Q&A: Next Level Games on Spider-Man: Friend or Foe

Next Level Games talks co-op gameplay, how many Marvel characters will make it into Friend or Foe, and differences between the various console versions.

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Old webhead gets the Lego Star Wars treatment later this year, with Activision and Next Level Games releasing the kid-friendly Spider-Man: Friend of Foe on most platforms. Our hands-on preview takes you through some of the action you can expect in the co-op brawler, but to get more insight into the game, we spoke to game director Jason Carr and lead game designer Brandon Gill from Next Level.

GameSpot AU: Tell us about the universe behind Spider-Man: Friend or Foe. Is it based on the Sam Raimi movies?

Jason Carr: It is a new storyline. We started fresh, but we made sure throughout the game that we paid homage to the events that took place in the movies. In order for us to have some of the characters we wanted in the game we obviously couldn't go with the storylines in the movies, seeing as a lot of those characters passed away. But there are many moments in the game that parody existing scenes from the movies, but other than that, it takes place after the third movie and is loosely tied in to the ending of that.

Co-op can be played all the way through Friend or Foe.
Co-op can be played all the way through Friend or Foe.

GS AU: It seems that some of the character designs are based on the movie, while others are comic book based. Is that right?

Brandon Gill: We wanted to come up with an art style that made sense to the demographic we were going after. We wanted to make sure that the costumes were taken from Sam Raimi's designs, but interpreted in our way so it made sense to the art direction and the art style that we came up with for this game.

GS AU: So what can you say about the game's plot?

JC: I can tell you, without giving too much away, that [at the start] Spider-Man is engaged in battle with some of his classic arch-nemeses. And Green Goblin actually comes to help out because he's having a tough time fighting them all off. While they're in the middle of this battle, a new, unknown threat that looks vaguely like Venom attacks them, and Spidey is pulled away as other characters are being abducted. He ends up being saved by Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D., who asks him to help out with this new invasion of sorts that's taking place.

GS AU: A major feature of this game is cooperative gameplay throughout the whole thing, with Spidey being joined by another character that can be controlled by a friend. If you're playing alone, will these sidekick characters still be there?

JC: Yes. You always have a secondary character with you, and you're free to switch between the two characters and use the different abilities each one has.

BG: We also wanted it so that if you're playing with a friend, a brother or sister, or whatever, they can drop out at any time, and the sidekick will become AI controlled. That drop in-drop out feature was important to this type of game.

GS AU: How many Marvel characters will make an appearance in Friend or Foe?

JC: There are over 12 characters overall to play with. We have all the characters from the movies, and then we've got a couple of other ones that have never actually been playable in games before from the Marvel franchise. One of the ones that's getting positive response now is Iron Fist. He's obviously got his own comic line that's back in stores, so people are excited about the fact that you can play as Iron Fist in the game. There are several other characters as well, but we don't want to give away too much right now.

GS AU: What audience is this game aimed at?

BG: One of the mandates from Activision was that they wanted an E10 rating, that they wanted something that was an all ages thing. So we made sure that everything from the character design to gameplay appeals to that younger demographic, but we also put a lot of elements in there that the fanboys will enjoy as well. We are skewing towards the younger demographic, so it is quite different from the other Spider-Man games from that perspective for sure.

GS AU: How is this different from previous Spidey titles in terms of gameplay?

BG: It is more of an action adventure--the other Spider-man games were arguably locomotion games that really capitalised on Spidey getting around, where our Spider-Man game focuses more on the action. What we're going after here is family-friendly combat. So it's more like cartoon violence if you will, where you're bouncing characters around using a whole range of Spidey's web abilities, as well as using the unique abilities of other characters you unlock.

GS AU: Seeing as you're going for a younger demographic, how complex will the game be to control?

BG: We wanted to keep the buttons limited--it's not as if you're playing an advanced fighting game. We do use a combo system, so there's some level of depth there for juggling characters, which then adds to a combo meter, which then gives you benefits that tie back into the economy of the game such as unlocking and upgrading abilities. But accessibility was extremely important to us in this game. It is easy to jump into the game, hammer away and button mash, but once you learn the system you can start taking advantage and create new types of combat moves.

GS AU: Will Spidey be able to stick to all surfaces?

BG: You can stick to any surface, but he's not quite as mobile as in other games as it's not a locomotion game. And we also had to consider the other characters as well--so if Spidey's up crawling on a wall you don't want Sandman stuck behind. So you can stick to walls, jump off and do attacks from them, but it is a little bit more limited than what you'd see in the Spider-Man 3 movie game.

All of the movie villans will make appearance in the game.
All of the movie villans will make appearance in the game.

GS AU: So once characters are unlocked, they can be played in any level, is that right?

BG: Yes, you can play them in any level you choose--we don't tell you you have to play as Sandman or Goblin in this specific level. We've also thrown in a versus fighter in there, because we have a nice roster. As it is a Spidey game, through the main story mode you'll always be playing as Spider-Man with a sidekick, but when you go into versus mode you can play as Venom versus Goblin, or whoever you want.

GS AU: Will there be any significant differences between the various console versions of the game?

JC: The Wii and the 360 will be shipping with an extra character--we don't want to give away who it is right now though. And on the Wii, we have some gesture specific moves for the characters.

GS AU: Can you give us an example?

BG: One of the functions during combat is a grab move that every character can do. To make that grab system a little deeper, there's a secondary button press that can be done after you've grabbed an enemy which will modify the grab. On the Wii, that modification is done by first grabbing an enemy and flicking the remote in a direction in order to modify a grab.

GS AU: Jason Carr and Brandon Gill, thanks for your time.

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