The recent Spider-Man games have had their own J. Jonah Jameson in Activision CEO Bobby Kotick. Just as Jameson tries to turn New York City against the friendly neighborhood hero by painting him as a menace, Kotick has poisoned players against the wallcrawler’s recent video game adventures by saying “they sucked.” Last year, Beenox reinvigorated the franchise with the universe-hopping Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. The title was well-received by players, critics, and Kotick himself, so the developer has returned to the comic book crossover event with this year’s Spider-Man: Edge of Time.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Genre: Time Travelin’ Third-Person Action
Release Date: October 4, 2011
ESRB Rating: Teen
Taking place sometime after Shattered Dimensions, Edge of Time certainly feels like a continuation of that story. Besides its focus on multiple time streams, the game reintroduces us to Spider-Man 2099, a futuristic take on the webhead, and a character who was also a major part of Shattered Dimensions.
During his nightly patrol, Spider-Man 2099 comes across Dr. Walker Sloan, a mad genius who has worked out the secrets of time travel. Sneaking into the past, Sloan manages to change the timestream and the dystopian future of 2099 becomes double-plus dystopian. But modern day isn’t any better as Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, is killed by Anti-Venom before the opening credits.
Because of Sloan’s actions, Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 have to work together (thanks to a time-spanning telephone known as the “Chronal Link”) to fix the present and ensure the bad future never comes to pass. We’ve all heard this story before. Unfortunately, saving the present (and the future for that matter) involves never leaving the Alchemex building, robbing gamers of the colorful environments and spectacular situations we saw in Shattered Dimensions.
The game’s press materials may tout “Two Timelines!,” but after Sloan travels back in time, he remakes the present so it looks exactly like the future. And because neither Spider-Man ever goes outside, most of their spider powers (such as webswinging and wallcrawling) are rendered moot. This indoor adventure also shuts the door on the neon-infused streets of the 2099 universe, which was one of the best parts of Shattered Dimensions.
This includes near-identical opponents (almost all of the enemies are slight variations on robots), the exact same “industrial gray” graphical palette, and a seemingly conscious effort to make the two Spider-Men play similarly. Several characters from the Amazing universe even manage to show up in 2099 thanks to an “anti-aging drug.” Aside from these time-displaced villains, none of Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery make an appearance in Edge of Time: no Goblin, no Rhino, no Electro, no Vulture. It’s just robots all the way down. Oh, and there’s a
murder horde of zombies to fight as well.
Instead of webslinging between buildings, the Spider-Men have to navigate the office space they find themselves in by knocking out robotic guards and finding keys. Practically the entire game is just one long series of “find the key/open the door,” “find the key/open the door,” “find the key/open the door.”
Between the repetitive environments and repetitive fights, Edge of Time feels more like an expansion pack to Shattered Dimensions than a brand new game. It still feels like a Spider-Man game (though the combat isn’t as interesting due to fewer attacks and fewer web tricks), but the scale is considerably smaller. That’s not to say this game is a failure, but anyone who isn’t already a fan of Shattered Dimensions will have a hard time tagging Edge of Time with the “amazing” label.
The story is mostly well told thanks to a great script from Peter David (who created the Spider-Man 2099 character) and amazing voice acting from Christopher Daniel Barnes and Josh Keaton, though the plot does rely a bit too heavily on time travel nonsense. With 90 years separating the two timelines, the two Spider-Men shouldn’t have any direct effect on each other’s adventures. For example, how does destroying a robotic prototype in 2011 erase that robot from existence in 2099? When you’re doing mad science, you don’t stop building killer robots just because some do-gooder broke your practice toy.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time is an average Spider-Man game adaptation that followed up a great one (Web of Shadows) and a pretty good one (Shattered Dimensions), so it’s hard to get excited about something that’s just average. Edge of Time works best when you’re nearing the end and all of Spider-Man’s special attacks have been unlocked. You can really cut loose in a way that you can’t throughout the earlier portion of the game, which could be described as a bit of a slog. But if you absolutely need a new Spider-Man game, Edge of Time is a perfectly fine rental/bargain bin purchase. Just don’t expect to sling any webs, crawl any walls, or fight any familiar villains.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Spider-Man: Edge of Time was provided by Activision for the purposes of this review.