Activision aims to keep the good thing going in "Spider-Man: Edge of Time" that developer Beenox started with last year's "Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions." That story traveled across four different continuities in the Spider-Man comic book universe, reining in the open-world design that has been a calling card of the franchise's latest games. The result was a very narratively focused experience, one which also boasted tight gameplay.
"Edge of Time" is similarly tied up in multiple continuities, featuring a time-traveling adventure that follows both Amazing Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Spider-Man 2099/Miguel O'Hara. Beenox pulled the veil off the Peter David-scripted story during a special WonderCon preview, mere days after the game had been announced, revealing that a villainous -- and so far unnamed -- scientist from the 2099-era Alchemax has traveled back in time with the goal of killing Parker in his pre-Spidey state.
O'Hara learns of the plans and gives chase, ending up in some kind of time-space vortex. While there, he has a vision of Peter Parker's death, prompting him to make contact with the former wall-crawler.
While we don't yet know the storyline specifics, what matters is the two smack-talking Spider-Men will be in contact with one another throughout the game. They'll banter -- Josh Keaton voices Amazing and Christopher Daniel Barnes voices 2099 -- but their interactions also fuel the game's story-advancing puzzles. Parker's actions in the past can have a physical impact on the layout of things in the future, an element which Beenox refers to as "cause and effect" gameplay.
This will be realized as a sort of picture-in-picture cutscene. As you play, the other Spidey will be visible in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. He'll talk to the superhero you're controlling, jump around, fight enemies and basically do whatever a Spider can. Or can't, until you perform some crucial action.
In an example shown during our WonderCon demo, Parker-Spidey is exploring a section of the massive Alchemax facility, a city-sized structure that serves as the game's setting, while O'Hara-Spidey dukes it out with a giant robot in a PiP window ringed by whatever time-space distortion is keeping the two in touch. Parker recalls seeing a similarly giant robot in a prototype testing area, and so he heads over there to do some damage.
As Parker picks apart the inactive automaton, the future robot becomes less effective. Eventually, it disappears completely and O'Hara instead suddenly finds himself facing off against a gang of human-size robots. It is also at this point that control switches from Parker to O'Hara. In this game, the narrative dictates which Spider-Man you're kicking bad guy ass with.
While each Spidey has the same basic moveset, they are set apart by their respective fighting styles. Amazing is best for mid-range attacks, with lots of hammer-like web strikes which extend his reach. He's also has a running evade ability which essentially makes him invincible for as long as it is active, much like Samus' Screw Attack in "Metroid."
2099, on the other hand, is built more for up close fighting. His arm blades do most of the work, delivering powerful knockback blows. He can't evade like his in-the-past counterpart, but he can create a holographic decoy of himself that draws away all enemy attention. This power seems to be a component in puzzles, as at one point we saw O'Hara use it to attract the gaze of two sentry cameras long enough to get himself through a door.
Taking down enemies and collecting what look like silver Spider-Man logos earn experience, which can be spent on amping up your combat abilities. We didn't get a look at how this will work, but we were told that the evade and decoy powers in particular can be buffed with a greater range of effects. There is also an on-screen combo counter, which seems to up the experience gains as it grows larger.
The demo ended in 2099's world, with O'Hara sent careening down an elevator shaft in an on-rails sequence. It's your pretty standard Death Star trench run-styled minigame in which Spidey must dodge to-and-fro, avoiding oncoming obstacles. Helpfully, a set of crosshairs appears ahead of him to point out what he's lined up with.
Overall, it looks like Beenox intends to stick with the basic style seen in "Shattered Dimensions." The gameplay looks tight and comic fans are sure to appreciate the Peter David-penned story. We only saw the Xbox 360 version of the game in action, but look for "Edge of Time" on all consoles, PC and Nintendo's DS and 3DS later this year.