The spider-man franchise sure seems to be on the upswing (pun intended). While the featuring everyone’s favorite web-spewing acrobat have faired well over the years, the last couple of releases have also managed to accumulate quite a few critical accolades as well. Last year’s Shattered Dimensions saw the introduction of the various Spider-man variations in the gaming realm and that trend will continue this fall with Activision’s Spider-man: Edge of Time.
Just like the previous title, the new game will focus on multiple “Spider-men” across different dimensions, although it has been scaled back to two this time around. I was recently given the opportunity to witness a narrated play-through of two of the game’s levels in San Francisco . Now that E3 2011 is upon us, I can now share the details of that experience with you all as the same demonstration is being given publicly in Los Angeles as we speak.
Developer Beenox is at the helm of the project once again and their hard work and dedication to the franchise shines through even in this early build of the game. Edge of Time uses the same engine that was developed and used in Shattered Dimensions (SD), although it has been more refined for the new game. The new game tells a much darker story within the Spider-man universe and although it exists within the same “world” of the previous game, it is a completely new tale and note a direct sequel or continuation of SD’s story.
Edge of Time tells the tale of the death of the Amazing Spider-man. Our hero’s downfall is witnessed by Spider-man 2099, who contacts the Amazing Spider-man through time-portals in order to prevent his other-worldly self from falling victim to the events he knows are coming. Unbeknownst to Spectacular, the events that are transpiring were set into action by decisions made by 2099 in the future. Miguel O’Hara, the true identity of 2099, goes back in time after he his research company develops a means to teleport through time and space. Once he has possession of this technology, Miguel goes back in time 125 years and founds a company who will go on to “invent” the technology for themselves, ahead of the competition who really discovered the technology. This single, selfish act sets in course a series of events that alters the dimensional timelines of both Spectacular and 2099. The most prolific of those events is the aforementioned death of the Spectacular Spider-man.
Spider-man faithfuls can rest assured that the story has been crafted with care is it was developed by Peter David, who created the Spider-man 2099 character back in the early 1990‘s. Several new characters have been created for the adventure including one of the game’s main protagonists, scientist Walker Sloan. Other characters will be introduced as we approach the game’s release this coming Fall.
The game focuses primarily on a combination of combat and platforming, though the platforming is intended to enhance the combat scenarios thanks to Spidey’s amazing acrobat abilities. The gameplay engine is very similar to the one that players became familiar with in SD. Players are armed with an extensive arsenal of both standard and special maneuvers that can be strung together into lengthy combinations against your foes. As you progress through the game, you will earn experience points which can be spent to further expand and enhance your arsenal of abilities.
You will switch back and forth between the two different dimensions constantly through the game as both Spectacular and 2099 will need to work together in order to assist each other throughout the adventure. The interactions between the two occurs through picture-in-picture style interactions, where the non-playable Spider-man will direct you through your mission as well as criticize you along the way. This time around, these two characters aren’t so friendly with one another, though that will likely change throughout the duration of the game.
The combat scenarios that I witnessed were spectacular. Combat was very free-flowing and the variety of moves available to the player was abundant. The representative playing the game seemed to pull off a different attack combination each and every time, keeping the battle fresh wave after wave of enemies. Depending on which Spider-man you are playing as, the style of play is drastically different. Spectacular Spider-man will use attacks based on his hyper-spider-senses, meaning his speed and agility as well as the ability to “predict” his enemies moves. There were times during his battle sequences when time almost seemed to stop and the player was able to maneuver behind the enemies and strike them down before they even knew what happened. 2099 on the other hand focuses on raw power. It is pretty evident that you will have to adjust your gameplay style accordingly as you with between the two and the techniques that you would implore with one could lead you to certain defeat with the other.
The gameplay scenario switched back and forth between the two Spider-man’s as they both proceeded through a corporate office building and scientific laboratory. In what will surely evolve into an interesting gameplay mechanic, the actions and decisions of Spectacular Spidey will altered the world around 2099. As things are either changed, or were perhaps left the same, 2099's world will change and evolve accordingly in real time. This mechanic will have the player switching back and forth between the two in order to alter elements of the environment to assist 2099 in his progression. One of the examples that we witness is the destruction of a power reactor in the lab. In the base timeline, the reactors explosion leads to the rebuilding of one of the building’s wings; however, if Spectacular can manage to stave off the explosion, the need for the new area will never exist and it will cease to exist in 2099's world. Once the reactor is stopped, a wall literally appears in front of 2099, as the timeline that led up to his place and time had been forever altered by the intervening actions of the Spectacular Spider-man. This back and forth switching continues as both Spider-men lead up to the moment in 2099's dreary vision and results in the first boss-battle shown of the game.
For the boss-battle part of the demonstration we were introduced to the one and only Anti-Venom. AV is the mutated form of Eddie Brock, whom in this story and the current comic book story arcs has been cured of the effects of the symbiote which previously turned him into Venom. Although he still has traces of the symbiote in his body, Eddie has given up a life of treachery and instead focused on using his power to heal people rather then destroy them. Brock / Anti-Venom has been taken under the wing(s) of Walker Sloan in order to finally end the life of Spider-man. The idea in Sloan’s head is that if the Anti-Venom can “heal” people, he should be able to “heal” Spider-man by removing the radioactivity from his bloodstream, therefore removing the abilities that make him the Spectacular Spider-man. In theory, and in at least one version of the timeline, this plan works and is the primary motivation for 2099‘s attempt to correct the dimensional alterations that he has caused.
We don’t get to witness much of the battle with Anti-Venom, but we we saw was absolutely amazing. The game uses an extremely cinematic presentation using an improved camera system over the previous game. The sound design is also very notable as the sound effects were extremely pronounced and exaggerated, helping the player to truly feel every single slam and hit witnessed in the game. It also helps that the demonstration was being given on a huge, 7.1 surround sound system, but the point of the matter is I felt every bump and thud along the way. As the battle proceeds, and it is a brutal one, Anti-Venom begins to slowly strip Spider-man of his abilities and powers. Needless to say, instead of the battle becoming increasingly easier as you wear him down, it appears to become more difficult as you deal with your loss of power(s).
Just as the battle was approaching what appeared to be the climax, the demonstration came to an end. Activision, of course, doesn’t want to spoil what the story has in store for us and I guess that is the right thing to do. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t / don’t want to know what happens though. The game is going to be available on nearly every platform available (currently). Although the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 editions have been the primary focus of most of the early looks of the game it will also be coming out on the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo DS. While all versions will tell the same, primary story, the DS version of the game will include exclusive enemies not seen anywhere else. The game is shaping up nicely and definitely one that I will be keeping an eye on until its launch later this year.