Having just come off of reviewing
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe for the Xbox 360, I somewhat feared jumping right into playing this PSP version. I worried that everything I disliked about the console game would be made worse in this portable port, especially when it came to the graphics and extra modes. But I fought through my fears and tossed in the UMD of Friend or Foe and was surprised that this is not the same game I just played on Microsoft's next generation console. While it's true that both games are 3D brawlers and share the same story, the way the two versions go about handling the material is very different. That doesn't mean that one is better than the other, it's just that the two games are very different beasts.
Perhaps this has more to do with the fact that there are two completely different developers handling the two versions. While Next Level Games worked on the Xbox 360 game (along with the Wii, PC, and PlayStation 2 ports), Artificial Minds and Movement were responsible for the two handheld ports. This PSP game does share a lot of the assets found in the console titles (textures found in some of the levels, boss locations, character models and the voice acting), but at the end of the day this is a very different game than what you would find on the Xbox 360.
As I already explained, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is an old school arcade brawler along the lines of Rival Turf and that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade machine. 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 the high point of Friend or Foe.
From there the game becomes extremely predictable, you, and a second character (that can be played by a friend or the computer), set off on tour of the world beating up swarms of bad guys and knocking the sense into some of the most popular Spider-Man villains of all time. The game consists of a number of different (yet similar) levels, including Tokyo, Tangaroa Island, Egypt, Transylvania and (exclusive to the PSP version of the game) Mediterranean Undercity. Along the way you will meet up with a number of friends (including Blade and Silver Sable) and have to deal with tons of brainwashed villains. The boss villains play like a who's who was of bad guys from the Spider-Man movies, they include (but are not limited to) everybody from Doc Ock to Venom to Sandman to the Green Goblin. By the end of the game you will have defeated (and teamed up) with most of the major characters from the three most recent Spider-Man movies, which isn't a bad thing if you're a kid who grew up enamored by what Sam Raimi was able to do with those films.
Each level is split up into several sub-levels, and each of those sub-levels have several areas to fight through. While the Xbox 360 levels are long and full of secret items and locations, the areas in this PSP version are extremely short, some are no more than five or six minutes long. I suspect you're probably still covering the same amount of area that you did in the console versions, but it's all split up into bite-size segments that are interrupted by annoying loading screens. It would be one thing if you could save between these small areas, but you actually have to wait until you finish a full level before you can save your progress and stop playing. I don't really see much of a benefit to the way the areas are set up, I would have preferred the larger levels over the constant loading screens.
Another way this handheld game differs from its console brothers is in the way you control the game. At first the game looks like it's going to play exactly the same as the Xbox 360 version, but you'll quickly realize that in some ways you have more control over the characters on the screen (while in other ways you have less). While the combat remains largely unchanged, it's worth mentioning that this PSP game features two attack buttons (up from the one button attack button on the consoles). On top of the two attack buttons (a light and strong attack), you also have a button that will allow you to use your webbing to pull enemies closer and link attacks together.
Unfortunately there are a few problems associated with the actual combat. The biggest problem is that your web attacks aren't very effective; in most situations they are all but useless. You also don't have as many different special moves as you did in the Xbox 360 port, so you can pretty much kiss away any concept of variety. And, like the console versions of the game, the combat in the handheld port is just a little too repetitive for its own good. It's not a stretch to say that every level plays out exactly the same way; you walk in one direction, fight a bunch of guys, walk a little further, fight some more guys, walk to the end of the level and then exit to the next stage. And what do you do in the next level? That's right; you do exactly the same thing you did before. From time to time the action will be broken up by a boss battle, but most of those fights feel exactly the same as the regular fights, only this time you need to use more strategy and attack when they are vulnerable.
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