Spider-Man has an interesting videogame history. They've been making games based on the web-slinger for decades - why wouldn't you, right? He's a strong license, easily recognizable, and he's popular with a wide-ranging audience. That doesn't mean all of the games have been good, however, with recent games like Web of Shadows and Shattered Dimensions receiving mixed reviews.
So it's not that surprising that the announcement of a new game, also by Shattered Dimensions developer Beenox, has been met with cautious interest. Players want it to be good, but - like with every Sonic announcement since we buried the Dreamcast - aren't certain it will be. It was with considerable interest, then, that we sat down with Executive Producer Brant Nicholas and had a play with it.
First, the basics. It's a Spidey game in which you control, thanks to a mechanic hinted at in the title, two different Spider-Men, from two separate time streams. One, Amazing Spider-Man, is based in our time. The other, Spider-Man 2099, is... you can figure that out. Point is, you switch between them from time to time, and the actions you take in one time stream can affect the world in which the other wall-crawler lives. Make sense? Don't worry, it's pretty simple and will come clear soon enough.
It's a third-person action game, with a big focus on delivering high-octane action, along with ensuring that Spider-Man gets frequent opportunities to use his various abilities. Wall-crawling? Check. Web-slinging? You bet. Crafting enormous web hammers and slamming them into bad guys to break their otherwise impenetrable shields? Hell yeah - even if we don't recall Spidey ever doing that in the comic books. Point is, it's action-y and spidey-y. Pretty much what any Spider-Man fan wants from a videogame starring their favorite irradiated arachnid infected super photographer.
Combat varies between the two characters, too, intended to ensure that the two versions of Spider-Man don't just look different. In practice, this means that Amazing is amazingly good at the medium to long range stuff, with tactics that focus on web-related projectiles, while 2099 is all about getting up close and personal. There's a host of moves available for each character, with some - like a time-stalling move that freezes all but boss-characters to the spot - working for both versions of the spider-themed vigilante. We even got to fall down a corridor as 2099, darting into small gaps and dodging massive obstacles as we descended - apparently, this sort of thing is part for the course for the futuristic version of Spider-Man.
The time-altering alluded to earlier plays into the action in a number of ways, like when Amazing had to take out some in-utero experimental zombies so that 2099 wouldn't get beat-down by the same, then uber-powerful, nasties. It's probably best not to apply any real understanding of physics or the theory of time travel to the title, as the concept seems a bit ludicrous when you start to examine it. Just accept it for what it is - when you do, it's actually a pretty interesting and hitherto unexplored game mechanic.
So was it fun? Hell yes it was. We only got about 30 minutes all up with the game, so don't read too much into that, but it was instantly engaging and left us wanting more - something many other, finished games cannot claim. The combat is accessible, but with variety and depth that leaves it open to both strategy and play-style preference. There's simple puzzles to keep the brain paying attention to the levity, while observant players will be rewarded with hidden secrets and extra content.
One thing it wasn't, however, was easy on the eyes. It could be a result of the fact that we were sitting with our noses practically pressed up against a giant TV screen, but whatever the reason, Edge of Time is in dire need of some anti-aliasing. The jaggies were so massive we walked out of the room thinking we might be bleeding from all the harsh polygon edges. But, you know what they say about unfinished video games - there's still time to fix that stuff up.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time is headed to Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in October. There's also Nintendo 3DS and DS versions by Other Ocean Interactive coming out at the same time, however we've not seen these in action.
The Good: Smooth, flowing combat.
The Bad: Earlier games might have put punters off.
The Ugly: The jaggies! My eyes! The goggles, they do nothing!