STAFF REVIEW of Spider-Man: Edge of Time (Xbox 360)

Thursday, November 3, 2011.
by Adam Dileva

Spider-Man: Edge of Time Box art Spider-Man games and I have a love-hate relationship it seems. One year I?ll really enjoy his video game and the next will leave me asking why. Considering last year?s game, Shattered Dimensions, was great maybe I should have prepared myself better for this year?s Edge of Time. For me, Spider-Man games seem to be very hit or miss and it seems like it was a miss this year. Really Activision, stop playing with my emotions like I?m on a rollercoaster. I?m still waiting for the Spider-Man game that has the quality and depth that Arkham Asylum brought to Batman.

With the success of last years Shattered Dimensions, the developer Beenox was essentially given the right to make all the Spider-Man games going forward. Great news I thought since their first outing was a positive experience and it gave me high hopes to play another spidey tale. Don?t expect many of the things that made last year?s outing so great to be included here. The web slinging, fluid combat, exciting super villains and more have all been scrapped and replaced with an office building, button mashing combat, fetch quests and repetition.

The narrative begins believable and something you?d find in a Spider-Man comic book (though being written by veteran Marvel writer Peter David probably has something to do with that). The 2099, CEO of Alchemax, Walker Sloan (voiced by Val Kilmer) finds a way to time travel and wants to alter history in his favor by making his company the most powerful company in the world. Miguel O?Hara who is the Spider-Man of 2099 knows that this wrong and he?s going to do what it takes to revert history to the proper course of events. In the new altered past, present day Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker doesn?t work for the Daily Bugle, but Alchemax instead. Because of company policy his DNA is on record which allows 2099 Spider-Man to create a device that allows him to communicate with Parker and vice versa. Still with me? Good, cause now it starts to get confusing.

Both Spider-Men are going to have to work together if they want to reverse the events of the future (and the past?). This is of course after O?Hara tells Parker that he dies fighting Anti-Venom, so they need to alter history to prevent that and other events from taking place. They?ll need to work together to alter history to save each other and ultimately Amazing Spider-Man?s life. The game takes place in the same areas but in two simultaneous different timelines in parallel that plays heavily on the ?cause and effect? mechanic of time travel.

When O?Hara and Parker are communicating with each other you?ll see them talking to each other in a ?picture-in-picture? moment that can drive across the need for urgency in certain situations. Your actions in the past will have consequences in the future. For example, if O?Hara is stuck somewhere at a dead end, Parker can break a machine or clear a room of enemies to change the future, opening up a new path for 2099 Spider-Man. The way it?s presented is slick, with walls disintegrating in front of you or a wall that turns into a ventilation shaft because of Parkers doing. Every action has its own cause and effect, though it won?t usually make sense; yea, it?s that confusing and absurd at times.

As you shift between both characters from mission to mission, you?ll constantly hear them talking to each other and having banter that wears pretty thin. Many of the scientific explanations for whats happening is obviously incomprehensible so you?ll just hear 2099 Spider-Man ask Parker if he?d rather want a five hour lecture on wormholes and paradox?s or does he want to live instead. This is the way they get around explaining how events like this could actually take place. I understand it?s a comic book setting, but it?s an easy scape goat for not having to explain anything in detail. While the main plot is interesting, the six hour journey of gameplay to complete it is not.

Each Spider-Man handles themselves in combat very differently from each other. Amazing Spider-Man is weaker by nature where the 2099 version is more fun to play as he?s more powerful and has more moves at his disposal that are of use. Parker can avoid enemies by moving quickly for a short amount of time whereas O?Hara can seem like he?s in two places at once and make a clone of himself to distract enemies as he beats them up. Combat is essentially a mash of varied buttons, as later in the game you?re unable to stand toe to toe and fight without getting destroyed and you?ll need to rely on Spider-Man?s agility instead. You?ll need to jump, web swing away, attack, and back off if you want to live longer than one battle. While there is a large arsenal of available moves to purchase and upgrade, you?ll learn quickly that many of these new moves are unnecessary once you learn that the only way to live in combat is to jump, web pull, dive attack, and then repeat. Expect to get hit many times also due to the cameras inability to show you enemies that are about to attack you from behind. Couple that with an inability to lock onto a specific target, you?ll be decimated many times from the rocket enemies because of you web pulling tot eh wrong guy in the heat of battle.

So you managed to survive a few battles and now you?re starting to collect some orbs laid out around the levels. These orbs are used as currency to buy upgrades for both spidey?s and you can improve their health, stamina, and combat repertoire. The orbs collected are shared between both spidey?s so choose wisely; or just so as I did and try and focus on improved Amazing Spider-Man as he?s the weaker one in the combat department.

Because of the level design, pacing is way off and feels very stop and go. This isn?t alluding to switching between the two characters, but the actual design itself. You?ll constantly have to find a red key to unlock the red door blocking your pathway onwards, sometimes even being forced to find three keys for a single door. With a press of your Spider-sense ability you can always see where the key holders are so you can go defeat them but it seems to always happen when you just want to progress in the story. If that doesn?t slow you down, you?ll often have to button mash the B buttonto open a locked door instead. Later on things change a little when you have to guard a device while hoards of enemies try and destroy it (and you), but this game could appropriately be called Spider-Man: Find the Red Keys instead.

If you?re expecting a big open world for Spider-Man to swing around in, sorry, this isn?t the game you were expecting. The whole game takes place inside of the Alchemax building with you fighting recycled enemies over and over. Come to think of it, I don?t think there are even a dozen types of unique enemies (excluding bosses). There are very little web swinging sections and it?s more used to get you out of combat rather than traversing since everything takes place indoors. There are free-fall sections for the 2099 Spider-Man that will take a lot of getting used to. You?re able to maneuver in all directions and speed up but you?ll constantly hit walls and barriers many times as you try to fit into small openings at a quick pace. Because of the camera angle you?ll overcompensate many times until you learn that you have a curser that will show up on oncoming obstacles. Even then, it?s quite challenging with the speed needed to complete these sections.

Spider-Man doesn?t fare much better when he needs to climb around on walls and ceilings either. Controls when climbing on walls is all well and good until you either move to another wall or touch the camera. You?ll become disorientated very quickly and Spider-Man will start going in a direction you don?t intend him to. The timed sequences are also quite difficult due to the controls and combat also. Sometimes you?ll need to defeat a set group of enemies before time runs out (which will kill O?Hara in the future) and most of these timed sections I barely completed with time left on the clock.

Everything usually comes in threes, so be prepared to do the same tasks multiple times. Find three red keys (again and again), kill three groups of enemies to proceed, and even kill a boss three different times. Again, the pacing due to this is thrown right off and it felt more of a way to prolong the game without adding any substance. Sure there are additional events for you to try as you unlock them in the Web of Challenges but these are also uninspiring and will simply have you defeating a set amount of enemies in a short time or to finish a group without getting hit twice for example. It?s all very linear and repetitive in design.

The voice acting is up to par and we?re again treated with Josh Keaton voicing Amazing Spider-Man and Christopher Barnes for the 2099 version. While the voicing it great, the dialogue can sometimes be less desirable. With the constant bickering between the two characters, O?Hara?s overuse of the work ?shock? instead of an expletive and his inability to take a joke, and Parker?s bad puns; may just put you over the edge. There are even subtle jokes making fun of itself when Parker asks if this is a video game, since he has to do a task three times.

While the voice acting and plot is great (even though it?s incomprehensible at times), the gameplay is the meat of the game, and that?s where Edge of Time lacks the greatest. Poor pacing and repetitive tasks (I hate you red keys) is what you?ll be dealing with for the majority of the game. You might also be like me and wish there were more notable boss fights, but on second hand, I?m sure I?d just have to defeat them three times like everything else in the game, so maybe it?s not such a bad thing.

Hopefully you won?t run into the same issues I had where I had an enemy ?die? mid-air, thus preventing the room to be cleared and me unable to move progress forward. This happened to me twice and forced me to restart the checkpoint which would be fine if the cutscenes were unskippable (some are and some aren?t for some reason). Your journey will be over in six to ten hours depending on how much time you want to spend collecting orbs and working on the Web of Challenges.

I gladly give points for presentation, story, and voice acting, but that?s about it. Everything feels like quite a step down from Shattered Dimensions which was only a year ago. Beenox dropped the ball with Edge of Time; let?s hope next year?s Amazing Spider-Man game can make up for it and hope this was just a rush job, since we?re aware of the quality they?re able to create.

Hopefully they'll let Spidey outside of these hallways and back to swinging freely between skyscrapers where he truly belongs. With great power comes great responsibility, Beenox has that power. Now that they?re doing all the Spider-Man games going forward, let?s hope they?ll be responsible next time.

Overall: 5.3 / 10
Gameplay: 3.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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