Underrated Game of the Month: Spider-Man: Friend or Foe

Like a dyslexic eight year old trying to read Shakespeare, some video games simply get lost in the shuffle.  Sometimes they were just released at the wrong time, eclipsed by a much bigger game or a surprise chart topper.  Sometimes they just had bad marketing, or too many misconceived ideas about the game spread by word of mouth.  Occasionally the game drops in price fairly quickly and many gamers, rather than snapping the game up, just assume the price drop is because the game wasn’t that good. More often than not, more than one of these issues plague the games that should have been hits but instead, like my Crazy Town at Ozzfest, fail to resonate with the crowd.  Well in our monthly column, aptly titled Underrated Game of the Month, we search through the masses and try to find games that deserve a little attention.

Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is a game you’ve most likely heard of.  You’ve seen it in a clearance bin a couple years back and maybe wondered what it was all about.  You glanced at the artwork and couldn’t help but notice that it seemed a little “kiddish” compared to other Spider-Man games.  It was hard to get a feel for the game based entirely on the game case, and you likely decided to pass on it.

Odds are though that isn’t the reason you passed it up.  Spider-Man: Friend or Foe had the misfortune of being released after Spider-Man 2 (which set a new level for what was expected in a Spider-Man game), and even more unfortunate for the game was that it was released only a couple of months after Spider-Man 3.  Spider-Man 3 left a sour taste in the mouths of moviegoers and gamers alike, failing to live up to its predecessor on both accounts.  Combined with how quickly FoF came out after Spider-Man 3 didn’t help.  Despite having been developed independently of the movie series, it was easy to view FoF as Activision attempting to flood the market with Spider-Man games in order to capitalize on the release of the third film.  Basically it almost seemed like we got two movie games for the same movie.

This of course wasn’t true but it certainly didn’t help those on the fence about the simplified combat and gameplay.  Running in direct opposition to the previous two games, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe was not an open world web swinging-fest.  Rather it was a linear, classic arcade style beat em’ up.  A fairly simple and honestly fairly easy game at that.  The reviews for the game also marked it as a straight up kid’s game, suggesting that it would have little appeal to adults. That isn’t entirely untrue either.  The game is very simple and it certainly appeals more to a younger crowd with its’ style.  Many gamers were only willing to give it a shot because it was a very easy 1000G Achievement points.

That said, the game is actually surprisingly fun.  Sure its’ simple, but not every game needs to be a 40+ hour RPG with twelve endings and fully customizable stats.  Sometimes you just want to button mash and Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is that game.  The real problem I think came from how the game was really meant to be played vs. how many gamers actually played it.  The classic beat em’ ups were never as much fun by yourself; they were best when played with another person sitting on the couch next to you.  FoF is clearly a throwback to these days and in the same way it is much better played with a partner.  The bonus to the game being relatively easy is that said partner can be a younger brother, nephew or one of your own rug-rats.  I know from personal experience that my eight year old nephew loves this game.

Sure the game would have been more fun and exciting had the difficulty been raised a few notches, but overall the gameplay is solid and fun.  Add to that the graphics are more than acceptable for the type of game, and the locals are greatly varied to boot.  Not to mention that the voice cast does a great job and there are some genuinely funny moments as you work your way through a story that is far more in-depth than most beat em’ ups offer.

The game isn’t great, but it is certainly better than the 60 Metacritic score would imply.  It is a fun distraction from the long and sometimes tedious RPG’s or dark and often over the top FPS games.  Sure you won’t be riddling anyone with bullets and the story is far from epic, but it is still a damn good time if you and a buddy are looking for some mindless fun.

Do you disagree with what I’ve had to say here?  Or do you have a game you want to suggest for the Underrated Game of the Month?  Let me know in the comments below!


About Tristan Rendo

I've made movies, written and performed music, and in January of 2011 got bored and started the awesome gaming site you see before you. My gaming roots began with the original NES, and endless hours spent spilling quarters into machines at the local arcade. I have a personal collection of over 200 Nintendo 64 games, and for many years it was the only system I owned. I re-entered the modern generation of gaming consoles when I decided to purchase a 360. I typically prefer the single player experience of games, so I’m usually playing through some single-player campaign, but can occasionally be found doing some damage in Halo Reach.