Spider-Man: Friend or Foe
Reviewed by Megan Parker
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-11-03 PS2 Action/Adventure E10 (Everyone 10+) Activision / Next Level Games

Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is a game that is based on the movies, which are of course, based on the comics. Oddly enough, the game itself seems more based on the comics than it does the movies. Most of the characters in the game are from the comics and have yet to make an appearance in any of the movies. The characters that do appear in the movies are based on the design and look that they had in the movies, including Spider-Man.

The game focuses on Nick Fury, a character from the comics, enlisting Spider-Man to help stop baddies known as P.H.A.N.T.O.M.s (Comics are filled with long and nonsensical acronyms).

As you progress, you run into friends and foes that you team up with to fight this menace. Spidey's foes in the game are all from the comics. Some have their movie counterparts, such as the Green Goblin, Venom, and Doctor Octopus, but most haven't been in any of the movies, and look as they do in the comics.

Most of your partners are locked until you reach them in the game. The first partner you're grouped with is Hobie Brown, aka the Prowler. I know, it sounds creepy. He's a character that's not often used in the comics, and I was pretty surprised to see him in the game.

Unlike the DS version, there's actually quite a variety of moves for Spider-Man and his partners. They're all done with one attack button, one grab, and if you'd like, one jump. This makes the combos simplistic, but pretty easy to do. For Spidey, his webs are very important in the fight. You can grab the baddies and yank them toward you, or you can swing them around and throw them at other baddies, or you can slam them into the ground causing a small shock wave.

As you go through the game, you can use the tokens you gather from baddies and objects to upgrade Spidey's moves. This enables damage over time, shock waves, and even explosions, making the fighting much more interesting than you'd even think possible. Added to that, Spidey also has projectile webbing varieties (including web bombs), and even can tie up baddies to certain degrees; and upgrading that ability can get different results. For example, webbing up the basic PHANTOMs can be upgraded to give you health orbs, which can keep you and your partner healthy pretty easily. You can actually tie up mid-level bosses to the point that they can't fight back, making attacking them so much easier.

Switching between all of these abilities, plus being able to use different combos leads to very interesting and very cool looking fights. Spidey's partner can knock a guy into the air, while Spidey jumps up to attack and sends the baddie crashing back down to the ground. He can then shoot his webs while still in the air, capture the baddie again and beat the PHANTOM senseless (as senseless as solid holograms get). What seems like a very basic and repetitive combat system ends up with enough variety that you can ignore that there is only actual attack button.

Like the DS version, the locals vary, which has both positives and negatives to it. The locations vary so much, from Tokyo, Japan to Transylvania. Yes, Transylvania. The environments look significantly different for the most part. The downside is that the set up of them doesn't vary. You're often going from a little island over water or air, to another little one connected by bridges. While the environments change, the layouts stay the same. The game would have been even better if they mixed things up when it comes to the layouts.

There are more things to find in the game that also give some incentive to keep going. There are power-ups that allow you access to information and locked movies. The information is kind of pointless and I think it would have been better if they unlocked various costumes for Spidey and his partners. The tokens you get allow you to upgrade Spidey and his partners in a very RPG like manner. Spidey is the only one with more details on his attacks, but you can increase hit points, attack power, and even a charge power for all of your partners.

The partners come from both the movies and the comics, and can be very fun to play. Black Cat, Venom, and Rhino are some of my favorites, each with different abilities and powers to use. It is so much fun to lumber around with Rhino, hearing the buldings shake with each of his footsteps. It would have been nice if there were more female characters than just the Black Cat. They went into other parts of Marvel, bringing in Iron Fist and Blade. The could easily have brought in Spider-Woman (no relation to Spidey), She-Hulk, or any number of female characters from the Marvel U. Even taking into account legal stuff, they still should have been able to get a couple more female characters in at least.

You can choose who you take with you on missions, and once more become unlocked, you have a lot of choices to go with. In this way, it's very similar to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and X-Men: Legends, but on a slightly smaller scale. Spider-Man: Friend or Foe doesn't quite have the depth of Marvel mythos that those games do, however. It's much more aimed at a broad audience of fans, rather than allowing for the insiders view on things that Legends and Ultimate Alliance provides.

Your allies for the most part are helpful, but not too helpful. You don't have to worry about them beating up everything before you get to, but they do provide enough help and distraction against the baddies. Mostly.

In what is probably a bug, at times, your partners can just stand there. Often it's with the mid-level bosses, and it can be incredibly frustrating seeing the partners being KO'd time and again but never fighting back. When Spidey or the partner is KO'd, you spend some of your tokens to bring them back. As long as you have enough tokens, the partner comes back (except for boss fights). You can switch between Spidey and his partner, but then Spidey becomes the unmoving dope that won't attack. They won't always stand there and do nothing with the mid-level bosses, but they will do it more often than not.

The baddies themselves tend to be the same classes, just with a different look and sometimes a different ability depending on the location. This does make the repetitive baddie thing less noticeable for the most part. It doesn't feel like you're fighting the same things over and over quite as much. Spidey's moves are also changed from level to level, at least when it comes to the larger PHANTOMs. When you beat the larger PHANTOMs enough, the attack button appears over their heads and you can do a finishing move with either character. Spidey's will vary from location to location, and it's pretty cool to see what he does in each area. Unfortunately, the partners animations are pretty much the same regardless, especially for the bigger, stronger characters.

There is a basic story to the game, but there isn't much depth to it. You have PHANTOMs to go after, and they keep increasing in difficulty due to the amount of symbiote they have in them. The symbiote is from the same type of meteorite fragments that gave Spidey his black costume and eventually created Venom. Outside of that and gathering a small army of friends and foes (making the title very apt...), there isn't much of a story. However, the dialogue is absolutely perfect for a Spidey game. The SHIELD computer is very sarcastic and quite hilarious when she wants to be, and Spidey's quick wit in combination with a history with his partners makes for some very funny dialogue during the fights. Some of the dialogue does repeat, but hearing the reactions of the partners is very funny. The voice work is almost perfect, especially for the friends and foes. Spidey's voice is a little too young (especially to be based on the movies, where he's about 20), and Black Cat's is too varied. Sometimes she sounds seductive, other times she sounds like a tom boy. Honestly, I'd prefer if the seductive voice wasn't used so much. To their credit, that was kind of her character for awhile. Outside of those two characters, the others are perfect.

The graphics, both for the locations and the character models are very well done as well. They are all well modeled and textured and I really like the style that the game has. The animations for the characters are very fluid and as I mentioned can be very fun to watch. Some of the characters that are similar will have similar animations, but they do vary quite a bit. Black Cat doesn't walk like Venom, and Rhino doesn't fight like Doctor Octopus.

The camera can be annoying from time to time. For the most part it's spot on, showing you what you need to see. Sometimes it doesn't switch in time, so you might walk into an area and not know where your going, potentially walking off a ledge. Other times, you can actually walk off screen in a fight. This kinda makes it hard to, you know... see. With the bonus things to pick up in the game, it can be hard to find the ones that are hidden pretty well since you can't rotate the camera to see if an area is accessible or a quick death.

The game itself is very linear, but for some reason they put in animated scenes to show you where to go and that there are baddies popping up. I don't know if this was done to extend the length of the game or for some other reason, but outside of a few times, it's excessive and can be pretty annoying having to see a scene that points out the obvious. It can feel like "Look! You're stuck here and have to fight baddies to get out!! Whee!" and meanwhile you're thinking "Uhm... duh!"

The controls are, again, pretty well done. Switching between Spidey and his partner can be kind of sticky sometimes (no pun intended). It can feel like you're stuck as a character for a bit with the button seeming to be unresponsive. Sometimes, though it works so perfectly you can be a two person team by yourself, timing attacks between the two characters to work in tandem. You can have a second live player help you out, which does make working together even easier. That is, if the two players can actually work together... Sometimes the power-ups can misfire, which could be more of an issue with the controller than the game. Still, it does seem like accidentally hitting up+right will use both power ups. It wouldn't be so bad if the up power up wasn't the rare two person attack one.

There is replay value, though it is more limited. You can go back to any previously beaten area at any time (as long as you're on the helicarrier) with any partner. This will allow you to gather tokens and find missing bonus stuff for power ups, but outside of being a completist, there isn't much incentive. That isn't to say that it's not fun to do so. The game is short enough that you might want to go back and play the previous areas, and it does give you a chance to play more of the partners. Each area is broken up into four parts, and there are five areas. Twenty levels may seem like a lot to play with the variety of partners, but it does go by quickly.

Spider-Man: Friend or Foe does suffer from some repetitiveness, and your AI partners can be frustratingly idiotic at times, overall the game is fun. With the variety of partners from the movies and comics, as well as Spidey's combat moves, the game is incredibly enjoyable and surprisingly diverse. It's a must for Spidey fans of either the movies or comics, and can be fun for just the casual fan as well.

Special thanks to Wiebke Hesse and Activision for providing a copy of this title.