When Spider-Man: Friend or Foe was first announced, I had hopes that the new offering might be a means of redemption for the shoddy piece of work that was Spider-Man 3. If the demo released on Xbox Live this morning is any indication, what we are getting instead is a game that tries to be a cartoony, trimmed down Ultimate Alliance but ends up feeling more akin to the Spider-Man beat-em ups of the SNES era. The plot of the game revolves around Mysterio creating an army of Phantoms using a piece of the Venom symbiote and then kidnapping Spider-Man's greatest foes, using mind-control to get them to battle the webcrawler despite the fact that in the opening cinematic of the demo they are all attacking him anyway. Apparently forcing villains to do what they were going to do anyway is abhorrent to the bad guys, and as Spidey frees them they join his side as playable characters.
The demo takes place on the rooftops of Tokyo, as Spider-Man teams up with either Venom or the original Green Goblin to keep Doctor Octopus from doing something silly, like destroying the city. As they travel towards their goal, the team is assaulted at various intervals by robotic-looking enemies, which must be repeatedly beaten until they explode. Simple enough. Killing robots and scenery nets them coins, health refills, and power ups like invincibility and massive damage that can be triggered using the directional pad.
At its heart, the game is a simple beat-em up. While there are plenty of combos available, most enemies are easily dispatched by repeatedly hitting X, while the boss battles in the demo both involved throwing things by picking them up with the B button. With a game this friendly to the button masher, mapping the character swapping to Y might have been a bad idea. Hopefully the final game will let you move this to one of the triggers so my giant snausage fingers don't get me killed anymore.
The graphics are generic at best. The cartoony Tokyo presented in the demo could be just about any other city if it weren't for the random neon signs with Japanese characters on them and the random giant bear in the background. While characters animate wonderfully, some of the models are downright hideous. Doc Ock's teeth in particular look as if they aren't even finished...just a line of white for the bottoms of the teeth with no actual front to them.
Over all my main problem with Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is the restrictions placed on the webcrawler himself. He cannot climb walls, despite that being one of his trademark moves. He can fall off of a building and die. I know they did the same thing in Ultimate Alliance, but it was understandable when he was just one of many heroes represented. In a game with Spider-Man in the title I expect something more like..well, Spider-Man. If you are going to put a wall in the way of Spidey, it better be a spiked wall that shoots fire.
Incidentally, at the end of the demo you are given a special code and instructed to enter it at FriendorFoeGame.com to get a special in-game item, but I cannot for the life of me find a place to enter text. Poo.
This is a game for children, or possibly the very hardcore Spider-Man fan interested in the interesting new take on the series. Activision designer Jamie Bafus has said that this game was made for everybody. After playing the demo it is abundantly clear that everybody doesn't include me.