Spider-Man is one of the most beloved superheroes of all-time, holding his own against even the mighty Batman. However, like many other superheroes including until recently Batman, he has struggled when placed in the medium of video games. While there are some diamonds in the rough, including the Neversoft developed Spider-Man on the PSOne, most of the Spider-Man games have been mediocre at best.
Last year Activision turned over development duties of the Spider-Man franchise to Beenox, who delivered Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Shattered Dimensions was at its core a mediocre brawler with some solid ideas, decent storytelling and a healthy dose of polish and fan service. More importantly it was a foundation for Beenox to build off and hopefully make a truly great Spider-Man title. Spider-Man: Edge of Time is the result of that foundation.
Alternate reality was one of the big ideas that Shattered Dimensions attempted to explore and Edge of Time continues along that same path. However, where Shattered Dimensions had a mystical edge to it, Edge of Time attempts to root itself in science. Also like Shattered Dimensions before it, Edge of Time has players taking control of multiple spider-men but the number is cut down to only two here, those being present day Spider-Man / Peter Parker and the previously mentioned Spider-Man 2099.
Building off of the themes in Shattered Dimensions, Spider-Man: Edge of Time opens up with a flashback of Anti-Venom killing Spider-Man, thus immediately letting players know this is not going to be a typical Spider-Man story. Edge of Time then puts players in control of future Spider-Man, Miguel O’Hara / Spider-Man 2099 as he sets out to investigate Walker Sloan (voiced by Val Kilmer) the founder of Alchemax. Sloan has been experimenting with time travel and his evil plan is to go back in time and found Alchemax earlier with the knowledge he has now, thereby making Alchemax the most powerful company in the world.
While Shattered Dimensions was mostly just a glossy looking brawler, it had enough variety spaced throughout its gameplay that the repetition it did have was easily overlooked. Edge of Time does not follow this same path, with very little variety in its game design with most of the missions in the game amounting to simplistic brawling encounters that are repeated ad nauseam.
Having to get three keys or open three doors and get three things is a common obstacle that needs to be overcome before progress can be made. Worse yet is that this desire to do everything in triplicate extends to the boss battles as well. Add in a wonky checkpoint system and one boss battle in particular had me on the verge of tossing my controller away and taking my frustrations out on the game disc.
A lot of these repetitious issues could be forgiven if the combat required for most of them were not so tedious. Edge of Time does a great job of making Spider-Man look like the agile superhero he is, unfortunately looks are only skin deep. Despite having an array of unlockable moves, the combat in Edge of Time is amazingly shallow. It never feels spontaneous and most fights can be completed by bashing out a few basic attacks over and over again.
It is odd that Beenox went the brawler route again with this tile because one of the biggest complaints with Shattered Dimensions was that it leaned so heavily on the brawler aspects. It is even odder that Beenox went with an entirely interior setting for Edge of Time. People do not associate Spider-Man with hand-to-hand combat but rather with wall crawling and web slinging and while there is a slight amount of that in the game, it is severely limited and not enough to satiate the desires of Spidey fans.
While the core game design is mostly uninspired, Beenox does do some interesting things playing with the time paradox at play in Edge of Time. The best missions in the game are ones that require one of the two spider-men to do something in their time to affect the goings on in the other time. Sadly these missions are just a tiny fraction of the overall experience and most of the time players will spend brawling with common foes.
Most of Edge of Time is mediocre but if players are willing to slog through the gameplay, they will be treated to a fun comic book story that takes some unexpected twists along the way. It has its issues, including some out of character moments for Peter Parker/Spider-Man and its contrived use of Mary Jane as a catalyst to create more game, but for the most part it is an intriguing story that is well told. Combined with a strong cinematic presentation and decent voice work, Beenox at least got this aspect of the game right. Unfortunately it is not enough to recommend one plays it.
So much of what makes Spider-Man a great hero and fun character is missing from this game and it is hard to not look at Edge of Time and think that Beenox went the wrong way with everything they had built with Shattered Dimensions. Edge of Time is a lazy game and Spider-Man deserves better than that. He deserves better than mediocrity and so do we.
Pros: Amazing opening sequence and a crazy fun story
Cons: Overly repetitious gameplay, tedious brawling combat and a lack of a true Spider-Man feel.
2* out of 5