Giant Bomb Review

34 Comments

Spider-Man: Edge of Time Review

2
  • X360

Save for some occasionally witty banter, this generally generic brawler is too concerned with the window-dressing of time-travel to capitalize on Spider-Man’s character, abilities, or mythology.

There have been plenty of highs and lows for Spider-Man video games over the past decade-plus that Activision has held the license. Typically, he’s at his best in the games that celebrate the webslinger’s high-flying, acrobatic abilities as well as his underdog wiseacre persona. In Spider-Man: Edge of Time, Spider-Man--playable in both his traditional Amazing and darker futuristic 2099 forms here--feels literally boxed in by the high-tech skyscraper that the entire game takes place in, as well as a story that spends more time fiddling with a superficial time-travel plot device than it does with the characters trapped in its machinations.

Even as a follow-up to last year’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, Edge of Time feels like a step backwards, reducing the number of unique Spider-Men you get to play as from four to two, completely eliminating the unique stealth stylings of Noir Spider-Man--arguably the most interesting aspect of Shattered Dimensions--in the process. It’s a Spider-Man team-up where Spider-Man is inessential to much of the experience, and it's not hard to imagine an alternate reality where Edge of Time doesn’t feature any Spider-Men.

It all starts when the clearly evil CEO of the clearly evil conglomerate Alchemex--voiced by a clearly phoning-it-in Val Kilmer--travels back from the year 2099 to the late 1970s to jump start the dastardly company's rise to power, affecting the realities of both present-day webslinger Peter Parker and his 2099 counterpart Miguel O'Hara in the process. Tapping into some ill-explained 2099 tech, O'Hara is able to communicate across time with the time-distorted Parker--now an Alchemex employee, though the rest of his reality as Spider-Man is inexplicably unchanged--and the two proceed to do what they can in their respective time frames to reverse the damage. Other than appearances by Eddie Brock as Anti-Venom and a relatively benign Dr. Otto Octavius, Edge of Time is largely free of Spider-Man’s supporting cast or his colorful rogue’s gallery. Even those that do appear are barely recognizable for most of the game, and are secondary threats at best.

Time-travel as a plot device can be a tricky thing. It's just as easy to introduce overly complicated logic as it is to whitewash any paradoxical dead-ends you might find yourself in, and Edge of Time manages to fall victim to both pitfalls. The idea of a character’s actions in one timeframe having an instant impact on the reality of another is promising, particularly from a gameplay perspective, but all of those turns in the story here are completely pre-scripted, eliminating any sense of player agency in how things unfold. Even Spider-Man himself vocalizes his concerns about the dubious “quantum causality” effect that Edge of Time uses as a lazy catch-all whenever it needs a new obstacle for its heroes.

In the game’s earliest example, Spider-Man 2099 is faced with a giant robot he has no hope of defeating, so Amazing Spider-Man dismantles the giant robot before it can even be finished. Everyone involved, including both Spider-Men, assume this will erase the robot from existence, but instead, it’s replaced with a similarly marauding gang of smaller robots. It’s the first sign of many that “quantum causality” is just a paper-thin way of saying “random things happen because the writer wanted them to.” The timeline might not be linear, but your path through the game most certainly is.

Narrative clarity isn’t helped by the fact that both characters are traipsing around the same drab building for the whole damn game. Even if the game didn’t deliberately revisit certain interiors, which it does frequently, there’s never a terrific sense of place in Edge of Time, just one dark, vaguely high-tech room after another. Other than a single, relatively open-air greenhouse environment, this game takes place mostly within narrow corridors, which, in addition to adding to the monotony, really marginalizes Spider-Man’s web-swinging ability. Flinging Spider-Man through wide-open spaces has been one of the greatest pleasures of past Spider-Man games for me, and the risky, improvisational feel of his particular style of traversal can represent a great shorthand for the character’s persona. Here, the traversal feels clumsy and cramped, and the game ultimately leans on its beat-’em-up combat for its five-or-so hours more than anything else.

So, you go back and forth between playing as Parker and O’Hara as the story sees fit, bashing squads of jackboot thugs or faceless robots, respectively. Both Spider-Men share a number of fundamental abilities, and even though the game tries to differentiate them with unique skill trees, the practical differences in combat feel pretty negligible. The key exceptions are the free-fall sections that are played exclusively with Spider-Man 2099, which themselves rely on too much trial-and-error to provide particularly satisfying respite from the repetitive and mashy combat. In a better game, Edge of Time’s in-line combat and the traversal challenges that pop up during the game (and which are easily revisited after the fact) could be a compelling reason to come back for more, but this game already overstays its welcome as it is.

I suppose some slack should be given to developer Beenox, which had roughly a year to turn around from its last Spider-Man game. But that’s not really material to the player, who is expecting, if not a great game, at least a great Spider-Man experience. Spider-Man: Edge of Time makes good on neither.

34 Comments
Posted by amomjc

This really sucks, when I first heard about this game I had high hopes for a great Spider man game.

Posted by bobafettjm

The prospect of a Spider-Man game that takes place all inside of one building seems odd to me.

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Posted by MooseyMcMan

I think the next one should use that Spider-Man vs. Cthulhu idea from the Quick Look. You'd need some wide open spaces to get Cthulhu in there.

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Posted by Vashkey

Too bad Treyarch will probably never make another Spider-Man game again.

Posted by SHADOWINFINITE

Thanks for the review Ryan

Posted by ObsideonDarman

Maybe the Spider-Man Games should do a Guitar Hero and take a break. That seems to be the general consensus amongst people.

Posted by zombie2011

Why make a Spiderman that takes place in a building? Spiderman is all about movement, make another open world game.

Posted by ticticchilitic

100% agreed. Despite enjoying the writing, I stopped playing this game after completing the first act because I felt I had seen all the game had to offer. I looked over the skill advancements and foresaw another 6-7 hours of combo mashing with no interesting variation to the gameplay I had already experienced.

I think Ryan completely nailed it with the last line, " ...that’s not really material to the player, who is expecting, if not a great game, at least a great Spider-Man experience." I felt guilty about putting this game away after two hours because I was worried that I was judging this game based on what it wasn't. While not great games by any means, I really enjoyed Spider-man 1, 2 and the recent Web of Shadows. These titles were able to deliver an experience that felt tailored to the strengths of Spider-Man's character. The more I played Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time the more confined I felt moving from one room to the next. It is an extremely frustrating experience to see Spider-Man animating and talking the way you want but being confined to level design that doesn't play to his power set. It actually felt like the ceilings and tight corridors of this game were constant reminders of the budgetary and time constraints placed on this franchise.

As a fan of the character I am excited to see another Spider-Man game, but I am just hoping that Spidey isn't once again locked in a cage.

Posted by EuanDewar

I feel like this game isn't really worth talking about a huge amount.

Posted by FreakAche

No surprise here. I don't think there has really been a good Spider-Man game, since the Spider-Man 2 movie game.

Posted by Brendan

@FreakAche said:

No surprise here. I don't think there has really been a good Spider-Man game, since the Spider-Man 2 movie game.

I loved the Spider-Man 2 movie game, even if I found the actual mission structure to be a little lame. Swinging around the city was just so satisfying.

Posted by Butano

Haven't played a Spider-Man game since Ultimate Spider-Man. I'm still surprised they haven't made more open world Spider-Man games after only 2 and Ultimate.

Posted by Solh0und

I rather play this than Spiderman: Friend or Foe. And that is saying something....

Posted by Pudge

I'm still in shock that the guys that did Spider-Man: Web of Shadows didn't get to do another one. That was so much better than any other Spidey game, and then all of sudden the two after it are combat focused. Insanity.

Posted by Enigma777

I think I'll still give it a rent. I've been craving for a a mindless superhero beat-em-up since MUA2

Posted by advent_crash

I would like to point out I have been playing the 3DS version for a review for a website I work for and it' actually a pretty good 3DS game. I love me a Spider-Man game and I think I'll still play this one when the price goes down.

Posted by bybeach

Ryan likes to score them low. I saw his QL of this game, it seemed competent... and forgetable. I guess the combat is obnoxious.

Edited by troncoparati

I was very disappointed with Dimensions to the point I wasn't interested in finishing it...and I'm a fan of the creepy crawler. This one looked like taking the same direction so I passed on it. I hope a better one comes along.

Posted by solidejake

I doubt it deserved a two...

Posted by JoeyRavn

@solidejake said:

I doubt it deserved a two...

Read the review, see why Ryan gave it a 2/5. If you disagree, point to why you don't think it deserves a 2/5.

Posted by Box3ru13

I just have one question: What the fuck kinda name is Miguel O'Hara!?

Is he Spanish-Irish? Shitty name for a shitty spider-man. Oh well Batman is out in a few days and that'll make everyone forget about this.

Also nice to see you do a review Ryan. I like to think our conversation @ PAX had something to do with it :D

Posted by Eyz

This looks like a solid 5$ game! I'll keep an eye on second hand copies at the local game store :P

I guess a week will be enough to find lots of resales..

Posted by WinterSnowblind

@FreakAche said:

No surprise here. I don't think there has really been a good Spider-Man game, since the Spider-Man 2 movie game.

Ultimate Spider-man was far superior to the movie games.

But since then? Yeah.. very much downhill.

Posted by adz117

I bet if they asked 1000 people what they wanted from a Spider-Man game, a good 90% of them would say an open world. Give me my open world!

Posted by Dino_Sousa

Yeah, I actually was dumb enough to buy pre-order this one. Ryan has nailed it. This is not the Spiderman experience you want. How dumb am I to have pre-ordered this one and forget to pre-order Arkham City?! Seriously...

Posted by Dino_Sousa

Also, I played the DS version. Not good at all. Shame on you, Marvel.

Posted by YukoAsho

@Box3ru13 said:

I just have one question: What the fuck kinda name is Miguel O'Hara!?

Is he Spanish-Irish? Shitty name for a shitty spider-man. Oh well Batman is out in a few days and that'll make everyone forget about this.

Also nice to see you do a review Ryan. I like to think our conversation @ PAX had something to do with it :D

I was about to say just this.

WTF? I'm in Miami, FL, and there's lots of Hispanic-Americans here from all over the southern hemisphere and the Caribbean, and I've never heard that before. Sounds like someone trying to make a Hispanic character without ever having met Hispanic people.

Posted by Enigma_2099

Black Cat 2099... BLACK CAT 2099?!?!?! They were THAT DESPERATE to squeeze this b**** into ANOTHER Spider-Man game that they went there?!?!?

Screw the score... That right there was enough to make me not want to play this game.

Posted by reddjoey

@YukoAsho said:

@Box3ru13 said:

I just have one question: What the fuck kinda name is Miguel O'Hara!?

Is he Spanish-Irish? Shitty name for a shitty spider-man. Oh well Batman is out in a few days and that'll make everyone forget about this.

Also nice to see you do a review Ryan. I like to think our conversation @ PAX had something to do with it :D

I was about to say just this.

WTF? I'm in Miami, FL, and there's lots of Hispanic-Americans here from all over the southern hemisphere and the Caribbean, and I've never heard that before. Sounds like someone trying to make a Hispanic character without ever having met Hispanic people.

Ask Peter David why they thought it was a good name.

As far as the character, he's Irish-Mexican. Also, his costume is from parts of a Day of the Dead costume he wore to a parade in New York. So yeah....

Personally, I always thought that by 2099 it had all just become one big blur and to expect any possibilities.

Posted by Still_I_Cry

I guess they limited the experience to solely inside a single building so that they didn't have to spend the time or money involved in creating an open world game, which would sell me on the game if it was well executed. I haven't played a spiderman game for ages.

Posted by Valdarez

What a horrible review. I expect better of you Ryan. Meta-critic even shows you come in at the bottom of the barrel. Spider-man fans should definitely play this game. The introduction is awesome and the there are NO load times, something the reviewer (use that term loosely Mr Ryan Davis) failed to mention. The banter between the two Spider-man really makes the game. With no load times, fast past action, plenty of cut scenes, and the witty banter this game FEELS like Spider-man! And no, you don't need an open world to make a great Spider-man game. I mean, come on, Spider-man wasn't always in an open world in the comics, in fact, he wasn't there most of the time. In the game, there are plenty of areas where you can web swing if you like, and where you MUST web swing if you want to get a Gold in all of the challenges, something the reviewer would have discovered had he attempted a Gold on some of the timed challenges. *sigh* Crappy quick reviews.

Posted by Enigma_2099

@Valdarez:

And no, you don't need an open world to make a great Spider-man game.

And if they didn't have an excuse to ignore your comment, they do now. No you don't need open world to make a great Spider-man game, but it damn sure helps.

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor
@Valdarez said:

What a horrible review. I expect better of you Ryan. Meta-critic even shows you come in at the bottom of the barrel. Spider-man fans should definitely play this game. The introduction is awesome and the there are NO load times, something the reviewer (use that term loosely Mr Ryan Davis) failed to mention. The banter between the two Spider-man really makes the game. With no load times, fast past action, plenty of cut scenes, and the witty banter this game FEELS like Spider-man! And no, you don't need an open world to make a great Spider-man game. I mean, come on, Spider-man wasn't always in an open world in the comics, in fact, he wasn't there most of the time. In the game, there are plenty of areas where you can web swing if you like, and where you MUST web swing if you want to get a Gold in all of the challenges, something the reviewer would have discovered had he attempted a Gold on some of the timed challenges. *sigh* Crappy quick reviews.

Yeah I guess Ryan kind of shit all over this one. It's probably
fun.  I kind of wish they would put out more 2099 Comics. I
miss that whole Heroes in the Future shit.
Posted by Deusoma

Wait, this one was made by Beenox too? Wow, I'm actually really impressed that they could go from total garbage like this to a surprise hit like the The Amazing Spider-Man tie-in game in less than a year. I haven't played much of Web of Shadows yet, but I gotta say I liked the moral choices and concepts used there a lot more than anything I heard about Shattered Dimensions or Edge of Time. I hope the tie-in game indicates that Spider-Man games are moving back to the open world setting, putting Spidey back where he belongs: swinging from building to building.