The Spider-Man video game franchise has certainly seen some ups and downs over the past years and the more I think about it the more I think that our favorite web slinger has probably seen more downs than ups. Regardless, the point I am getting at is that Spider-Man has never been a force in the video game industry. I have yet to play that “must own” Spidey game to date. That being said, last year Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions came along and surprised many as it delivered an experience that featured terrific visuals, fantastic voice work, and wonderfully varied gameplay. This year, Spider-Man: Edge of Time arrives on the scene and the same folks responsible for last year’s solid Spidey game are at the helm again. Can Spider-Man: Edge of Time follow up with an even better experience this time around?
Spider-Man: Edge of Time for the Xbox 360 features no cooperative gameplay or multiplayer component at all (offline or online), as such my gameplay section will focus strictly on the single player mode, which unfortunately is all that is offered. Although the single player aspect of the game is enjoyable I cannot help but be a bit disappointed as the co-op gameplay from a few years ago has seemingly gone by the wayside with the last few Spider-Man games. I have to admit that I was a bit saddened when I first popped the game in only to find out there was no way my daughter and I could play the game together. Regardless, Edge of Time features a solid single player experience, but there are some gameplay elements which hold this Spidey game back from being considered a must own Spider-Man game.
In regards to the game’s story, unlike Shattered Dimensions where you follow four separate ‘Spider-Man’s’, Edge of Time has you following ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ and ‘Spider-Man 2099’. Walker Sloan, the games main antagonist, is using experimental technology to travel from the year 2099 to 1970. His primary motive is to establish the Alchemax corporation and destroy Spider-Man. Walker accomplishes what he set out to do as Anti-Venon kills Peter Parker and Walker subsequently creates an alternate universe where the future is dark and grim. Spider-Man 2099, who is trapped in between the two timelines, sees visions of the original Spider-Man getting killed as history alters around him. Using Peter Parker’s DNA, Spidey 2099 is able to create a link with him back in the present day. This propels Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 in an adventure where the two must work together across time to save one another and prevent the disaster that ultimately leads to Spidey’s death.
All in all, Spider-Man: Edge of Time offers up one of the better and more engaging storylines I have seen in the franchise to date. The story is well told and the way the two characters communicate using the picture in picture display works quite well. Granted, the story is very predictable and there are little surprises after every thing is said and done. That being said, I didn’t completely ignore this game’s plotline as I typically have with previous Spider-Man games, so there is something to be said about that.
Much like Shattered Dimensions, Edge of Time is not an open world game. So for those looking for an experience similar to Web of Shadows, you do not get it here. Spidey is not free to roam, swinging from building to building like he has done in the past. In fact, this is one of my biggest complaints with Edge of Time. There is little web slinging going on at all. Most of the game is set indoors in the giant Alchemax building, so our main hero has little room to go slinging like he has before from roof top to roof top. Being able to sling around a large city was one of the things I loved about Web of Shadows. While Edge of Time features plenty of web zip-lining, web shots, and other web attacks; Spider-Man’s infamous swooping web slinging takes a back seat ultimately hurting Edge of Time in the process.
The shortage of web slinging is replaced with a lot of button mashing and chaotic combat sequences. It is a linear experience and it does not offer up as much variety as I would have liked. There are some puzzle sequences and some frustrating free falling sequences where Spidey has to dodge an endless supply of steel pillars. The free falling sequences mix up the gameplay, but they feel more out of place than anything else, not to mention they will test your patience. The core gameplay however consists of taking down hordes of enemies, locating a key that allows you to enter a new room, and fighting the odd boss. The timed sequences where Spidey has to take apart a mechanical robot within a certain amount of time, for instance, spices things up a bit and offers up quite the challenge. Even taking down an endless supply of enemies can bring about some challenges and using every combo in Spidey’s arsenal of attack becomes a critical component. Nevertheless, while the combat is enjoyable at the onset it does tend to get repetitive, but it remains a challenge throughout.
Unlike previous Spider-Man games where you are endlessly wrestling with the camera, Spider-Man: Edge of Time manages to limit the amount of occasions where it seems the camera has a mind of its own. The camera is not perfect but it is without question much improved over previous Spidey games.
In terms of the game’s controls, Edge of Time is deep and many of the game’s various moves are picked-up on the fly. There is an endless amount of combos especially after you have unlocked and purchased all the combat and character upgrades. The upgrade system breathes some life into the game and extends the replay value. Not to mention it takes some time to purchase all the upgrades.
The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 have different fighting styles, but you would never know it with the way the combat usually plays out. The Amazing Spider-Man tends to use a combination of melee and web-attacks while Spider-Man 2099 uses acrobatics and his suit’s advanced abilities in combat. Despite this, the differences seem very subtle and hardly noticeable.
Edge of Time should take anywhere from 6-8 hours to complete depending on your skill and how much time you want to spend clearing rooms and upgrading your character. In this day in age in gaming I think that this is far too short. That said, you do speed through many levels and there is hardly any backtracking at all in the game. In addition to the slick upgrade system, you can locate collectibles such as alternate suits, action figures, concept art, movies, and credits. You can also complete in game challenges that also give you incentive to come back for more.
Overall, the visuals in Spider-Man: Edge of Time for the Xbox 360 are very good and certainly much better than I expected. I was well aware of some of the negative press Edge of Time received over its visuals before I had a chance to play it, so going in I was expecting a drab and lackluster game. This was not the case at all as Edge of Time stands on its own as a great looking game. Granted, you don’t get the varied visuals and presentation style like you did with Shattered Dimensions, yet what Edge of Time lacks in variety it makes up for in spades with detailed and sharp visuals. Some of the game’s cinematic cut-scenes and detailed characters are the best we have seen in a Spidey game to date. Not to mention, the unique presentation style makes for a game the developers can be plenty to be proud of.
Above everything else, I was most impressed with the game’s cinematic cut scenes. The storytelling and presentation that went into these scenes really set the mood and they managed to grab my attention right from the get go. The level of detail of the opening scene was simply stunning delivering an experience worthy of any animated Spider-Man movie and this quality continues throughout the whole story. The game also utilizes picture in picture visuals quite magnificently while Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 banter back and forth. Being able to see the immediate effects of one Spider-Man’s actions on the other Spider-Man’s timeline was something I had yet to see in a game and Beenox managed to pull it off with great success.
As with any super hero game, the main characters have to look good and Edge of Time is no different. Both the Amazing Spider-Man and the Spider-Man 2099 suits look great. They are both colourful and vibrant. Spider-Man has never looked better in high definition. Other in-game characters, including the enemy AI, look great too, but I do have to admit that I would have liked to have seen a little more variety with the enemies. I also noticed that the game could look a little too busy at times during some of the chaotic battle scenes where Spidey is taking on hordes of enemies all at once. Spider-Man has always had a stylish way of taking down enemies and the legacy continues with Edge of Time; however, some of the scenes just seem to take away from Spidey’s fighting style making it difficult to see Spidey in all his glory doing what he does best.
Overall, Spider-Man: Edge of Time is good looking game and will surely appease its target audience. There is plenty of eye candy to be had and it comes at no expense as Edge of Time is smooth running game and there are no framerate issues to be had.
Much like Shattered Dimensions, Edge of Time is a great sounding game and is once again an area where the development team at Beenox shines. Sadly, Neil Patrick Harris does not return as the voice of Spider-Man; however Val Kilmer makes his Spider-Man gaming debut as the voice of Walker Sloan. Smallville and V star Laura Vandervoort does the voice work of Mary Jane and Katee Sackhoff from Battlestar Galactica debuts as Black Cat. All in all the voice work is a real treat and gives the game instant credibility and authenticity.
Edge of Time’s soundtrack is also well done. The music gives you the feeling you are truly immersed in Spider-Man’s world. The music is well-timed and it sounds great in 5.1 surround sound. In-game sound effects sound as good they should too, but they are nothing spectacular. As an example, the web slinging and punching effects are bang-on but they just didn’t wow me. Nevertheless, on the whole I had no concerns with the sound effects and battle noises; I just didn’t find myself awestruck.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time is a short, repetitive, and is not quite as good as last years Shattered Dimensions game. Sure, that sounds bad but Edge of Time does feature some beautiful cinematic cut-scenes, sharp looking graphics, terrific sound, and more Spidey combat that you can shake a stick at. While it is hard to recommend gamers run out and purchase Spider-Man: Edge of Time, it is a game Spider-Man fans will want to keep on their radar and take a close look at it.