In this issue....Spider-Man dies! No, really, he does. Even the menu screen rehashes the prodical Cyclops-carries-Phoenix/Superman-carries-Supergirl imagery from Michelangelo’s Pieta. So who is the only hero worthy enough to carry the fallen Amazing Spider-Man? It's none other than, well, Spider-Man; the 2099 version that is. His death is not some huge spoiler; it's actually the basis for Activision's 2011 Spider-Man: Edge of Time, bringing back Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions developer Beenox for another go at two timelines that many of us have gotten familiar with.
Whereas Back to the Future and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater teaches the perils of time paradoxes, Edge of Time is a rare exercise in embracing time manipulation. You might think that Beenox merely sticks to a narrow, orderly alternation between timelines but it's actually a more blended affair. By applying a form of picture-in-picture visualization, both heroes get to help each other in real time to restore a reality where Spidey doesn't bite the dust.
In trying to illustrate this, Beenox showed a present-day Spider-Man infiltrating a primitive version of the Alchemax HQ, the corrupt company featured in Miguel O'Hara's timeline. Through a form of telepathic communication, Miguel guides Peter Parker through the city-within-a-building corridors of Alchemax, an area rife with guards and obligatory laser deterrents.
We soon got to see how actions in one time period affected the events and environments of another. While the player controls Peter, the AI-controlled Miguel has his hands full with a Sentinel-like robot, one that Future Spidey can't seem to handle. Luckily, the present-day Spider-Man happens to be standing in front of the work-in-progress version of that very same robot. All Peter has to do is give that automaton a thorough beating, and like siblings in a Marty McFly family photo, the giant sentry disappears from the future, freeing the Spider-Man of 2099 from its metallic clutches. Yet this doesn't mean Miguel gets a free pass in this area. With the robot gone, you now get to control Miguel in a new version of future, one where Alchemax resorts to constructing more smaller, more manageable robots, giving Future Spidey a ton of opportunities to use his claws and talons.
Any game can give players the illusion that they are controlling a character's destiny, but it takes a talented studio to make it not feel scripted. So it's all the more intriguing that not all the possible changes that can happen in Edge of Time are mandatory.
With Beenox's involvement, it's pretty difficult not to compare Edge of Time with Shattered Dimensions. It's just as well considering how much of the gameplay in Edge of Time resembles the Amazing and 2099 stages of the 2010 game; not that it's a bad thing. The graceful web-centric attacks and maneuvers are just as plentiful in the Amazing timeline and it appears you won't be short of vertical dive sections for 2099. You can also be sure there will be tons of close-quarters combat in both worlds, aided by an ability tree to upgrade the Spideys' moves.
It was also during this hands-off session that both Activision and Beenox spokespeople wanted to highlight the new dodge moves added to the fighting arsenals of both characters. While Peter Parker will sport a traditional dodge, Miguel gets to leave ghost decoys of himself, putting him steps ahead of the enemies. In order to give the foes a fighting chance, both moves are metered so you can't use them all the time.
If Shattered Dimensions was a collection of boss fights with brief exploratory sections in between, Beenox looks to place a larger emphasis on story in Edge of Time. With only two superheroes to work with, it does make for a manageable character dynamic to explore. It would be way too uninteresting for both webcrawlers to get along right from the get-go (and frankly it would be too unbelievable considering their healthy egos), so we instead get an initially tenuous relationship where it might take the whole game for both Spider-Men to gain the others’ respective trust. And, the picture-in-picture design ensures that there will be many opportunities for both heroes to not know when to shut up and stay off each other's nerves.
When asked about the estimated playtime, Beenox gave the vague reply of the "typical adventure game length". Coupled with a promisingly worthwhile story and the potential of two realities that are way more fleshed out than their Shattered Dimensions counterparts, there's reason to be excited about Edge of Time. It also doesn't hurt that it will feature cameos of characters who have never been in a game, or as one spokesperson regrettably put it, Beenox plans to "Marvel it up."