Spider-Man: Friend or Foe Review
|ESRB rating: E10+
release date: Oct 02, 07 (released)
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The Spiderman franchise has had a pretty good run in the past few years thanks mainly to the very successful movies that have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars which naturally lead to a merchandizing orgy that includes video games. Spiderman Friend or Foe is the latest offering from developer Next Level Games (for the Xbox 360 version this review deals with) and publisher Activision. While Friend or Foe includes some villains from the motion pictures, you should understand that the game features an all-new story and is not a retelling of the latest film. That being said, players should be also aware of what Spiderman Friend or Foe offers before heading off on this new adventure with our favorite web-head. Once you understand what the games offers, you can decide if this is a title you must have or would be better off passing on.
When a meteorite falls to earth showering bits and pieces across several continents, Nick Fury recruits Spiderman to retrieve the shards which contain some of the same material that gave rise to one of Spidey's most popular villains: Venom. Someone is using these 'symbiote bits' to create hard light holograms called Phantoms (mark my words, there will be a 'Spider Man Symbiote Bits with Marshmallow Phantoms' breakfast cereal within the month). These phantoms have been causing all sorts of mischief and it's up to Spiderman to beat down these beasties and find out who is cranking them out. You will not be doing it alone as you can take along the partner of your choice. At first you will only be able to choose from two friends, Silver Sable and Prowler the reformed burglar (Don't worry, I have never heard of him either). As you progress through levels in the game you'll encounter more allies that can join your team (one at a time as you are limited to single sidekick) and when you defeat any of Spiderman's foes, they can also be selected to join your team. You will primarily be playing as the wall-crawler but by tapping the Y button you can switch to controlling your sidekick. Or if you like, a friend can take over the computer controlled side kick at any time by grabbing a spare controller and hitting the A button.
Every character attacks in the same fashion: by hitting the X button. The A button will make your avatar jump and by tapping B will cause them to grab an opponent. You can then throw your captured enemy or perform more exotic attacks by hitting X or A again. Using these special attacks builds your combo meter which will reward you with Tech Tokens once enemies are defeated. Tech Tokens are used to upgrade your characters in RPG-like fashion increasing attributes and unlocking new attacks. Enemies are not the only source for Tech Tokens; destructible items litter the playing field. These items can either be broken outright or used as projectiles against the Phantoms. Once broken open, the containers will shower you with Tech Tokens, health boosts and crystals. The crystals are used for temporary attack increases, brief periods of invulnerability and a combined super attack with your sidekick that is prefaced by a nifty cinematic sequence.
Graphics are cartoonish but not in a bad way. Bright, vibrant colors and smooth animations make controlling Spiderman and his sidekick feel like you are playing a comic book. The environments are a bit sparse and apart from some differences in color scheme and basic styling items (such as buildings or vegetation depending on what part of the world you are in) all follow the same patterns. This is the first issue I had with the game: the constant sameness in much of the content: Enter an area with a closed door or find your way blocked by a chasm. Bad guys appear and combat ensues. Take out the enemy and the door opens or a platform bridges the gap allowing you to proceed to the next area where a door or gap blocks your way. Lather, rinse and repeat. This is broken up in some areas by requiring you and your ally to stand on triggers or push buttons to get past the obstacle. Every now and then a Boss battle will break things up a bit but don't expect a whole lot of variety beyond that.
This sameness carries over to Phantoms as well. While they come in several sizes with some varied attacks, for the most part they only differ when it comes to their costumes. Typically the outfits they wear will be influenced by the area you are in so while fighting in Cairo expect to see a stereotypical ancient Egyptian motif. Everything looks good but once you pay attention, you realize that the differences (in enemies and environments) are only skin deep. And this is the point people need to be aware of before heading off into the game. Players should not expect that because this is a Marvel licensed title being published by Activision, that they are going to be treated to another X-Men Legends or Ultimate Alliance type game. Make no mistake that while the gameplay is somewhat similar, the choice of characters and depth of play in Friend or Foe does not even come close to those other titles.
That is not to say Spiderman Friend or Foe is a bad game or not worth playing. The artwork, co-op game play and voice work have all been implemented well but overall the whole experience is not very deep. Younger players or gamers who are looking for a casual diversion will be well rewarded here. As an example of the forgiving nature of the game, when Spiderman or his sidekick goes down in combat, some Tech Tokens are removed from your inventory and the character respawns. If you run out of Tokens, there is no need to worry about the game being over as your characters will continue to pop back onto the play field. While this immortality is a feature that works to my benefit when I play the game with my 8 year old son, players who wish for more risk in their gameplay may be turned off by it.
Spiderman Friend or Foe for the Xbox 360 has a lot going for it and players can have a good time as long as they understand that this is a game that has been targeted towards a younger audience or the causal gamer. That does not mean the overall quality is low. Quite to the contrary, the graphics look great on my HDTV and voice overs and dialog are good (Some of the comments from the ships computer between missions had me laughing out loud several times in particular). Spiderman Friend or Foe does not take itself too seriously with its not too intense story and the robot enemies and that's the way you should approach it as well. There is certainly a place for a beat-em-up that is not too difficult to get into and play, but if you are expecting more depth and characters features, then you would be better off replaying Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
Good to play with the young gamer, Co-Op gameplay that allows a friend to jump in at any time, Control Spiderman or one of his famous villains, Forgiving combat system;
Not much variety in combat, Repetitive game flow for much of the levels, hardcore players will not be satisfied with simpler gameplay and features.
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