E3 2011: Spider-Man: Edge of Time: Updated Preview

E3 2011: We fling webs and find out what happens when you mess around with time and space in our latest look at the webhead.

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Activision must have been pleased with the results of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, giving internal studio Beenox the keys to the Spidey kingdom as lead developer of the franchise. While its follow-up, Spider-Man: Edge of Time, appears at face value to be a step backwards, halving the number of Spider-Men, the team hopes that by paring it back to two classic characters, Amazing and 2099, they'll be able to weave a more coherent web around time travel.

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Our demo took place inside the Alchemax factory that we've seen previously. Despite being an indoor environment, the elastic size of the building means that it can house a varied range of environments, spanning drab grey industrial walls all the way to lush jungle environments.

Each of the main Spidey characters (you'll play only one at a time) has its own unique abilities. 2099 has a ghost decoy that he can use to fool enemies and robotic targets, using it to flank and attack them when they're least expecting it. He can also use the skill as a way of turning technology against itself--using turrets to kill guards on the same team, confusing mines on when to detonate, and opening doors by letting them lock-on and fire rockets before deftly diving away to safety. Like in Shattered Dimensions, each Spidey will have his own individual fighting style. Amazing relies on his webs and speed to wrap up targets, while 2099 is a brawler, lumbering in and walloping anything standing between him and his objective.

Key to the game's success is tapping Spidey-specific abilities, and the development team has deliberately scrapped anything that another superhero could feasibly do in his place. Because of this, expect plenty of vertical wallclimbing and swinging to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.

Cause and effect is a big tent pole feature of Edge of Time, and as we progressed through our demo, the Spidey we weren't actively playing would appear in an inset video in the lower right-hand corner of the screen for some telepathic chitchat. Actions have direct kick-on effects, and in real-time, walls will appear and disappear, while enemies can evolve and devolve on the fly, from a single giant robot to a pack of smaller armed thugs, based on your combat. Cause and effect will largely be on rails, though we were told that the game does feature some optional choices that branch the story slightly. Unfortunately, while the concurrent timeline premise got us thinking about cooperative play opportunities, our hopes were dashed with the game supporting only a single-player story.

Fans who loved the free-fall sequences in the last game will be pleased to hear that there are plenty more on the way; their length has been extended by popular demand. The one that we saw had our guide zipping through the air, avoiding debris, and, as the timeline changed, quickly adapting to get out of the way of walls.

We also got a look at a new section of the game and a new (old) face, Anti-Venom. As fans of the comic series will be aware, Anti-Venom is able to purge nasty substances from others, and as he attempts to remove dangerous levels of radiation from Spider-Man, he simultaneously weakens him. Spidey 2099 steps in, warning Amazing Spider-Man that continuing on will kill him, knowing that if he dies, the timeline will be greatly impacted (and that he will eventually fade away from photos and will kiss his mother--not really, we made that last bit up). Amazing's sense of civic duty propels him onwards, determined to stop the impending destruction of the compound even at the risk of his own safety.

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Evil scientist Walker Sloan also makes his debut in the game, playing the part of Venom's puppet master and taking control of the symbiote against its host's will. We didn't get to see the whole boss fight play out, but going head-to-head with Venom, he grew considerably in size, rushing at us and showing off a full range of swipes, giant fist morphs, and explosions during the multipart encounter.

Though Beenox is attempting to meet the challenge of creating something for those new to the universe while satisfying aficionados at the same time, we have been told to expect plenty of fan service in the form of hero and villain cameos. Everyone loves collectibles, so there will be plenty of those to root around for, as well as a range of Easter eggs.

Both Spider-Men will be swinging their way onto the major consoles this year, with 3DS and Wii versions to include platform-specific functionality. Stay tuned for more details.

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