It sure is great that all 6 billion human beings on this planet have individual tastes and opinions and aren’t just some manufactured collective Borg consciousness. Sure, the differences in beliefs can lead to war or death or genocide, but I’ll take that over sitting in a weird electrical-recharge-station thing inside a giant flying space cube any day. How awesome is it that we can choose our favorite songs, movies, poems, floral patterns, interior decorations, room motifs and other manly things?
That freedom of opinion only rarely backfires on us. Such as how the one or two only people in the world that actually liked Spider-Man 2099 were the people that convinced Activision to make a game based on Spider-Man 2099. And thus we have Spider-Man: Edge of Time, the superhero game no one was itching to see exist. That it does exist as a follow-up to last year’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is even more baffling. That latter game consisted of four different Spider-Men, including the aforementioned 2099, but the gameplay for three of those Spider-Men were of the “not worthy enough to bleach Dante’s hair” variety. Rather, the consensus strongest aspect of that game was the Noir-Spider-Man levels, and their focus on using the web-slinger’s powers with a stealth focus beyond fists to faces.
Crawling on walls, hiding from big, bad humans, and then webbing them up and making them fear you. You know, what an actual spider would do if it were 5’9 and could lift cars. It was like they were trying to recreate the thrill of the recent Batman games and being the scariest entity in a room filled with muscular men with automatic weapons. Oh, and it was aping film noir, so Spider-Man preached gloomy narrative about rainy nights, cannibal-Vulture and probably doing a Max Payne face under the mask. Even with its obvious inspirations, it was a fresh idea for both a video game and the Spider-Man universe.
All the suspense and intrigue that came from the Noir segments are long gone, and we’re left with all of the other parts of Shattered Dimensions that no one wanted. Edge of Time is a linear, corridor-oriented beat-em-up. Woo Hoo. You go from room to room in a linear path, you punch armoured thugs with guns. Sometimes you need to punch specifically-marked thugs to get keys. Sometimes you stand in front of a door and have to trick a missile into opening the path for you. Sometimes you have to quick-time-event-mash-a-button to open a door.
That is all. That is the entire game. There’s your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man in action.
I feel like I have to stick my arm as deep into the virtual disc world in my PS3 as possible in order to wring out aspects of the game to talk about. I think there were three boss fights with things that loosely resemble famous Spider-man villains that are decidedly drawn out affairs. There are bits where you are free-falling and have to avoid various architecture placed in a manner that makes no sense in any building but a building designed for free-falling in a video game. There is web-swinging and wall-crawling, but they are such tertiary parts of the game that the Spider-Man name on the packaging means nothing beyond some kind of contractual obligation Activision has with Marvel.
The game tries to find some semblance of identity by intermingling present day Spider-Man with 2099 Spider-Man. You’ll alternate between the two as the story sees fit. The only major difference between the two is that one has a hologram attack that throws off 2099’s best homing technology. Also, present day Spider-Man has some occasionally goofy liners; 2099 Spider-Man says “shocking” in place of expletives. Over, and over and over again. Again, someone liked Spider-Man 2099 to think he warranted a video game.
The game attempts to convince you that time travel is a big deal. Things that happen in the past will have a direct impact on the future. I think Ashton Kutcher made an awful movie about that once. For example, if present day Spider-Man destroys a giant robot in 2011, no one will think to repair that robot 88 years later for Spider-Man 2099 to fight. That was the day Carlos the janitor got fired and he’s the only one that enters the maintanence bay to dust off the giant death-bots, I guess. Instead, 2099 Spidey fights a bunch of smaller robots in giant robot’s place. Why? I don’t know. They throw a bunch of big sciencey words like “quantum causality” that don’t make any kind of sense, and none of it amounts to anything more significant than a pre-scripted event you have no control over. Everything about the game feels lazy, like the rest of the development team at Beenox thought this Spider-Man 2099 business was a bunch of shocking bullshock and they’d rather be dealing with badass motherfucker Noir Spider-Man.
The nicest thing I can say about Edge of Time is that you are actually playing as Spider-Man, something that the people who made X-Men: Destiny didn’t quite comprehend so well. But in a world where the Batman Arkham games are reality, homogenous beat-em-ups with a license tacked on are intolerable. Even worse is that good Spider-Man games have been done before; games that understand how Spider-Man is in his element swinging around a giant city like some kind of smarmy Tarzan. So an indoor-corridor-based beat-em-up for a Spider-Man game feels doubly insulting.