As we enter a darkened room to have a peek at Spider-Man Edge of Time, the first thing we’re greeted with is a powerful image of one Spider-Man carrying another, bruised, battered and beaten. Spider-Man is going to die, we’re told, and a future Spider-Man has to save him in order to save himself.
After a scientist creates a rift in time, Spider-Man 2099 learns of the death of the Amazing Spider-Man. To prevent it, they need to work together across time to help each other survive. Running through the game at all points is this idea of cause and effect, a phrase that popped up again and again. Everything the original Spidey does will have some sort of effect on 2099’s universe, while 2099 will be able to advise present Spidey of things that he’s about to face. Watching each timeline event unfold simultaneously was a joy, and the seamless transition between times really helps enforce the idea that these timelines are both dependent and concurrent.
Due to this, it’s a strained relationship at best between these two Spider-Men, and one that’s fraught with possible paradoxes, but from what we’ve seen, the scripting of their banter in a battle of their unique brand of wit will do well to paper over any cracks in the mythos.
Beenox’s previous Spider-Man game, Shattered Dimensions, was well-received – so much so, that Activision made the studio responsible for all future Spider-Man games. Last month, they announced their next title, named Spider-Man: Edge of Time and is immediately recognisable in a similar vein to that of its predecessor, albeit refined. Rather than focusing on four wildly different Spider-Men, Edge of Time looks at the relationship between the classic Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099, a hero from a distant possible future who’s making his return from Shattered Dimensions. In a very comic-book-like move, though, the two games have nothing to do with one another – this is a separate timeline and a separate story in its own right.
Throughout our demo, Amazing and 2099 (played by returning actors Josh Keaton and Christopher Daniel Barnes respectively) chatter to each other, providing a covert tutorial and a constant narrative that really underpins Edge of Time’s handling of what’s unique about Spider-Man as a hero and why he resonates with people. Despite a threatening timer as Amazing tries to destroy the prototype of a robot bent on 2099’s death, they remain sarcastic throughout. It makes Edge of Time immediately feel like an interactive version of the comic universe, and something fans will be able to latch onto easily.
Spider-Man rarely has to deal with anyone who can match his quick wit, and with Peter David, co-creator of Spider-Man 2099 and prolific Spider-Man writer, holding the narrative reins, this conflict looks to be remaining true to the source material.
As we watch each Spider-Man fight their way through the level on show, it’s difficult not to compare Edge of Time to Shattered Dimensions. Many of the powers of both Amazing and 2099 return, with Amazing’s focus on long-range combat and making comical weaponry from his web contrasting with 2099’s more raw, melee-focused abilities and powers. The atmosphere of the game feels very similar, also, separated into puzzle-platforming elements and clear combat sections, and Spider-Man 2099’s trademark falling sections return.
Where Edge of Time differentiates itself, though, is the amount of freedom given to the player. Rather than Shattered Dimensions’ rather regimented approach, Edge of Time allows both Spider-Men free reign in their respective environments. This time around it’s entirely within one sprawling building, both in the present day and 90 years in the future. It’s owned by Alchemax, the corrupt science giant of 2099, and the wide variety of their experiments prevents the levels getting stale – as well as corporate and industrial areas, we’re assured that lush vegetation and jungle areas will also be available throughout the game. It’s very clear that these levels have been designed with Spider-Man in mind and Associate Producer, Dennis Bernardo is quick to point that out: if any hero other than Spider-Man could get past these obstacles, he explains, it wouldn’t work. It has to feel very much like a Spider-Man game, not a game with a Spider-Man character.
This design informs the entire game. While Spider-Man games have had both great success and great disappointment with open-world scenarios, in order to keep focus and provide the player with specific challenges, Beenox has constrained the game to enclosed environments within the Alchemax building. It’s a decision that immediately leads to dismay, but watching the game being played quickly assuages that fear – a tight space simply provides more surfaces for Spider-Man to swing from and crawl all over, and allows for puzzle-style platforming that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. As Spider-Man can crawl on any surface, it lends itself to some extremely interesting platforming possibilities, and given Alchemax’s abilities as a corporation and the parallel timelines altering reality, it wouldn’t surprise us if there were a few interesting tweaks on that front.
If you’re a Spider-Man fan, keep a very close eye on this one, as all signs point to this being an experience more authentic than any previous attempt. If not, pay attention nonetheless – Beenox appears to have a very keen grasp of what makes Spider-Man unique, and we can’t wait to get our hands on the game later this year and put the two through their paces.