Activision let journalists get an early look at Spider-Man: Edge of Time this past Friday, at a hotel suite down the street from the recently wrapped WonderCon 2011.
The basics of the game, set for release in fall 2011, are already known — that a villain from Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099’s timeline travels to the past and sets a string of catastrophic events in motion, including the death of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (distinguished by game producers as “Amazing Spider-Man”).
Both characters are playable at different times in the one-player game, with Spider-Man 2099 voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes (‘90s cartoon Spider-Man and Spider-Man Noir in Activision’s 2010 game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions) and Amazing Spider-Man voiced by Josh Keaton (Spectacular Spider-Man actor and Shattered Dimension’s Ultimate Spider-Man).
“While Miguel O’Hara was chasing [the game’s villain], he gets stuck into that vortex, where he got vision, and he actually sees that Amazing Spider-Man is going to die, and a lot of people are going to suffer,” said Gerard Lehiany of Beenox, developer of Edge of Time.
Lehiany spoke of Edge of Time's “cause-and-effect gameplay,” where events in one timeline affect the other. To illustrate this element, a section of the game was shown where Amazing Spider-Man was fighting a robot that was only a prototype in the present, while Spider-Man 2099 was locked in combat with the same robot, now fully functioning. If Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t destroy the prototype in time, the robot overpowers Spider-Man 2099 and the challenge is failed.
To depict this dual action, the game uses a picture-in-picture, where the character not being played is seen operating in the bottom right-hand corner. (Not during all the gameplay we watched, but most.)
“When the player will be playing Miguel O’Hara, he must be very reactive, because things are going to change fast,” Lehiany said. “A wall can disappear, a wall can appear, robots can come out of nowhere, because of what Amazing is actually doing in his own timeline.”
In the game, Peter Parker works for Alchemax, the sinister corporation that employed Miguel O’Hara in the Spider-Man 2099 comics. Part of the villain’s plot is to go back in time so Alchemax exists in the present.
The game’s action in both timelines takes place within the massive Alchemax headquarters, which Lehiany describes as “almost a city in a building;” poised to include research facilities, hydroponic jungles and more. One sequence demonstrated saw Spider-Man 2099 rapidly dodging frequent obstacles while traveling through a narrow passageway.
Both of the main characters will receive upgrades in power sets from Shattered Dimensions, with Amazing Spider-Man getting beefed up evading abilities which can be linked with attacks, and Spider-Man 2099 being able to project decoys of himself on the fly during combat.
Lehiany said that Spider-Man 2099 has a “much more closed-combat style” because of the talons on his costume, while Amazing Spider-Man will use more distance attacks.
“Each time that there is a challenge that is proposed, we want to make sure that only Spider-Man could do it,” Lehiany said. “And if you have a feeling that some other superhero can, we just won’t do it. We want to make sure we have that Spider-Man DNA in the challenges.”
Aside from a stint in Exiles, Spider-Man 2099 hasn’t been regularly active in a comic book series in 15 years. Lehiany said the idea to use him prominently in Edge of Time dated back to last year’s Shattered Dimensions, where Spider-Man 2099 was one of four playable iterations of Spidey.
“The whole idea of the game came up while we were still working on Shattered Dimensions,” Lehiany said. “We started to think of having time travel, with communication between two Spider-Mans. We needed to find two Spider-Mans who could be in the same timeline and working together.”
The writer for the game is Peter David, co-creator of Spider-Man 2099. He worked with the Beenox team on the game’s story at their studio in Quebec for six days, which Lehiany called an “awesome experience.”
Personality-wise, Lehiany said that there are differences between the characters that David fleshed out — including the fact that O’Hara can sometimes be selfish, while Parker is not.
“We wanted to build a real relationship, a real friendship within the game,” Lehiany said.
Beyond the extensive use of Spider-Man 2099 himself, Activision indicates that comic book fans will be well taken care of in terms of familiar characters and winks to continuity.
“You’ll see classic characters, some that haven’t appeared in video games before,” Kevin Umbricht said, adding that David has created some original 2099 characters for the game. “Tons of nods to the fans, references throughout… the full Spidey treatment.”
With the game just announced less than a week ago, there’s still a lot that Activision isn’t willing to talk about — like the identity of the main villain, and which classic Spidey characters players will encounter in the game. Similar to the roll-out of the main characters for Shattered Dimensions last year, it’s reasonable to expect more information at least by E3 in early June.