Ever since Peter Parker broke box-office records with his live action drama he seems to have forgotten what made his character so appealing to those that grew up with the sarcastic web slinger. With Activision’s latest Spidey game the developers have constructed the ultimate “What If” scenario that at the outset had gamers and fans crying foul. But what we quickly forget is that comics don’t always need to be chock full of drama and adult themes to be considered enjoyable, and it is nice to once again see the softer side of our favorite heroes and villains.
From the minute you pickup Friend or Foe everything feels solid. The controls are smooth, the visuals are eye-catching, and the voice work is phenomenal. Everything meshes together to create a light-hearted atmosphere that is easy to pick up and quick to enjoy. Make no mistake this is a straight beat ’em up in the most traditional sense of the word, but what it lacks in depth it makes up for in style and pure gratification.
The thin plot revolves around an evil mastermind that is using the same symbiote material used to create Venom to gain control over Spider-Man’s deadliest foes. Thankfully our web-crawling friend is not alone from the beginning as he teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury as well as a host of sidekicks that will accompany him on each mission such as Silver Sable and Prowler.
As you defeat each mind-controlled nemesis they will join your cause and you can choose to bring them along on later missions. The villain roster is impressive containing such classic favorites as Doc Ock and The Green Goblin to the more comic regulars such as Rhino and Scorpion. This whole twist of working together with your enemies may seem preposterous to fans of the comics, but the art style and stellar voice acting keep it from coming off as cheesy.
On its own merit Friend or Foe isn’t exactly an enthralling ride; in fact it really doesn’t excel at any aspect of game design. Each level represents some exotic locale chock full of repeating bad guys and of course concluding with the quintessential boss fight. There are very few enemy types and the same strategy will work for the majority of them, quick hint upgrade your web throw and you can breeze through levels quickly which is especially good for Achievements, and even the boss fights can feel watered down with their simple “pick up an object and toss it at them” mentality. Thankfully the charm of being able to take on the role of Spidey’s greatest foes make up for these shortcomings creating an enjoyable, albeit predictable experience.
In addition to your standard button mashing that comes along with any game of this type are your super powers and upgrades. While not even on the same hemisphere with Activision’s amazingly deep Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Friend or Foe does give you plenty of opportunity to increase your abilities via a simple to use terminal between each level. You can of course upgrade Spidey with new web throws and special moves, but you can also give your team mates a boost with more health, stronger attacks, and the ability to sustain more damage.
The obvious appeal of this game is to be able to fight alongside and even control the some of the greatest villains in comic book history. This is also why a complete lack of any sort of online mode is a colossal disappointment. While there is still same-screen co-op and battle modes to toy around with, a complete lack of any type of online play is disappointing to say the least. Co-op works well and feels more like a way for younger gamers to fight alongside their parents or older siblings, which works extremely well. The battle mode is fun for all of two seconds as you quickly realize the simplistic nature of how it works. Overall multi-player is a disappointment, but for such a simple game it really doesn’t hurt its overall appeal.
For our review we ran the game on both the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii and for the most part both versions are pretty identical. Obviously the 360 version touts higher resolution and Achievement points whereas the Wii version offers a form of motion control, but if you are debating which version to get the choice should really be based on console preference. The motion controls for the Wii outing are implemented well in the fact that they are used for more secondary action such as switching characters and modifying grab moves. As for the 360 version Achievements here are nice and easy with only a little extra effort required to nab the full 1000 points. It is also worth noting that the 360 version runs a little smoother and cleaner thanks of course to its stronger innards.
Speaking of visuals at first glance Friend or Foe is not likely to wow any skeptics to running out to pick up a copy. Next Levels Games has opted for a simple yet elegant look which includes cleaner textures as opposed to complicated geometry. Levels are linear and smooth and the camera works great 99% of the time. Characters are more animated here than in the previous Spider-Man games and their animations resemble more of an animated cartoon look as opposed to the serious look of the previous games. Overall the visual style is easy on the eyes and is reminiscent of old comic book classics.
Taken at face value Spider-Man Friend or Foe is exactly what you would expect. From the simplified difficulty to a lack of online play it is clear the game was not designed for the hardcore. But what it does do is take a recognizable franchise and make it fun for the whole family, and in that it succeeds remarkably. While it won’t likely set the gaming world on fire you really can’t go wrong with Peter Parker’s latest outing which makes this game more friend than foe.