Spider-Man: Waste of Time
On this site I have had no qualms about my love for Marvel when it comes to my comic books. My decision to “Make Mine Marvel” since I was a youth rests solely on the no-longer underwebbed shoulders of one Mr. Peter Parker. So, coupled with my love of video games it is reasonable to understand I would get excited for any new wall-crawling game no matter how poorly conceived it looked. Spider-Man has been my top superhero for as long as I have been reading comics and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, though the folks over at Beenox and their new title Spider-Man: Edge of Time have certainly done their damnedest to try.
Last year Activision announced that it would be handing the reigns of its Spider-Man video game franchise over to developer Beenox who promptly stated they would be removing the open world atmosphere that had come to define Spider-Man games since Spider-Man 2 on the PS2. Naturally fans were shocked and outraged, how could this game possibly work without a fully recreated New York city to swing through? What is the point of making a Spider-Man game if he’s just going to be confined to small closed in areas? Well, as it turns out Shattered Dimensions was actually quite good. It had 4 unique Spider-Men in it, and the inclusion of the Noir Spider-Man was enough to break up the monotony of the smaller level based gameplay. While it had a silly storyline with Mysterio shattering the time space continuum it did contain all the elements required to please any Spidey fan. However, one year later, Beenox has finally decided to make good on our fears and release the game we all though Shattered Dimensions would be. A boring, cramped, monotonous slog of a Spider-Man game.
I’ve Crawled This Wall Before
While I’d like to tell you the story in Edge of Time is simple… I just can’t. It would be simple if you just accept everything that is going on around you without question. Alchemax scientist Sloan (voiced by the completely underutilized Val Kilmer) has decided to change the past to alter the future. By going back in time and funding Alchemax himself he alters the timestream making himself one of the most powerful men in the world, and lowly Peter Parker a simple security guard for the Alchemax company. Enter Miguel O’Hara who catches onto Sloans plans and quickly sets about to put everything back to normal. By contacting the Spider-Man of the past he is able to alter the future allowing him access to the upper levels of the Alchemax building where he can shut down the time gate and restore order. However, for some reason O’Hara is ALSO able to alter the past by doing things in the future. The game gives some pseudo-science theory of quantum mechanics causing temporal shifts allowing both past and present to alter each other, but it doesn’t really make sense, and the game goes to great lengths to poke fun at itself for how ridiculous this all is.
Throughout the 6 or so hour campaign you will guide both Spider-Men from the bottom of the Alchemax tower to the top. Yes, you heard correct, bottom to top. This story is fully 100% contained within the same building. You never go outside, there are no rooftops or anything interesting like that, and for the most part the building is comprised of small cramped hallways and corridors. You’ll spend most of your time praying that you don’t attach to a wall (which you will as they are always within 3 feet of you) causing the camera to go dive bombing around the room until finally resting somewhere just 3 inches from Spider-Mans special purpose. These were the same issues that plagued the PS1 Spider-Man games and the sole reason developers moved to the open world system. The locations are so cramped and tight that the camera simply can’t keep up with Spider-Mans abilities. If you get onto a wall the controls instantly invert themselves into some alternate rotation that you were expecting to look, which forces you to stop and get your bearings before being able to move again, not what you need to do when there are multiple rockets and machine gun fire coming your way. Web swinging is practically useless as the rooms are so tiny you end up bouncing off of walls and getting stuck on corners more often than not.
Mash Button To Win
So, what do you do during this fantastic vacation on the 10th through 66th floor of the Alchemax building? If you guessed fight the same handful of 5 enemy types over and over and over again, we’ve got a winner! The flow of the game is pretty simple, enter a room, clear out some bad guys, open a door, and repeat. After about an hour of this non-sense even I was completely droned out by this game. Combat is your usual mish mash of light and heavy attacks with some special attacks mixed in. You can upgrade your Spider-Man of choice with new abilities however aside from the health upgrades and stronger attack upgrade they are all pretty much useless. The game even locks you out of purchasing the highest level of the strength upgrade until you pass certain chapters as if they knew everyone would simply buy those all up first, which would’ve at least made the game a little better as you wouldn’t have to spend so much time beating up the same enemies over and over if you were as powerful as can be from the start.
The developers tried to mix up the combat by re-introducing the Web Of Challenges again. This system was introduced in Shattered Dimensions and offered extra experience points and bonuses for completing optional objectives. It worked fine there because it simply awarded you the points if you did the requirements, no more action was required by the user. Here the system is completely broken! When you enter an area that has a challenge available, a message will pop up saying press the back/select button to initiate the challenge. If you don’t press the button fast enough (you have about 10 seconds before the message goes away) you completely miss out on the challenge. Now, I don’t think I need to explain how unnatural it feels to quickly rush for the back/select button in the middle of combat, but it’s quite annoying. Furthermore most challenges are timed (such as reach 25 hit combo in 10 seconds, or kill 30 enemies in 4 minutes etc) however if you start the challenge prior to a cutscene or talking segment the countdown will still count against you while you simply have to sit there and watch your challenge fizzle away. I believe the developers did this intentionally as you can go into each web challenge individually from the main menu, however to do so you must quit out of the game first. As there isn’t much left to do once you’ve finished the campaign I think this was done on purpose to give the game some replayability.
Replayability is kind of a funny term in this sense, as even over the course of the main game you will technically replay it 3 times or so. See, as bad enough as it was keeping the game locked into the single location of the Alchemax building, Beenox had the audacity to actually make you constantly re-trace your steps through these environments. You’ll traverse an area as Spider-Man, then later retrace it as 2099 with no changes made whatsoever. 2099 has an entire section of the game devoted to going down a large shaft, simply so he can activate a power supply and then climb back up, and yes the game makes you do this and doesn’t change a thing. Edge of Time also follows the rule of 3s, everything you do must be done in 3s. There is one completely unnecessary time sink section where you must defend a data cart as it moves towards a central repository. Of course you must do this 3 times for some inexplicable reason, and no the events for doing it never change. Spider-Man has a segment where he must chase an enemy with a key through a teleporter, the other side of the teleporter? It’s the EXACT same room as the one you just came from. So now that you’ve cleared out the same room twice and are ready to go back, guess what the enemies are back in the first room, have fun clearing it 3 times for no particular reason.
Spider-Man: Threat or Menace?
So Beenox has not only taken away the open world aspect that allows Spider-Man to fully utilize his powers, they’ve not only filled the game with boring combat through repetitive rooms, but they’ve also committed the ultimate Spider-Man sin. Spider-Man is defined by his rogues gallery. Much like Batman, Spider-Man is almost more about his villains than the character himself at this point. Shattered Dimensions had these villains in spades, but certainly left some available for use. Edge of Time it seems just didn’t care. Not only does the story start out with Anti-Venom (really… Anti-Venom) who is the ONLY boss you will face for the entire first act, but the only other actual Spider-Man villain in the game is Doc Ock, and he is completely rewritten as a sniveling weak lab assistant to Sloan. The final actual Spider-Man foil you will face is Black Cat 2099, but she shows up out of nowhere, has a giant boss fight level, and is never heard from again. The rest of the bosses (both of them) are created solely for the game. The final boss is supposed to be a giant surprise enemy, but the surprise only works because it goes COMPLETELY against character and would NEVER happen. Seriously, the twist villain in this game is just as bad as that time Peter Parker made a deal with the devil to save his 90-year-old Aunt.
Shock This Game
Much like Mike had to say about X-Men: Destiny, I’m not angry… I’m just disappointed. Beenox took everyone by surprise when Shattered Dimensions was actually a good game, so it was natural to think they might be able to pull it off twice. However, it’s clear that the one year development cycle was the nail in the coffin for this game. The ridiculously short window mandated that the game take place in a very few similar environments, and of course they would have to cut out the Noir segments or anything that deviated from the core Spider-Man combat. Edge of Time was a chance to capitalize on the success of Shattered Dimensions by giving us more of what that game was, much like Arkham City will be doing, but they actually gave us less. I would have loved to see this story expanded further, maybe get Spider-Man 1602 in the mix and give us some Assassins Creed style gameplay segments. It’s not even a knock against 2099, as I thought his segments of this game were the ONLY shining part of it. The free-fall segments return and they are still really cool to see, and 2099’s combat abilities are MUCH more effective than Plain’ Ol’ Parkers. At the end of the day though, it’s simply not enough. There isn’t a single thing going on here in Edge of Time that we didn’t already see in Shattered Dimensions, and that is why I can’t possibly recommend this game to anyone, even Spider-Man fans. There is literally nothing in this game worth putting yourself through, I would honestly recommend X-men: Destiny over this one as it at least had some different environments and the full cast of characters you would expect to see.