Every once in a while, I'll come across a multiplayer game that hits just right. Now, I don't quite play competitive multiplayer games like I did when I was a teen, but the interest in these games is still there. I think I found something pretty special at PAX West, and it could just become an unexpected hit. Raw Fury's Friends vs Friends is something you should look out for, if my time with it from the show floor was any indication.
Friends vs Friends takes the rarely explored idea of combining card mechanics with FPS game -- something we've really only seen done successfully with this year's fantastic Neon White -- and does so fantastically. The concept is simple, really. There's 1v1 and 2v2 game modes with players taking the role of animal characters armed with guns. Each player has a deck of cards created before matches and as you spawn, you're given a handful of these cards to use in a given match.
Matches are quick, spitfire rounds of frantic FPS action as you face off against opponents in small arena-like environments. My demo with Friends vs Friends took place on top of a skyscraper with two sides filled with cover and obstacles. The objective is just as simple as these small but effective maps: kill the opponent.
Your deck of cards comprises red and green cards, with red affecting enemies and green giving you some sort of buff or benefit. The effects from using these cards are both comical and wildly creative. For example, a red card might enlarge an opponent's head, making it easier to pull off head shots; conversely, a green card might shrink your own head to make it more difficult for opponents to get critical hits off. Other cards include enlarging yourself, vastly increasing both your size and health pool. My personal favorite is a red card that exposes the opponent's brain, making those head shots cause even more damage.
While you start out with a basic pistol, you might be lucky enough to draw a card that gives you a better weapon like a shotgun, AK-47, or sniper. The recoil seems to be larger on these weapons but so too is the damage, meaning there's a trade-off. I found it particularly gratifying when I enlarged my enemy's head then drew a shotgun card, allowing me to pull off easy headshots.
While there is a degree of luck in what cards you draw, I think each card had some sort of benefit and didn't feel like any was useless. Friends vs Friends is also a game that encourages patience or outwitting your opponent; for example, an enemy that uses all of their cards right away might get immediate benefits but leave themselves vulnerable when you still have cards to play.
There's a really cool card that nukes the entire stage. The entire arena changes into a destroyed landscape with rubble strewn all over, which doesn't necessarily give anyone a benefit but just adds to the chaos of Friends vs Friends. If the opposing player uses a nuke a second time, you're thrown in into space on an asteroid and everything is in low gravity. It's such a creative little idea and I hope the developer continues to embrace the chaotic effect of cards.
All in all, Friends vs Friends looks like a seriously fun time. I could see myself picking it up with some friends and going through a few rounds of chaotic action. I'm a bit sad this game is under the radar, but with a little push I think Friends vs Friends could take off -- it's definitely more fun than most other competitive shooters I've played, which is a testament to the quality of this title.
TechRaptor's Friends vs Friends preview was conducted on a demo booth at PAX West 2022.