Review: Spider-Man: Edge of Time (PS3)

Title: Spider-Man: Edge of Time
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T
Spider-Man: Edge of Time is also available on Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo DS.
The PlayStation 3 version was used for this review.

Beenox’s first outing with Shattered Dimensions holds a special place in my heart.  Not because it was such a memorable game or because they were breaking new boundaries, but because it was my first video game review written for PS Nation. That is in no way meant to belittle the game. You can catch up with my thoughts on Shattered Dimensions here.

Since then I’ve been fairly anxious to get my hands on their follow-up Spider-Man title, Edge of Time and have been hopeful that the issues that plagued Shattered Dimensions (ahem – wall crawling camera) have been addressed and corrected. Even so, it was an enjoyable, albeit flawed, attempt at revitalizing the Spider-Man video game franchise. Still, the developers at Beenox were most certainly on the right path.  I can only hope that the foundation has already been established and the building blocks are now set in place.

I think the game has been out long enough, and there have been enough rumblings, to provide a bold introductory spoiler to Edge of Time – Spider-Man dies at the hands of Anit-Venom at the beginning of the game. It was a shocking start to a highly anticipated title and one that I thought would set the tone for the remainder of the game. I immediately thought Edge of Time was sure to be a much darker addition to the Spider-Man mythology. Instead, what we’re given is another attempt at a time-manipulation story that involves the investigation of the corrupt Alchemax scientist Walker Sloan and his mad-scientist efforts to rule the world by altering the past.

Jumping ahead and back through time, players have the opportunity to play as Peter Parker – aka Spider-Man – and Miguel O’Hara – aka Spider-Man 2099 throughout the campaign. Beenox makes the claim that each version of the incredible spider will play uniquely and have their own set of powers and combat moves. The reality is that the combat is very much the same but for variations in the way it is displayed.

Each version of the Spider-Man has their own set of hand-to-hand moves that can be upgraded and bought with XP that is acquired during gameplay and mini-challenges. These upgrades start to provide the game with new life but ultimately are reduced to rehashed move sets. However, each Spider-Man that you play as does come with a new type of hyper Spidey-sense.  Essentially the same ability for both Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099, when activated it provides for an interesting visual effect as well as a strong defensive tactic. Suddenly there are – for lack of a better term – trails of Spider-Man and his movements that prevent your enemies from locking onto your position and allowing you to get the jump on them quickly. It’s a useful ability but one that I found myself using too often.  It reminds me of my overuse of Batman’s Detective mode from Arkham Asylum. It’s great to use but you become far to reliant on it far too early in the game.

My number one complaint about Shattered Dimensions was with the horrible camera when wall crawling. More often than not it was unusable. When playing as a man capable of spider-like abilities that’s not a good thing. It’s like finding out you can fly but every time you do, you realize you can only fly directly into the ground. What’s the point, then? Thankfully, the developers heard many of the vocalized tirades during Shattered Dimensions and they, for the most part, fixed this nagging issue. They have made it so when Spider-Man begins his wall climbing the camera pulls farther back to allow for a better view of where you’re going. Although better, there were still occasions when the camera got a little disruptive with my efforts but it’s definitely better than what it was.

However, where wall crawling has improved they continue to ignore the fact of what made Spider-Man so great to begin with. The guy’s a superhero. He can shoot webs from his wrists and swing like a modern-day Tarzan high above the landscape. This all sounds wonderful and an enticing element for a video game. Why then did the developers choose to make the environment for Edge of Time entirely indoors? There’s just something inherently wrong with this idea. At least with Shattered Dimensions there were multiple opportunities to take advantage of such an ability. With Edge of Time you’re constrained to primarily running from one hallway to the next, or crawling through unending ventilation shafts to fight the same group of enemies. Sure, you could speed things up by swinging from hallway to hallway but where’s the excitement with that?

Excitement really seems to be at an all-time low with Edge of TimeShattered Dimensions was a great introduction for Beenox because they focused on making the four versions of Spider-Man play mostly unique from one another and pitted you against some of the greatest Spider-Man villains to grace the pages of comic book history. Sure, we’re not completely lacking boss battles here but the level design and the means by which you get to those points in the story are a drag. In between you’re faced with one or the other of the Spider-Men, trapped in their respective time and in need of the other to unlock doors, take down enemies or run through timed obstacles just to keep the tired story moving forward. In other words, it gets old… fast.

The cut scenes of Edge of Time are rather impressive but the in-game visuals are average at best and are recycled throughout the game. As I mentioned, you’re basically playing this entire game inside the walls of an enormous Alchemax building, how much variety could there be? It’s obvious they didn’t take any lessons from the success of Arkham Asylum, or even this year’s Captain America for that matter. Both of those games took place in an individual location but both of those games made the absolute best of it.

I will say that Beenox came up with an interesting use for picture-in-picture during game-play.  Most often used when switching from one Spider-Man to the other, the game would provide a means of communication between them by bringing up the others time along the bottom right corner of the screen. It was a seamless transition and provided for a nice segue between stories and plot lines. Unfortunately, this little addition to Edge of Time isn’t nearly enough to increase the overall level of enjoyment you’ll have with this game. It’s a unique element that I’ve yet to see in any other game, but it pretty much ends there.

I hate to keep comparing Edge of Time with Shattered Dimensions but I feel it’s both necessary and warranted. Both games were created by the same developers and I would have hoped that, like so many franchise games before them, they would have made improvements by leaps and bounds from one game to the next. Unfortunately, the audio is yet another example of where Edge of Time comes up short.

It’s not that the special audio effects or musical score come off as bad. On the contrary, they seem to be just as good as any other AAA title I’ve come across this year. The use of surround sound could have been ramped up more but I am, and will always be, a stickler for that. No, it’s the voice acting that falls off when compared with Shattered Dimensions.

Where that game really shined was with the inclusion of four very different takes – personality, emotions, motives – on who Spider-Man was.  That’s not to say the actors who voiced the two Spider-Men for Edge of Time were terrible. They were, at best, competent, but lacked that something special that we got last go-round with the likes of Neal Patrick Harris.

On top of that, Edge of Time boasts the inclusion of a once “great” actor to voice the main villain, Walker Sloan. I was fairly excited, initially, by the prospect of having Val Kilmer fill this role. C’mon, the guy who played Elvis in True Romance and Doc Holliday from Tombstone (I’m your Huckleberry). That should be awesome, right? Wrong. His performance as the mastermind behind time manipulation and world domination was unenthusiastic and drab and it did nothing to save this game from near immediate drops in price.

I was encouraged by Beenox’s first outing of the Spider-Man experience and was hopeful for vast improvements with their follow up title.  Unfortunately, Edge of Time comes across as taking things too quickly.  It’s been barely a year since Shattered Dimensions first hit store shelves.  Is that truly enough time for a development company to come up with the resources, ideas and even justification for a sequel?  What’s the rush? 
Shattered Dimensions may have received somewhat of a warm reception from critics and gamers alike, but why push your luck? 

Edge of Time is a perfect example of a development company that has taken one step forward, quickly followed by two steps back. Those of you hoping for a Spider-Man sequel with Arkham City-like improvements are in for a sad realization. My biggest fear is that, as of this writing, Beenox has announced another Spider-Man game set to coincide with the release of next years reboot of the Spider-Man movie.  Where Edge of Time came up incredibly short, their next iteration may very well kill the Amazing Spider-Man once and for all.


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Written by Bill Braun

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