Activision has recently released another intriguing Marvel-based video game called Spider-Man: Friend or Foe for the Xbox 360. This latest iteration of Spider-Man is a straightforward beat-them-up action title, a totally different undertaking from the story-oriented Spider-Man 3 game we played a few months back. Much to our surprise, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is a solid brawler with a decent tag team action, and employs an interesting twist to the co-op concept, where you join forces with the infamous villains in attempt to unravel the exploitation of meteorite shard, which is being used for mind control through the symbiotic suit. As such, some of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies are being brain-washed to inflict other malicious biddings, and it’s up to Spider-Man to defeat and recruit these super villains (like the Green Goblin and Doc Ock) to fight alongside in exposing the mastermind to this mental disorder.
The first thing we noticed about Friend or Foe is how easy it is to get into the pulp of the action. Not only the gameplay is very accessible but also surprisingly dynamic. Just tapping one button gives you the command list of about a dozen moves, and a dozen more when you tinker with the character’s special abilities. The game provides you with additional fighting skills later on. You can perform double-jumps while you shoot web-slings with great distance and accuracy. You can even pummel those would-be monsters (known as phantoms) into an airplane spin after inflicting them with a barrage of web combos. Besides having the ability to team-up with the greatest villains, the game lets you work with other superheroes such as Iron Fist, Silver Sable, Black Cat, and Blade along the way. As interesting it is to pull off various combat antics, there is a bit of exploration involved, which comes in the form of searching DNA samples and secret levels. Finding these secret areas or hidden items requires little effort, which amounts to the most efficient way, securing the full 1000 achievement points.
Your adventure will take you through a number of interesting landscapes, which include Egypt, Romania, Nepal, and Tokyo just to name a few. Your new-found enemies will change appearance according to locations, and they get more progressively resistant over time. The boss fights are somewhat entertaining; they often use the same basic line of attack, a pattern of which you can easily exploit to your advantage. Though the game allows you to play by yourself, the single-player mode isn’t as fun as playing with another friend. First, your computer-controlled partner is not doing a good job of protecting himself. Second, he does not have as many moves as Spider-Man to handle a group of suicidal phantoms. As a result, you are constantly rescuing your teammate on every level. So the best way to enjoy this game is through two-player human interaction. From a graphical standpoint, Friend or Foe offers some rather interesting visual effects that are mostly concentrated in the fighting aspect of the game. You’ll see Spider-Man dish out these high-flying, flashy combos, while he takes on a group of blitzing phantoms like the ever-agile kung fu hero Jackie Chan. Some of the fight sequences do look impressive than others because of the inflated physics.
The lightness of gravity allows you to string together additional attacks before your enemies hit the ground. And you can also hang in the air to dodge simultaneous attacks that are coming in different direction. The background doesn’t look technically astounding but the overall textures are exceptionally clean. Every famous landmark, ranging from Cairo to Transylvania, has been given a distinct appeal to them and most look relatively accurate. Character designs are nicely done, too, although they could use some more individual layering to sharpen the brawny image and animation. In the sound department, you can really feel the weight of your punches and kicks, not to mention the projectiles, which they do seem to emit a destructive behavior. The musical element is okay and the voice-overs are amusing for the most part, where actors did a fine job reprising their roles. Through funny dialogues, the game has kept itself from sinking into monotony. And it’s good that the game didn’t try to repeat those funny phrases that would have otherwise worn out its humor. Needless to say, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe turned out to be a decent action game. It maintains the Marvel Comics tradition while exploring the idea of partnering with the infamous villains. The game didn’t offer much of a challenge in terms of objectives, but the continuous outbreak of attacks is enough to satisfy our fighting frenzy. Nowadays, side-scroller of this type don’t come out as often as they used to, but this one will definitely give you a run for your money.