On Wednesday night, video game publisher Comic-Con International in San Diego. Five brand new titles were shown, some for the first time, in their current stages of development, as well as new downloadable content announced earlier that day.
The most directly comic-related game shown was undoubtedly "Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions," demoed on an Xbox 360. The game features Marvel’s friendly neighborhood wallcrawler in ways never before seen in a video game - in action based on the "Amazing Spider-Man" comics, "Spider-Man 2099," "Spider-Man Noir" and the just announced symbiote-costumed "Ultimate Spider-Man." Each of the four dimensions will have its own distinct art style and gameplay.
Playable at the show was the Noir level and, for the first time, the Ultimate level. Ultimate has a cell-shaded look reminiscent of the first "Ultimate Spider-Man" released on the Playstation 2 and Xbox in 2005, but has been updated for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.
"It’s really an homage to the original," explained Thomas Wilson, the game’s creative director. "We wanted everything to have very vibrant, saturated colors, so it looks like a modern comic book."
The action in the Ultimate levels is fast paced and high-impact, using the fluidity of the black costume for whip-like attacks that can be chained together for devastating results. Chaining attacks together allows Spidey to build up his Rage Meter, which lets him unleash a barrage of special attacks.
The Ultimate level took place in the wreckage of the Triskellion, the headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Ultimate Universe, following an attack by Carnage. Wilson could not say exactly who is being possessed by the Carnage suit.
The different artistic styling for each level give the game a very unusual feel. "The Ultimate levels are very slick, more like a modern comic, while the Amazing levels have more of a traditional comic book feel to them," said Matthew Mizutan, associate producer. "Noir is very dark, very color desaturated, while 2099 was designed to look more like a next-gen video game, very slick and detailed. You can even see the carbon fiber his suit is made out of, and it radiates out energy."
The gameplay also changes significantly from Spidey to Spidey. Amazing focuses more on Spider-Man using his webbing for unique attacks, 2099 more on web swinging combat and BASE jumping using his web foils, while Noir focuses on stealth tactics. Wilson said he knows the challenges of a multiple genre game, but thinks "Shattered Dimensions" merges the genres successfully.
"We focused on what we though we could achieve," he said. "It helps that we have a unified control scheme, so even though we’re using all these different genres, people will feel like they’re playing the same game. We don’t expect people to be gentle with any of the levels, they’re going to judge us on all of them, so we’re giving them everything."
Hearkening back to a tablet used in the Stan Lee/John Romita days of "Amazing Spider-Man," the Dan Slott-written plot involves a "sister" tablet shattering, forcing the Spider-Men of three different dimensions to unify it. Along the way, they battle thirteen different boss villains, including Kraven and Juggernaut in Amazing, Carnage and Deadpool in Ultimate, Vulture, Goblin and Hammerhead in Noir and Hobgoblin and Scorpion in 2099.
"There’s also a female version of a very popular male Spider-Man character, but that’s all I can reveal now," Wilson said.
Despite the fact that Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond may be over, Activision has two new titles starring Craig as England’s most famous secret agent. One of the games will look very familiar to longtime gamers, however. Craig’s visage and voice stars in a remake of "Goldeneye," considered one of the greatest first person shooters ever made. The game has been updated from its N64 iteration and enhanced for the Wii.
Although the game plays very similarly to the original, it is not just the original game with updated graphics.
"Lots of people make the mistake of thinking this is a remake of the game," said Brendan McWeod, lead designer of the Nintendo DS version of the game. "What we’re really doing is remaking the movie as a modern video game."
In addition to maps that have been rearranged, changes have been made to elements of the plot. Because Craig’s Bond is less reliant on gadgets, devices like the laser watch are gone, replaced with a high-tech mobile phone that can do anything from facial recognition to hack computers from a distance. While the opening sequence of the game and movie originally featured Bond bungee jumping off a dam, he now BASE jumps to safety.
"Bungee jumping was big in the 90s, but not so much anymore," explained Graham Hagmaier, a member of the game’s production team.
The game still plays much like the original though, including four-player split-screen multiplayer. Although the game also supports online play, the developers really hope it sparks more in-person competitive play.
"Four guys on a couch talking trash together is what it’s all about," said Eric Spielman, the game’s brand manager. "Today, most of the time you’re playing multiplayer, you’re taking crap some from 14-year-old living miles away. That’s OK, but I miss the in-person multiplayer experience."
"Goldeneye" brings back a host of multiplayer characters from the previous games, including classic Bond villains like Jaws, Scaramanga and Oddjob who, while not as short as his N64 counterpart, is still a bit smaller than his opponents.
"It wouldn’t be Goldeneye if Oddjob wasn’t balanced differently from everyone else," Spielman said.
The other Bond title is "James Bond: Blood Stone," an original Bond adventure starring Daniel Craig and Judi Dench, written by frequent Bond movie scribe Bruce Feirstein, with music by Joss Stone, which will be available on 360 and PS3.
"There wasn’t a Bond movie coming out this year, so we made a movie as a video game," said Mike O’Donnell, associate producer of the game. "It has all the details. The Aston Martin is licensed, as is the Omega watch."
"Blood Stone" mixes third person shooting with arcade-style vehicle driving for a very Bond experience. "With the melee attacks, Bond can walk into a room, disable two guards, then shoot three more, just like in a movie," O’Donnell said. "There are over 100 melee attacks in the game. The cool thing is they’re all performed by Daniel Craig’s stunt double from the movies, so it’s a seamless experience."
Also announced was a new downloadable content pack for the recently released game "Transformers: War for Cybertron." Players will now be able to do battle as Scattershot and Onslaught, as well as with Jazz, Shockwave and Demolisher, who were previously only available as retailer exclusives. Four new multiplayer maps are being released as well.
Finally, the latest game in the Bakugan series, "Bakugan, Defenders of the Core," was shown on the 360. It allows players to take direct control of the Bakugan characters for giant monster brawl action.