Developer: Next Level Games
Release Date: October 2, 2007
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is an odd bird. While, it's not as complex and enjoyable as some of the previous Spider-Man games, which offer a free-roaming city and the ability to swing anywhere, its easy gameplay and simplistic controls are perfect for any casual gamer to pick up and play.
Friend or Foe opens with our hero swinging across the rooftops of New York City and looking for crimes to stop, when he's ambushed by his greatest foes. Just as they're about to start the battle to end all battles, a group of strange-looking creatures teleport in, grab the enemies and teleport out, leaving Spider-Man scratching his head.
Out of nowhere, a giant helicarrier descends upon the city, grabbing Spider-Man and transporting him to the bridge, where he meets the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury. He tells Spider-Man that a meteor has landed on Earth, broken up into four shards of unknown power and is spreading a symbiote similar to Venom. Fury then commissions Spider-Man to track down the shards, defeat the alien menace and discover who's behind this insidious plot.
As opposed to the movies or previous superhero titles, Friend or Foe takes a much more comedic approach to the Spider-Man mythos. As you play through the game, your punches connect with comical sound effects and the interaction between the characters takes a lighthearted tone, despite the serious implications of an alien invasion that threatens to take over the world. It's a fun direction to go with a game that really seems designed for casual gamers; it's just some good old-fashioned comic book fun, so there's nothing heavy here.
Friend or Foe lets you take control of Spider-Man and a partner to play through about 20 levels from the rooftops of Tokyo to the deserts of Egypt. Along the way, Spider-Man has to face some of his worst enemies, including Green Goblin, Sandman and Venom. After defeating them, they learn that they were being mind-controlled and offer to help Spidey track down the responsible person so that they can get revenge.
You do this by fighting enemy after enemy through some incredibly linear levels that border on the boring side. It's a vast departure from the previous Spider-Man games that had you swinging down city streets and trying to get to your next objective. In Friend or Foe, swinging has been reduced to a basic, weak attack that you'll skip in favor of your standard punches.
While some may see this change as a step backward, Friend or Foe makes up for it with an incredibly fun brawling system. As Spider-Man, you have two different attacks: punch and web. You combine these two attacks to make some really fun and cool-looking combos. Use the web grab to pull your enemy closer, knocking him into the air, jump and do a three-hit punch combo to knock him back and finish him off with some well-placed shots of webbing. It's a pretty simple control scheme that allows anyone to pick up a controller and play like a pro.
As you fight enemies and destroy items, you collect little tech tokens that can be used to level up your characters or buy new web attacks. This adds quite a bit of replayability, as it's nearly impossible to level up all of your characters on the first playthrough. You'll need to revisit each level multiple times in order to save up enough tokens to raise all of your characters' stats.
All in all, Friend or Foe boasts a total of 15 partners, some good guys and some bad guys, that you pick up on your world-traversing adventure. This is actually one of the best parts of the game, especially for comic book fans, as you can create unlikely pairings like Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus or Spider-Man and Scorpion.
Each partner is well-balanced and the game allows you to level up the partners however you want, but none of them are as exciting to play as Spider-Man. Your main hero has a ton of really great web moves and throws that make playing him look and feel really cool. While the rest of the cast is fun, they just don't pack the same punch — pun intended — as your friendly neighborhood web-head.
Friend or Foe is an incredibly easy title, which lends itself to the casual market for which it's intended. Using the simple control scheme, you can fight off a dozen guys at once and look great doing it. If you die, you just lose some of your tech tokens and just respawn, so you should have no problem getting through the game. While it would have been nice to at least have a difficulty setting, it does lend itself to an extremely laidback experience that doesn't take any sort of hard work.
The graphics in this title are top-notch. All of the levels feature unique looks that really sell the locales. For example, Transylvania is extremely dark with stone pathways and lightning flashes, while Nepal is bright and vibrant with beautiful landscapes and mountains. The designers chose a cartoony look for the graphics, which further leavens the already-lighthearted tone of the game. Each character model is also really well done with completely fluid and realistic animations. All in all, Friend or Foe looks fantastic.
It sounds great as well. The dialogue is voiced with some incredible talent, and Next Level Games provides an impressive score. All of Spider-Man's quips are delivered with a nice, jolly punch to them, and your partner's deadpan responses are great.
Of course, with a name like Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, you'd expect a pretty robust multiplayer element, and you'll probably be pretty disappointed. There is an offline two-player co-op mode, which can be pretty fun, but, as mentioned above, the other characters aren't nearly as fun to play as Spidey is. While you get to play through all of the levels with a friend, one of you gets the short end of the stick.
In an odd move, the designers decided to not implement Xbox Live support. While it's kind of understandable from the perspective of the game being made for a casual market that might not care about online support, it is a bit disappointing because online co-op just seems like a perfect fit.
There's also a pretty boring Versus mode that allows you to fight a friend using any of the unlocked characters. It's a nice little diversion for about 15 minutes, but you eventually realize that the combat system is much better suited for the single-player campaign.
There are a few unlockables throughout the game, although the majority of them are character bios, which aren't very rewarding. You can also unlock quite a few arenas for the Versus mode, but as mentioned above, you won't get a lot of use out of them. The collectibles can be located throughout the levels with little to no exploration. Since this is a 360 game, you can expect to unlock 1,000 Achievement points, and you won't find any of them to be terribly difficult. Most of them will be unlocked on your first playthrough, and all but one will probably be unlocked on your second.
Overall, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is an incredibly well-made game that is a lot of fun, although it's a bit on the easy side. Whether you play through with a friend or solo, you'll find a solid title that's great for casual gaming sessions.
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