Spider-Man: Friend or Foe Review

Spider-Man has become a hot property, especially since the movie staring Toby Maguire came out in 2002.  Games have come out corresponding with the movie as seems to be the nature of the business.  With a couple of years between releases, Activision was able to release Ultimate Spider-Man to keep the Spider-Man license fresh without needing a movie tie-in.

With Spider-Man 3 coming out on DVD and Blu-ray, there was an opportunity to create a new Spider-Man game without tying it directly to the movie, especially since they already did that early in the summer.  However, the movies and games were aimed at a teen audience.  This left out younger kids who enjoy the Spider-Man comic.  Now Activision has a game that is more appropriate for that crowd in Spider-Man Friend or Foe.  Does this mean that the game is enjoyable for adults?

The characters in Friend of Foe look cartoonish but are more representative of the movie characters than the comic-book versions or other past reincarnations of the series.  No more green spandex for Doc Ock.  Instead he has the long trenchcoat.  The Green Goblin looks more like the Power Ranger monster and not the purple hat and green skin.  Some people will appreciate the tie-in to the movies, while others would wish that these characters were more representative of their comic book counterparts.

The characters have low polygon counts.  This is especially noticeable in the in-game cutscenes.  The blockish look of the characters could be seen as a stylized choice, but the textures make the graphics look like the game was rushed.  The figures do look a bit odd.  Black Cat has too big of a head and her body is too muscular for a female, for instance.  Doc Ock’s jaw looks way too big.

The bad graphics wouldn’t be so bad if there were a variety of characters within the game.  You do get about six different environments to fight in, but the number of different models used for the enemies for each level can be counted on one hand.  They don’t have much for animations either.  The game really needs more variety to become from feeling static.

Friend or Foe has a wide variety of characters, so it would have been easy to go ahead and hire a couple of voice actors and have each one do the voices for multiple characters.  Instead they hired many voice actors to voice one or at most two characters.  They are voice actors that have a large work of experience.  Some of the more recognizable names are John Di Maggio, David Kaye, and Jennifer Hale.  James Arnold Taylor, the voice of Spider-Man, is actually the voice of Ratchet in the Ratchet and Clank series.  Other than Spider-Man, they really don’t say a whole lot though.  If you stick with a specific character, you’ll hear the same expressions over and over again.

The background music matches the environment you are exploring.  The futuristic environment has a sci-fi bent, while the jungle level has a primal beat behind it.  The music fades in and out, never overpowering but only showing up while at a down time.  The enemies all smash together, but they all sound the same, whether you are fighting robots or some other tribal force, or destroying crates.

Controlling the characters in Friend or Foe is simple enough.  The left analog stick controls movement, A jumps, B grabs objects or uses your web, X attacks, and Y switches characters.  The left and right bumpers change the web abilities for Spider-Man.  The D-pad invokes a Hero Strike, Extra Health, Mega Damage, or Invincibility.  You can purchase these power-ups.

The problem with the controls is that while there are combos you can perform, it is fairly easy to get through the game using the same combo or the same moves over and over again.  While you can do some upgrades to the moves, the moves aren’t all that different, they just add extra damage to the attacks.

Friend or Foe feels a bit like a simpler Justice League Heroes or Marvel Ultimate Alliance.  You move Spider-Man and his partner through the level.  The mission is almost completely in rails with a few hidden side areas.  Occasionally you need to jump to get to an area.

As you move along enemies beam into an area.  You destroy them until the wave of enemies has stopped beaming into the area.  Occasionally you meet a mini-boss along the way.  You fight along with a partner who you choose before going into the level.  You fight together collecting coins and other power ups until the end of the level.

As you fight you collect “Tech Tokens.”  These tokens are used to upgrade Spider-Man’s moves and the moves of the sidekicks you meet along the way.  There are a lot of sidekicks, so it will take a while to upgrade all of them fully.  You also collect more coins when you perform combos.  The more combos you perform the more your combo meter goes up.  When the combo meter gets filled to level 4, Tech Tokens fall liberally around the battlefield.

At the end of an area you can find yourself matched up against one of Spider-Man’s enemies with some kind of mind-control device strapped to them.  Once defeating the enemy and removing the mind-control device, they will join you to create some of the oddest team-ups.  You end up fighting alongside Green Goblin, Black Cat, Venom, Doc Ock, and others.  What’s nice is that you can play two players at the same time, one person as Spider-Man and the second player as the sidekick.  Unfortunately the sidekicks just aren’t as fun to play as how fun it is to play Spider-Man.  They really don’t have the move set or the punch as Spider-Man does.

There were times when I really wanted to use the right analog stick to move the environment so I could line up my jumps.  Unfortunately you can’t do that.  While there are a few areas that you need to jump to reach, if you don’t make it, you only lose a few Tech Tokens and you reappear on the screen.

There really isn’t much challenge to the game at all.  The enemies are easy to beat.  Even the bosses have a pattern that is easy to spot.  This might be alright if you are interested in playing with someone younger, but the game gets very repetitive, and the lack of characters per level doesn’t make the game any less repetitive.

The single-player experience is short.  It can be completed in a weekend rental.  There are a lot of upgrades that can be done on Spider-Man and the sidekicks, and it will take a while to upgrade all of them.  There are some characters that you won’t care about upgrading though, so you probably won’t want to.  There isn’t any real reward for doing it either.  The only real extra is the video of The Spectacular Spider-Man, which is scheduled to come out March of next year.

The game does have a multiplayer mode where you can fight as any character you have unlocked.  Still, it’s not anything that exciting that you will want to play for any length of time.  You can have a second player join in at any time though, which is great for this kind of game.

Spider-Man Friend or Foe feels a lot like a 3-D Final Fight.  Unfortunately the gameplay hasn’t evolved much beyond that.  Some of the moves that Spider-Man can perform are very cool, but after you have seen that move a couple hundred times, it just isn’t that cool anymore.  The game quickly gets tired, which is unfortunate because the concept actually works well.  If you have someone younger who really enjoys the Spider-Man movies, this game is a good game to play co-op with them.  If you are a bit older though, it’s hard to recommend the game for just yourself.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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