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Friends vs. Friends is Gamescom’s ridiculously fun show-stealer

If you watched this year’s Gamescom Opening Night Live stream, I wouldn’t blame you if you can’t remember most of the games shown at it. The rapid-paced barrage of trailers meant that smaller indies were overshadowed by heavy hitters like Sonic Frontiers. By the time the show had ended, I had almost forgotten about Friends vs. Friends, a multiplayer shooter that got a quirky animated trailer.

I remembered it as I walked by publisher Raw Fury’s Gamescom booth. With no one in line to play, I decided to stop by on a whim and see how the game actually worked. I’m glad I did, because it was the most fun I had at the convention. The oddball shooter may not have massive long-term potential, but I know I’ll be begging my friends to play with me when it launches.

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Friends vs Friends Reveal Trailer

Deck of guns

I knew Friends vs. Friends was a competitive first-person shooter that pitted players against one another (whether 1v1 or 2v2) based on the trailer, but what I didn’t realize is that it’s a quietly genius deck builder too. The way the game works is that players face off in a series of quick elimination rounds. Kill your friend, and you’ll win the round (in my demo, I faced off against another player in a best three out of five set-up). Simple. The twist is that players enter the battle with a deck of cards, a few of which are dealt to each player at the start of every round.

Cards have multiple utilities. A weapon card will give the player that weapon to use for the round, allowing them to trade in their starting gun for something like a katana or shotgun. Some cards contain buffs that’ll give players a unique advantage for the round. That goes the other way, as a player can use a card to hinder an opponent. For example, one card might reduce the damage your enemy deals.

Cards can be spent anytime during a round, and figuring out when to use them is the name of the game. It makes sense to start a battle by spawning a better weapon, but players will want to hang on to a card that heals them and use it once they start taking damage.

A player prepares to shoot at an opponent coming on the train in Friends vs. Friends.

So what does that actually look like during a round? During my game, I was handed a preset deck (players will be able to build their own in the full game). I got the hang of the game within my first round. I started by burning a card to equip a sniper rifle. I started shuffling through my deck after that to see what might help me. A card that would stop my opponent from jumping? That would make it much easier for me to line up a shot. Oh, what’s this? Another card that gives them a big head? Within 30 seconds of playing, I had concocted the perfect strategy. With an immobile enemy with a giant headshot target, I was able to score the first win of the match.

I’m dying to see what other absurd cards there are and how I can combine them to put together a winning round.

Each round was completely different after that. In one, my opponent came charging at me with a sword as I tried to maintain distance and hit him with the machine gun I’d spawned. Though, my absolute favorite moment came when I drew the “nuke” card, which didn’t include an explanation as to what would happen if I used it. I used it the second I was able to, naturally. Sure enough, a massive nuke fell from the sky and reduced the entire map into a crater. Instead of fighting on a rooftop where we could hide behind air conditioners, we were in a barren open field — and that just happened to be a terrible match for the shotgun I had equipped.

Players fight in a diner in Friends vs. Friends.

Moments like that have me thrilled by the potential of the game’s simple premise. I’m dying to see what other absurd cards there are and how I can combine them to put together a winning round. I’m not sure how much depth the game will have based on my quick demo; it might just be a quick curiosity for friends to play for an evening or two. Regardless of how much more there is to do in the final version, I know I’ll be diving back in as soon as I can so I can construct my own brilliant strategies.

Friends vs. Friends is in development for PC and consoles.

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