The first of the three announced universes, the Noir setting has Spidey's alter-ego, Peter Parker, getting his powers in the 1930s. A different atmosphere from the classic comic books, the look and feel of this world is completely unique to the character, influenced by classic black and white pulp crime novels. The stage we're shown is a huge, open amusement park, modeled in part after New York's Coney Island. Spidey's foe, Norman Osbourne, a circus freak and crime boss that holds one piece of the tablet.
Fireworks erupt in the night sky, and the moon shines down on the rooftops as Noir Spidey tries to stick to the shadows. The key to gameplay here is stealth -- we see Noir Spidey sneak up behind enemies, taking them down quietly using a combination of webs and close-combat melee. The aforementioned fireworks aren't just for aesthetic purposes, either -- as they explode in the sky, light is cast on the world, opening up holes for enemies to spot the player. It's a whole different vibe from previous Spider-Man games, more strategic and slower paced.
Next up, Spider-Man takes to the jungle as he tracks the Hunter, Kraven, in the Amazing universe. The look here is closer to what you'd see in a traditional Spider-Man comic book, with bright colors like the stark reds and blues, drawn in what appears to be a more hand-drawn style.
The slower action and gameplay of the Noir universe is also flipped on its head, with a heavier emphasis on fast-paced, acrobatic combat. Spidey also uses his webs as a weapon, creating a number of over-the-top tools to take out crowds of goons. In one instance he makes a huge fist out of his webs and knocks a group of enemies back; in another he creates a mace, swinging into a horde of foes.
We also get our first look at a boss battle, this one against Kraven. Affected by the forces of the cracked tablet, Kraven has gained some extraordinary powers, making him an even more formidable foe than usual. Spidey fights Kraven in an "arena" style area, and we get to see some of the game's destructible environments; at one point, web-head knocks down a pillar which he then throws at his enemy in battle.
This particular boss battle also featured a first-person sequence, where after a certain number of conditions were met, Spidey got up close and personal with Kraven. This isn't a cut-scene, and it's not just a series of quicktime events, either. While the demo was hands-off, Senior Producer Meghan Morgan points out that it's not dissimilar to Nintendo's Punch-Out!!, which is exactly what you'll think when you see it in action. The idea, she tells me, is to get players closer to the action.
"Spider-Man has such a kind of love hate relationship with these villains that the fans really enjoy," she explains to me. "It's a big part of who Spider-Man really is -- the trash talking, the witty comments, the cocky attitude… we decided [to add] some first-person sequences where you can really immerse the player in the experience of interacting with these villains."
Finally, the veil was lifted off 2099, a futuristic take on the Spider-Man universe. Wearing a futuristic version of the Spider-Man suit, players will be able to control freefall. We're shown a lot of vertical gameplay, as Spider-Man dashes down through a group of skyscrapers, dodging hover cars and monorails as he plummets. The fighting style is even more energetic and faster than the Amazing battle system. He can even the talons on his forearms in battle.
Beenox is also introducing a villain that hasn't yet been seen in the 2099 universe in the comic books -- Hobgoblin. Exclusive for Shattered Dimensions, Beenox worked hand-in-hand with Marvel to bring the character to life. Morgan tells me they went through "rounds and rounds" of tweaks before landing on the final design. As for whether or not Hobgoblin will end up in the comics, that's up to Marvel -- it's now theirs to with what they please.
Along with four different Spider-Men, Shattered Dimension brings along four different voice actors, of which two have been confirmed. Dan Gilvazen, famous for his work as Spider-Man in the 1980s cartoon Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, will be voicing 2099. Christopher Daniel Barnes will lend his voice to Noir Spider-Man. Activision won't currently confirm the voice of Amazing, which leads me to believe it's some impressive voice talent. Possibly Justin Bieber. (Just kidding… I hope.)
While the four Spider-Men and worlds will feel and play different, Morgan insists that the entire game is meant to feel like a cohesive experience, pushing aside the concept of "four games in one." The control scheme, for instance, is universal from character to character; it's what happens when you launch into your favorite combo that will change. Upgrades unlocked in each universe will be applied across all Spider-Men, as well.
"Variety is really the key to this game," Morgan explains. "It's variety in different art styles, different locations, different fighting styles, villains, [and] gameplay styles."
That diversity presumably extends to a fourth, yet-to-be announced universe. When asked if San Diego Comic-Con, which takes place in late July, would be a good place to announce the next universe, Morgan gives me a sly smile.
"You would think that," she says, grinning.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is scheduled for a fall release.