Spider-Man. Each fight is a whirl of webbing and high flying attacks. In the 2099 universe, Spider-Man uses his talons, the ability to slow time, and the technology of his advanced suit to fight spectacular mid-air battles while avoiding flying motorbikes and monorails.
Beenox is best known for their PC games and ports. The Quebec City-based developer has been responsible for delivering games like Quantum of Solace and Marvel Ultimate Alliance to Windows fans all over. Besides a few original apps (Bee Movie game, Monsters vs. Aliens, etc.) the Canadian developer’s history may not read like the logical choice to helm Activision’s new release. However, considering Spidey’s very unimpressive batting average, starting from zero may not be a bad thing. Meghan Morgan, Senior Producer on ‘Shattered Dimensions’ says the team may be starting from scratch, but they’re drawing on a lot of inspiration and past experience. “We went back and looked at the games and message boards and really looked at what fans enjoyed from previous games,” Morgan said.
Shattered Dimensions will feature a combat system very similar to Web of Shadows. The voice of each Spider-Man will be played by an actor from past Spidey projects including Christopher Daniel Barnes (voice of Spider-Man from the 90’s animated series) and Dan Gilvezan (voice of Spider-Man from the 80’s cartoon Spider-Man and his Amazing friends). The villains and NPC’s in the game are a mix of fan favorites and more obscure characters like Hammerhead (one of the villains from the noire universe). During development, Marvel Comics lent Beenox the keys to their entire digital Spider-Man library as well as a bit of leeway to bring new iterations of characters and new interpretations of their worlds to Shattered Dimensions. All in all, it’s pretty clear that Beenox is taking a page from the Spider-fan’s fan fiction. Morgan commented “as a game developer, it behooves you to pay attention to what fans are saying and use that to level up your skills.”
With a style pulled right from the comics, and a story from the mind of Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, Beenox is off to a strong start. Beenox is taking a lot away from the past Spider-Man outings and hoping that a lot of fan service and a lot of variety will be enough to satiate Marvel fanatics and casual gamers alike. Morgan believes it will; “We feel that for this character, at this time, it’s time for something else. I think the trade-off will pay out.” Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is scheduled to hit stores in September.