Oddly enough this PSP game does the one thing I wished the Xbox 360 version would do, which is have some sort of penalty for when you die. You see, when you die in the console versions of the game you don't start over at the beginning of the level or lose a life, instead you pop right up mere feet from where you died, so you never have to worry about running out of health when playing through the game. Thankfully this problem has been rectified in this portable game. Now when you die there will be a countdown before you will respawn, if the second player dies before you respawn then the game will be over and you'll have to start at the beginning of the level. Having both characters die at the same time is rare, but it does happen and you will be penalized for it. Even though this whole dying thing is not handled in the best way possible, I'll give them credit for taking the game in the right direction.
The good news is that Spider-Man: Friend or Foe plays out in a fulfilling way. While the story is somewhat silly, the voice acting is solid and you'll probably be engaged enough with the mystery to see who (or what) is behind all of these nefarious acts. The one criticism I have surrounding the storytelling has to do with the cut-scenes, which aren't animated (like they are in the Xbox 360 version). Instead of watching these characters walk around and talk, we see still images move around the screen. The problem with this approach is that it doesn't look as good as the console cinemas, and it never quite looks like a real comic book panel (which would have been an interesting effect). Instead it just looks awkward, and since the PSP can handle these full cinemas I don't see why they chose to scale down the look.
Speaking of scaling down the look, the graphics in this portable version just aren't very good. Don't get me wrong, the Xbox 360 game was far from the best looking title on the system (put up against BioShock it's hard to believe the two are on the same system), but I know for a fact that the PSP can push better visuals than this. Most of the levels looks boring and bland, and even the most interesting levels get bogged down by too many similar textures. The animation is also surprisingly stiff; the game never looks or feels very fluid. It's certainly not the worst looking PSP game on the market, but it's definitely no showpiece for what the portable can do.
Like the console versions, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe on the PSP is at its best when you experience it with a friend. Unfortunately it's not nearly as easy to get your friend into a game (and then kick them out). But if you can get over the limited two-player control you will find that this can be a rather exciting multiplayer experience. One noticeable omission is the lack of team-up moves, the kind of moves where both players work together to perform an extra powerful attack. It feels like there could have been a lot more done with the two-player modes, but at least we have the option to play the game with a friend.
Believe it or not, Friend or Foe is not the only Spider-Man game coming out this month from Activision. Just a couple weeks ago the company finally released the PSP version of Spider-Man 3 (only five months after the other versions), and now we're here reviewing Friend or Foe. While this game is nowhere near as deep as other Spider-Man adventures, it is a nice diversion from the more serious comic book games we've been seeing lately. The problem is that the game is just too repetitive for its own good. While I definitely enjoyed the story and the large amount of characters, the overall game just doesn't come together in a way that is very appealing. I do like that this game is different from the Xbox 360 version, but with a few more improvements Friend or Foe could have been a title worth talking about.
Friend or Foe may be different from the Xbox 360 version, but in some ways it's no better or worse. While I still like the strong voice acting and the large cast of characters, part of me wishes that Activision could have done more to take this from an average 3D brawler into something truly exciting. But they didn't, and that's why Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is just another average action game that doesn't even to break new ground.
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