As the game begins, Spider-Man is enjoying a calm New York night when Green Goblin, Venom, Sandman and Doctor Octopus appear out of nowhere. The fight begins.
Activision for PS2, Wii, Xbox 360, DS, PSP, PC (Tested on Xbox 360)
Replay Value: 8.0
Overall Score: 8.0
Pros:Two-player options, combat mode, great Spider-Man cartoon graphics, variety of sidekick options, lots of button-mashing action.
Cons: Camera angle problems, button-mashing battles can get tiring, basic gameplay is not especially Spider-Man-esque.
The good Goblin (from the movie “Spider-Man 3”) helps Spidey out. Just as they seem to even the score, new creatures appear.
These new menaces look like mini versions of Venom. Seeing them, the bad guys stop fighting Spider-Man and instead join forces with him. Only, they disappear as soon as the little monsters touch them.
Then a gigantic helicopter ship beams Spidey into the sky and he finds himself on a new mission: He must go around the world collecting fragments from a meteor.
A meteor with bits of the alien substance that created Venom has crashed in five locations around Earth. Bad guys from previous Spider-Man adventures are showing up wherever the meteor fragments appear. Spidey must go to each place, battle bad guys to free them from alien mind control, destroy hordes of alien monsters and collect shards from the meteor.
Welcome to Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, a game that first shows characters as foes of Spider-Man, then lets you add them to his pack as friends.
Pretty neat, huh?
While Friend or Foe takes place in a 3D world, it’s an old-school side-scrolling game that forces players along a fixed path. You walk along rooftops, hurry down highways and generally work your way through sets that let you move right or left with a little wiggle room for avoiding enemies.
You are attacked by groups of monsters. Punch ’em, snare them with webs and sling them across the screen, or throw them in the air and play martial-arts volleyball with them. They’re pretty tough, so expect to hit them many times before they fade away.
You also find boxes, crates, rocks, tikis, gears and other containers as you travel. Hidden in them and in your enemies are little glowing lights that give you points.
Throughout the game, you do a lot of collecting. Along with the glowing points, you collect red glowing spots to restore health, and you collect DNA samples and keys that unlock doors to arenas you can later use for one-on-one battles with friends.
Finally, when you reach the end of each path, you encounter a boss bad guy—generally a foe from past Spider-Man adventures.
Most of these bosses are wearing a diamond-shaped sign on their chest. This is the shard from the meteor that you have been sent to destroy. Some evil mastermind has placed the shard on the bad guys to control them. Defeat the mind-controlled bad guy in battle, and you will be shown a video clip of Spider-Man destroying the shard and the former foe asking Spidey to take him on his quest.
IT TAKES TWO
Whether you play single or with a friend, Spider-Man never goes anywhere alone in this game. Remember all those bad guys joining his posse? Spidey can take any of them along on adventures.
By the end of the game, Spidey has 12 possible partners to choose from, so you can have Scorpion, Sandman, Rhino, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus or other familiar baddies fighting loyally at your side.
When you play with a friend, one of you controls Spidey and the other controls his ally as you bash your way through levels. When you play alone, your ally flies on autopilot or, as they say in the computer world, he has artificial intelligence.
Not all artificial intelligences are equal. You may have played games in which computer-controlled characters frequently did stupid things: Football games in which receivers ran off the field or driving games in which drone cars got stuck on side streets.
For the most part, the computer-controlled characters in Friend or Foe are decently intelligent. As I played, I did see Doctor Octopus walk over the edge of a cliff a few times, but overall he was reasonably reliable.
And as it turned out, I was the one making the mistake. I made Doctor Octopus too powerful by giving him too many upgrades, and that made him a bad sidekick.
Remember those glowing points you gather by squelching enemies and breaking boxes? You use them to buy power-ups to upgrade Spidey’s web-casting abilities or make your partners more powerful. I upgraded Doc Oc too much, and he started bashing more than his share of enemies and gathering more than his share of glowing points. That meant he collected points that I could have used.
Overall, though, I liked the tag-team experience.
Camera angles are one of the problems with 3D games—when you move around a 3D world, how do you keep objects from coming between you and the camera? I would move Spider-Man around a wall or down a ledge, and the camera would show me the game from bad angles so I couldn’t see boxes or enemies around me.
I don’t think I ever lost a man because of bad camera angles, but I did send Spidey over the edge of a bridge once, and I’m sure I missed things because the camera was pointing in the wrong direction.
Otherwise, Friend or Foe deserves points for great graphics. The game looks just like the cartoon, only it’s in smooth 3D.
Some of the sets are pretty simple looking. The small towns in the Cairo, Egypt, section look like they’re from the movie “Aladdin.” But Spidey and his friends and foes look great, as do the movies between gameplay sections.
The scripts and voice acting are quite good, too. For overall presentation, this game gets nearly perfect marks.
A final word about Friend or Foe — it is a true button-masher. You can do combination attacks to destroy enemies, but no matter what, this is a game in which you pound buttons. You fight the same fights again and again.
Like all side-scrolling fighters, playing too long can get a bit boring. My suggestion is to play this game one hour at a time and stretch out the fun.
The boss battles help break things up because they have a puzzle element. Each boss has a weakness and to beat him, you need to figure out that weakness and use it.
These are not especially difficult puzzles, but you don’t get to sit down and figure them out. For instance, you have to figure out Green Goblin’s while dodging grenades and razor weapons.
Although Spider-Man is its hero, Friend or Foe is not an especially Spider-Man-esque game. You mostly run, jump and punch instead of swing on a web. You do use webs to hook and throw enemies and web balls to batter them.
In all, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is a well-made version of an old game-playing experience. It’s a bit on the short and easy side, but the two-player aspect adds replay value, as do the arenas.
If you like action and especially if you like Spider-Man, you should give this game a try.
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