Review | Spider-Man: Edge of Time

It would appear that I’ve become the unofficial Superhero Guy on this website, which is a position I’ll gladly take. I love comics, especially superhero books, to my core. I still play City of Heroes, I read new issues of DC comics (and Marvel as soon as the big M releases their digital comic app for Windows Phone 7 – HINT HINT – ) every Wednesday on my break at work, and I gobble up every Superhero game I come across, even the ones whose subject matter I’m not 100% engaged in. Enter Spider-Man: Edge of Time. While I was pleasantly surprised with last year’s predecessor, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, I’ve never been a huge Spidey fan, either in the comics or in games. What brought me to Edge of Time was the same thing that brought me to Shattered Dimensions: Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man of the year 2099. Without going into too much detail, in the mid-90s Marvel experimented with a cyberpunk future setting for several of their big books, with new characters, new conflicts, and new themes. While most of the comics weren’t too great, Spider-Man 2099 was such an iconic character that his book is still remembered fondly today. Does Edge of Time meet up to those timeless standards, or is it as lame as shoulderpads and pouches? My spider-sense says you should swing past the jump to find out!

Spider-Man: Edge of Time is Activision development house Beenox’s second original Spider-Man game, and a direct sequel to last year’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. After some complaints of the first game’s focus being too broad, the decision was made to pare down from four Spider-Men to only two, and to entwine the characters on the same arc rather than have four separate stories. Said story involves Miguel O’Hara uncovering an unscrupulous scientist’s named Walker Sloan and his plot to change the past with future knowledge. Though he arrives too late to stop Sloan, he gets a flash of the past in which he sees the death of Peter Parker, the present day Spider-Man. Due to Sloan’s time portal, Miguel and Peter make a connection and begin working together from their disparate points in time in order to undo the damage Sloan’s meddling has caused. It’s an engaging story full of twists and turns, animated beautifully through both the detailed in-game graphics and the hyper-realistic cinematics.

Through the game you play as both Spider-Men, each having his own moves and playstyles but also sharing a basic battery of universal moves. Each Spider-Man has a different focus in combat, with Peter closing distance and moving to enemies, and Miguel being more of a brawler and pulling enemies in to him. Though the combat is varied for each character, at least to a degree, it really boils down to mashing the basic attack button over and over again, peppering in a strong attack if the enemy blocks or plans to shoot, and then moving on to the next foe. Though each Spider-Man has a “special move” that allows them to evade attacks, an auto-dodge mode for Peter and a holographic decoy for Miguel, there is no simple dodge roll or dash move. While fighting your character’s feet feel strangely glued to the ground, a sensation you should never feel with an acrobatic, quick hero like Spidey.

Worse than the combat, however, is the complete misuse of web-swinging. Though you can technically swing, not once did I come across an area open enough to swing around. Also inexplicably absent are the previous game’s swing controls, and you are now unable to speed up while swinging or even launch from your webs to gain height. You will cover most distances from point A to B with the web-zip move, which is effective, but kind of misses the whole point of playing as the web-head. While I lauded Shattered Dimensions for its more focused level design and solid goals, Edge of Time feels too linear and hampered. While playing through the levels I often felt like I was simply moving from one cordoned off arena to another until I beat the miniboss thrown at me and took his key, thus earning the privilege of advancing to the next arena to lather, rinse, and repeat. It’s doubly frustrating when taken in the light of Beenox’s freshman outing which successfully captured the essence of Spider-Man so well.

One of the few shining beacons in this game is the voice cast. Every actor fills their character with life and goes beyond simply reading their lines to really embodying their role. Returning from the last game are two of the four Spider-Actors, though playing different roles this time around. Josh Keaton, who is the current voice of Spider-Man in games and the Super Hero Squad as well as the recent Spectacular Spider-Man series is the voice of Peter Parker, and he does a fantastic job making Peter sound young and fresh, but also highlighting the weight and gravity of how Peter sees himself and the guilt he battles with under the mask. The real treat, however is Christopher Daniel Barnes, who played Peter Parker in the famous and well-remembered Spider-Man 90′s cartoon, voicing Miguel O’Hara and giving him a cold, detached air while also displaying his respect for the man he emulates and seeks to save. Also turning in fine performances are Val Kilmer as the villainous Walker Sloan and Katee Sackhoff, Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck, as Black Cat.

In the end, Spider-Man: Edge of Time had some positives, but they simply weren’t enough to counterbalance boring, repetitive gameplay and creativity-hampering linearity. Spider-Man does not fare well in hallways or buildings. While I’m all for good, linear Spider-Games, Edge of Time is a tragic step back from the frankly surprising quality of Shattered Dimensions. Once you’ve experienced the 5-8 hour storyline, there’s not much to do outside of replaying snippets of the levels to unlock challenge points and new costumes, but there really is nothing to keep even the hardcore fans coming back. Spider-Man: Edge of Time shows that with great power comes great responsibility, and unfortunately Beenox was not up to the task this time around. I hope they get another chance next year, because with the top-notch quality of last year’s game, I still have high hopes for the team.

PROS

  • Amazingly well-crafted story by longtime Spider-Scribe Peter David, co-creator of Miguel O’Hara
  • Great graphics, animations, and attention to detail make the game great to look at.
  • Good cast with returning Spider-Men performing admirably and newcomers following suit.

CONS

  • Frankly pathetic combat, repetitive and unsatisfying.
  • Little to no openness in the levels, hampering web-swinging to an almost pointless role.
  • Relatively short game, with little to no replay value.

5/10

  1. Nice review. I played the very first spiderman game a couple of years ago and kinda liked it. 5-8 hours gameplay is way too short by the way.

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