Reviews

Spider-Man: Edge of Time – Review

Release Date: Out Now!
Developer: Beenox
Publisher: Activision
Singleplayer: Yes
Splitscreen: No
Multiplayer: No
PEGI: 12+

Thanks to Activision for providing a copy of this game for review.

Even as a massive fan of Spider-Man I can’t but help question the logic behind releasing Beenox’s second attempt a Spidey title just one week before the goliath that is Batman: Arkham City launches. Sure, the games are vastly different, but it only serves to remind people that super-hero based games can be more than just decent, they can kick-ass! So, is Edge of Time the Arkam Asylum of Spider-Man games?

The story goes that Spider-Man 2099 is investigating Walker Sloan, a decidedly dodgy scientist that is working for the decidedly dodgy Alchemax, when he discovers him transporting himself back in time so that Alchemax can be founded before it should be. This may not sound look the biggest problem in the universe, but Alchemax aren’t the nicest people in the world and their dicking around with timeline has resulted in New York city being turned into a dark world indeed, a world where Peter Parker no longer works at the Daily Bugle, instead working at the dreaded Alchemax. But there’s a second problem; this changing of the timeline will result in Spider-Man’s death at the hands of Anti-Venom, and so it’s up to the two Spideys to set things right and get the timelines back on track. It’s a pretty barmy story, but one that’s actually quite enjoyable with an interesting twist to finish it all off. However, Beenox’s use of the various characters from Spidey’s universe is is pitiful at best; Mary Jane gets a few moments, Doctor Octopus is sort of around and the Black Cat also makes an appearence, but none of them ever get used as well as they should have been. Shame on you, Beenox!

But the storyline really exists so that you have the perfect excuse to play as both Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099, both of whom can communicate with each other through time by…..errrr, let’s not question this stuff. The two Spideys are actually very well voiced and their banter, while never actually capturing the classic humour of the Spidey comics, is pretty entertaining throughout the game. In fact I’d even go so far as to suggest that Spider-Man 2099 is extremely well voiced. But perhaps the best moments of the Spider’s constant bickering comes in the form on little references to gaming cliches, such as Spider-Man question why everything comes in three’s, which Edge of  Time then proceeds to do.

But there is another rather baffling affect from all of this time travel nonsense; what one Spider-Man does in his timeline can directly effect the other Spider-Man’s timeline. Let us put this into context; if Spider-Man 2099 was fighting a giant killer robot, like you do, then Spider-Man could destroy the robot while it was in prototype form in his own timeline which would make the robot in Spidey 2099’s timeline simply disappear, and vice verse. Again, it’s probably best if you don’t poke holes in this and just accept the whole thing. But while this might sound like a kick-ass gameplay mechanic, it’s actually doesn’t get used as well as it should. The only time you get to see this in action is when the game commands it so, generally making it feel like a wasted opportunity for the player to have some real control over these timeline changes. Instead it’s usually an excuse for the game to make you go hit a switch or destroy something. Still, it’s pretty cool to see entire corridors change before your eyes.

But there is one major problem that can be attributed to this plot; the entire of Edge of Time’s plot takes place in the Alchemax building. That’s right, just one building. Ok, so it’s a pretty damn big building that even contains a leafy botanical section, but it’s still a building. A downright boring building that’s colored in grey and little else. This also means plenty of tight, enclosed spaces where Spider-Mans natural agility and his web-swinging are completely and utterly useless, with only the occasional open section allowing you to have some real web-slinging fun. In these sections the joy of swinging around gives a glimpse into what it might be like to be Spider-Man; simply tapping RT web-zips you onto one of the marketable points while holding down the same button lets you swing from the rafters. It can feel a tad imprecise at times, but there’s great joy to be had here. Sadly these large open areas are far too rare for their own good, instead the game is dominated by corridors with some sections opening up just enough to allow some simple web-slinging, but here the controls fall apart and it simply feels clunky and annoying, all sense of grace and agility quickly stripped away. In essence these sections only serve to remind you how fun swinging around in the open-worlds of previous Spider-Man games was. Wall crawling suffers the same fate with Spidey sometimes failing to stick to a wall or getting caught up in scenery thanks to dodgy camera angles. This lack of web-slinging adds to one fundamental problem in Edge of Time; it never truly makes you feel like Spider-Man.

So, if you’re not web-swinging, what are you doing? Punching baddies in the face and collecting keys, that’s what! At its heart Edge of Time is a button masher, demanding that you hammer the attack buttons to fend off ludicrous amounts of baddies who are determined to dent your face. Two buttons are used for baddie bashing with another allowing you to shoot webs and the final button being used for closing in or dragging closer distant enemies. Spider-Man comes packing a button to activate his super-reflexes, allowing him to dodge attacks and move quicker, while Spider-Man 2099 comes with a button that lets him….move really fast and dodge attacks. In fact both Spidey’s feel almost exactly the same in combat, offering movesets with little difference. It feels like a wasted opportunity given their very difference backgrounds. Still, Spidey flies around the screen, leaping, punching and kicking like he’s on a sugar rush giving combat a fast and fluid feel that makes it fairly enjoyable, though by time you’re reaching the end of the games five to seven hour lifespan the combat is going to be grinding. Simply put it’s a shallow but enjoyable system. But I am forced to question that absolute lack of Spider-Sense in this game. It’s like Beenox decided that it was far too inconvient to include and therefore ignored it in the hopes that it would simply go away, which it has.

There’s a simple upgrade system thrown in to try to keep things interesting that lets you purchase upgrades separately for each character or shared upgrades that both of them can use. To achieve this you’re going to need collect shiny orbs found around the game environment that are usually laid out in a convient path to indicate your next goal, just in case you were incapable of navigating the linear levels. There’s not much options in the way of upgrades bar a few extra moves, but at least it adds a little something to the game.

In fact repetition is one of Edge of Time’s biggest enemies. The majority of your time is spent beating up people, or beating up robots, or beating up robot/people so that you get a key/s to open a door. On occasion you’ll be asked to flip a switch, but really it’s a repetitive experience. The only real moments when the game throws something new at your face is Spider-Man 2099’s freefall sections which see’s him leaping down shafts and hurtling down at ludicrous speeds while attempting to dodge obstacles that might otherwise cause him to end up looking like a spider-pizza. But even these sections are incredibly frustrating thanks to an extremely clunky control system than makes slamming into platforms far too easy.

In a small attempt to bring a little variety to the game you’re presented with the option to take on a challenge when entering an area, usually asking you to beat up enemies or navigate a section without a specific time limit. Like the rest of the game these are repetitive, but at least you can unlock some bonus costumes by completing them, which is always nice.

In terms of presentation the game is a bit of a grab-bag, featuring some damn good-looking cinematics. Hell, the game’s opening presentation is actually extremely good with a stylish intro menu and sequence involving crawling through an air-duct, which may not sound that exciting but actually proves to be pretty cool. This stylish presentation soon falls away though, leaving you with an extremely drab environments to wonder through. On the technical side of things Edge of Time is solid but nothing more, offering some pretty good animations but flat textures and a lack of detail. Still, the music is actually surprisingly good, with a rousing score being accompanied by some pretty good sound effects and voice acting.

But ultimately Edge of Time fails on one major point. The big one. Unlike Arkham Asylum, which captures the spirit of Batman and makes the player feel like the Dark Knight, Edge of Time feels like Beenox have read hundreds of issues of Spider-Man and utterly failed to capture the spirit of character. I never felt like Spider-Man, and that’s a big flaw.

So it’s time to finish this review, and by all accounts it sounds like a rather negative review which is a tad unfair to Edge of Time. As a gamer I view this is a decent button-masher with an entertaining plot that’s worth your time should you find it going cheap, but as a Spider-Man fanatic I find Edge of Time to be completely disappointing, failing to capture the essence of Spider-Man in any real way. This split view of the game presents me with a bit of a problem; should I judge Edge of Time as a gamer or a  Spider-Man lover? Maybe I can manage both.

The Good:
+ An entertaining, if bonkers, story.
+ Web-swinging is still awesome.
+ Spider-Man 2099 is still badass.

The Bad:
– Linear environments and tight corridors just don’t suit Spidey.
– Shallow combat.
– Short.

The Scores:

Graphics: 6.5
Some of the cutscenes look great, as does some of the animation, but the environments are completely boring to look at, the textures are flat and there’s a lack of detail.

Sound: 8
Actually pretty good. Both Spider-Men are well voiced and the music suits the game well. The sound effects are also fairly good.

Story: 8
Don’t poke holes in the science of it all and you’ve got an entertaining yarn. Just a shame that there’s little use of the Rogues Gallery.

Gameplay: 6.5
A decent button-masher that’s a bit shallow for its own good. Web-swinging is fun when you actually get to do it, but there’s some imprecise controls to be had and the freefall sections are downright annoying.

Lifespan: 6
Around five to seven hours will see the campaign completed with almost zero replay value.

The Verdict: 6.5
Summary: Spider-Man: Edge of Time isn’t the Arkham Asylum of Spidey games, instead it’s  a shallow but fairly entertaining button-masher that fails to make proper use of the Spider-Man name.

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