After playing the disastrous Spider-Man 3 earlier this year I wondered if we actually needed another Spider-Man adventure, with only six months between releases I worried that there wouldn't be enough time between games to adequately resolve the issues plaguing that movie game. Thankfully I was wrong, because Spider-Man: Friend or Foe isn't trying to be the next movie game, instead it sets its sights on a slightly different genre.
While Spider-Man 3 was going for the open-world sandbox sort of game, Friend or Foe is more of a traditional brawler, something in the tradition of Streets of Rage and Final Fight. This is not the kind of game where you swing from one building to another looking for your next mission, instead you are set on a very linear course where you walk around and beat up any and all bad guys that get in your way.
The biggest change in this Spider-Man game (beyond the genre shift) is that you will always be working with a second player, be it computer-controlled or a friend sitting next to you with another game pad. Even more striking is that not all of these characters are necessarily "good," in fact a majority of the sidekick characters are made up of villains Spidey has dealt with in other games and movies. I'm talking about the Green Goblin, Venom, Sandman and Doctor Octopus. And if that wasn't enough, you can also choose black suit Spider-Man, Lizard, Rhino, Iron Fist, Silver Sable, Black Cat, Prowler and Blade (yes, THAT Blade). On top of teaming up with a second player to have an easier time weeding out the enemies, you will be able to switch characters at any time.
The game has been set up so that a second player can jump in at any time, regardless of whether it's at the beginning of the game or half way through. Having a second person jump into the action is as easy as pushing the button on the second control, and switching the game back to a single-player computer-controlled affair is just as easy. Make no mistake about it, this game is all about having a couple of friends (or siblings, parents, you name it) come together to kick some superhero butt. In that way this game feels like the 3D cousin of so many classic arcade brawlers, including a couple of old school Acclaim Spider-Man games (Maximum Carnage and Separation Anxiety). And before you even ask, despite the strong emphasis on the multiplayer gameplay, the Xbox 360 version will not feature Xbox Live support ... this game is offline only.
So what brings all of these friends and foes together? As the game starts Spider-Man is accosted by some very familiar looking enemies, so in true Spidey fashion our hero swings into action and attempts to save the day. But as he investigates the situation he starts to realize that a lot of his former foes have been brainwashed and are completely unaware of their actions. As you might imagine, this does not sit well with these otherwise ruthless and evil villains, so everybody teams up to figure out just what is going on and destroy it once and for all. It's a story right out of a comic book, which is definitely what you should expect from a Spider-Man video game.
One thing that isn't right out of the comic book is the villains. While it's true that Venom, the Green Goblin and the Sandman all got their start in the pages of the Spider-Man comic book, the versions presented in this game are actually those found in the big-budget Sam Raimi movies. Even though there isn't much continuity between the movie stories and this game, all of the characters are based on the likenesses of the live-action film characters. That's why you will not only see the Green Goblin in this game, but the New Goblin, which in the movie was played by Harry Osborn. Even with the movie influence, the game's look and feel is a lot more over-the-top, so one should expect cartoony versions of all of these movie characters and nothing too realistic.
This cartoony look is done on purpose, though. Unlike past Spider-Man games that have gone for a more gritty/realistic take on the superhero, Friend or Foe is targeting 8 to 12 year old boys. Because of this focus, developers Next Level Games have decided to do what they can to make this game as accessible as possible. For example, in Friend or Foe players can't die; there is simply no punishment for losing all of your life. If you do run out of health you will pop up right where you left off, so you can just run in to any situation with reckless abandon.