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E3 07: Spider-Man: Friend or Foe - first look

When it was recently revealed that publisher Activision had another Spider-Man game in the works, the immediate speculation from fans was that it would be something cool to make up for the disappointing rush-job that was Spider-Man 3. While that may somehow be the case, anyone expecting another free-roaming, web-slinging adventure will be disappointed by Spider-Man: Friend or Foe. Not only does this weirdly colorful, kid-friendly version of Spidey's world seem to be based on a Saturday-morning cartoon spinoff of the movies, but it looks like a simplified version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Which means lots of brawling from an overhead perspective and (probably) no hurling punks off the Empire State Building.

We say "Saturday-morning cartoon" because the game - admittedly is aimed at Spidey's younger fans - seems to take place in a happier, gentler version of the world seen in the movies. During the game's opening, Spidey gets attacked by the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, Sandman and Venom, all of whom are alive and well. He's then rescued at the last minute by the New Goblin, who's apparently Spidey's cheerful, wisecracking sidekick now. Weird.

He's not Spider-Man's only sidekick, either. Friend or Foe is built around co-op play, meaning that two characters will be onscreen at all times, and you'll be able to switch between them at will (or get a friend to jump in and play second banana). The hero tagging along will be decided automatically at first, but eventually, you'll be able to pick your favorite from a pool of 13 between stages.

Your buddies will start out innocuously enough, with Spidey pairing up with a small selection of other Marvel heroes (the first one we saw in action was D-list hero Iron Fist). But what sets this game apart is that some of the levels will involve tracking down Spidey's archenemies, pounding them into next week and then adding them to the team once they've been beaten. We're not sure what would compel Doc Ock or the Goblin to stop trying to kill Spider-Man for more than five minutes, but the idea of being able to play as them - even in the context of a linear brawler - is actually kind of compelling.

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