Or: How to ruin a franchise.
Over the course of the video game industry's history, Spider-Man has seen his fair share of good games and bad games. Spider-Man: Friend or Foe joins the Wall of Shame, unfortunately, as this game seems to throw out everything good about the previous Spider-Man games in favor of a quick and easy cash-in on the franchise's success.
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is a classic beat 'em up game in the same vein as those horrible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games that have been released in recent years. The story is that Spidey is drafted by Colonel Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. and teleported onto a "helicarrier" for a quick briefing on the situation at hand. Someone, it turns out, has been using symbiote-soaked meteorite shards to control the minds of super villains and create mysterious enemies called Phantoms, who are, in turn, wreaking all manner of havoc around the world. It'll be Spider-Man's job to defeat his archenemies, recruit them, and fight alongside them to find the mastermind.
The core concept of Friend or Foe, turning your enemies into allies, is an interesting premise in itself, but the numerous design decisions, which are questionable at best, mar the experience. Graphics are simple and bland, looking worse than the Spider-Man games from years past in many cases, including the more recent Spider-Man 3. Character models lack any real detail, and while they are animated well enough, the blaring lack of detail kills any hint of immersion. Environments are also a kill-joy, sporting minimal amounts of geometry and often muddy textures. Worse yet, there are hints of slowdown from time to time.
Sound in this game is best described as "generic". The in-game music is horribly repetitive and boring, a far cry from the past console Spider-Man games, which had notably better music and overall sound. The only saving grace this part of the game has to be the decent to good voice acting. The best part of the entire game has to be the computer on the helicarrier, which often spits out humorous or sarcastic remarks.
Gameplay is deep, yet repetitive. Being a beat 'em up game, repetition is just the nature of the genre, and the game attempts to remedy it by adding a character upgrade system for Spidey and his comrades. The upgrades at times add something to the gameplay, but for the most part, they seem awkward and forced. Another attempt at variety is seen in the combo system, which adds depth to the game. It's admittedly fun juggling an enemy in a constant combo loop for as long as you can, but the novelty of that soon wears off. There are unlockables in the game, but those are found easily just by going through the levels as you should, offering up no challenge or exploration aspects to the already simple game. Difficulty is also another issue, as the game never even attempts to challenge the player in the least bit.
The Wii version of Friend or Foe incorporates motion sensitive controls into the gameplay mechanics, allowing the player to switch between different combos on the fly. While this sounds good on paper, the execution is just plain poor. The motion controls aren't always responsive, which leaves you with one or two different combos you can do out of the three or four possible combos that are available.
This game could have been good, but almost every aspect of Spider-Man: Friend or Foe falls flat on its face. As a fan of the sandbox style Spider-Man games, I must say I am deeply disappointed that Activision chose to go the easy route instead of giving fans another high quality game. Avoid this game at all costs; it's not even worth a rental.