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Phil Larsen
12 Dec, 2006

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Review

360 Review | I choose you - Spiderman! Wolverine! Silver Surfer! Storm! Moon Knight! Pikachu!
The Marvel universe is seemingly timeless, from humble comic beginnings decades ago to hundreds of millions of dollars in movies and merchandise today. Plenty of video games have sprung up, some actually pretty good. Marvel Ultimate Alliance is easily the most ambitious yet, an Action RPG starring literally whoever you want. It's a surreal experience, fighting with and against the greatest supermen of all time, in what may be one of the best Marvel games of all time. As always, the glory is in the details!

As far as the storyline goes, Raven has thrown everything in the big melting pot of Marvel. Dr. Doom has assembled pretty much every super-villain ever conceived to execute a dastardly plan which can only be thwarted by – you guessed it – the ultimate team of superheroes. SHIELD is the massive superhero agency designed to combat evil, and is introduced in the game's first mission, a deadly strike against the organisation's flagship Helicarrier. It’s a lengthy quest to visit all the evil-doers and methodically putting a stop to their individual little plans of evil, until the final showdown in Dr. Doom’s castle. Along the way you’ll visit various zany locales, such as Asgard, the Shi’ar Empire and Skrull Planet. Some earlier missions also involve battles inside and out of mass moving battlestations, so the general variety in design is rather good.

Individual abilities receive glorious recognition.

Individual abilities receive glorious recognition.
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Ultimate Alliance plays like many other dungeon-crawlers, fighting wave after wave of enemies, leveling up and heading over to the next area to fight stronger enemies. In between the action lies a bit of role-playing, but it's clear the focus is providing the most varied combat experience possible. The tried-and-true formula that works so well with “olde-tyme” games like Diablo and Baldur’s Gate has been extremely well done for the Marvel world. Some usual Action RPG mechanics have been changed - no potions or healing items are available; instead the defeated enemies drop blue and red orbs, energy for special attacks and health boosts respectively. It's not a particularly fresh system, but it works. You’ll fight through the enemies using superpowers instead of swords, utilising the unique abilities of the largest superhero cast ever assembled. In fact, over 20 heroes are available to select for your 4-man (or woman) fighting team by the end of the game.

Having such a large cast of playable characters makes it difficult to develop a fully unique playing style for each individual hero. This is understandable, but thankfully they all feel different enough to be constantly fresh. All attacks are loosely categorised, with the various face buttons each used for performing a melee, projectile or power attack, for example. The same principle applies to holding down the R button, which is used to reveal the powers menu. When R is held, each button changes to represent a specific ability which is set by the player.

Team building is a very deep process, and rewards unique selections. For example, stat bonuses are granted to teams of special significance or style – the entire Fantastic Four, or a full range of X-Men. Of course this is by no means restrictive; the entire benefit of having such a large cast is that it allows for maximum experimentation. Even though Ultimate Alliance features some comparatively unpopular heroes, such as Thor and Deadpool, you’ll find that everyone will be given a shot at proving their worth, granted solely by your piqued curiosity. Want an All-Star cast? Wolverine, Spider-Man and Captain America are ready to be selected anytime.

Pink vs. Orange?

Pink vs. Orange?
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Due to one’s natural persistence in using some characters more than others, Ultimate Alliance distributes experience points among inactive team members. So, if a sudden change of heart is felt halfway through the game, any one of the benched heroes will already be almost as strong as those in the previously active team.

Every so often throughout the main game, icons are found that represent “Comic Book Missions”, which are side stories focusing on single heroes. They are short, sweet and have several objectives, usually culminating in a boss fight. It’s a pass/fail affair, with any money collected during the side mission being transported to your kitty after returning to the main game. The Comic Book Missions can be played immediately after pickup, or stored for later use if the current situation is too appealing to step away from. This adds particular longevity to the game, and achieving all gold awards on these side missions will be an epic task in itself for those who have mastered the main quest.

The dialogue in the game is laughably bad. Constant one-liners from the heroes, lame conversation selections and mediocre voice acting are just some of the issues the games faces. However, it can also be said that over the top action and wise-crackin’ heroes has always been the Marvel way, and in the spirit of remaining true to the source material, Ultimate Alliance holds up well. In fact, lose yourself in the cheese and it may just turn out to be one hell of a fun ride. The age-old analogy must be used – it’s so bad that it’s good. “No, you’ll never get away with the nuclear device, Captain Doom!”

<insert lame stretching pun here>

<insert lame stretching pun here>
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Stark Tower will act as home base in between missions, and even as a safe haven if a quick extraction is needed. The billionaire behind the building is Anthony Stark, also known as Iron Man. Stark Tower also is where most of the actual “questing” and “RPGing” takes place, as you wander around the rooms investigating further into various mission discoveries, and talking to rather unique folk such as Weasel and Vision. The conversations are actually pretty deep, and flow as well as they do in Oblivion. The lines are still cheesy, but again it’s all part of the fun. Stark Tower can be accessed by one of the many SHIELD Access Points, which also contain the saving and character selection abilities.

Controlling the heroes is a breeze, and they all have their own little unique traits. The biggest example of this is probably Spiderman, who naturally is able to swing about on his web to thwart foes from above. This feature also controls splendidly for a non-Spidey-specific title. Swinging is initiated by double-tapping the Y button, and this even causes some heroes (who naturally possess that ability) to fly. All movement is smooth and responsive, and given the fast-paced nature of the game this is to be expected. It’s clear that some of the more popular heroes receive more time in the cinematic limelight, but any fan of any hero will be able to have just as deep an experience, given the fully fleshed out controls and abilities for every character.

Sometimes it's nothing but a circus.

Sometimes it's nothing but a circus.
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The abilities and character upgrades are controlled in a somewhat complex selection menu, which displays vital stats, outfits and combat powers of any specific hero. During the game you will level up, as well as collect points and coins used to upgrade further abilities. The combat abilities are assigned to any one of the face buttons after purchase, and are often brutal enough to deserve your hard-earned cash. Well, not especially hard-earned, because some of the gameplay elements are tedious if anything. Many crates and barrels are destructible for your convenience, so expect to be randomly bashing objects a whole lot to discover the mysteries within. In fact, most of the object interactivity is pretty average, including actual puzzle-solving. Any given puzzle will probably require you to push or pull something, activate electricity somewhere, destroy a particularly inconvenient piece of technology or simply get to a console and “stop that missile launch in time!”. It’s fun enough, if only a moderately intelligent way to break up the action.

Little to now slowdown occurs, even when such a variety of powers and enemies are on-screen. As a whole the game looks pretty good, even though most of the action takes place from far enough away to include all four active characters in action. The camera can be rotated and zoomed in using the right thumbstick.

Multiplayer is available both online and offline, but gathering with your friends in one room and getting down to some serious business is the most appealing. Each player controls an individual hero, much like other games of the same genre, and it works perfectly. In fact, some of the AI during single player is a bit iffy, so having human-controlled teammates always makes for a better experience.

It’s actually a lot of information to take in about such a unique game. The most important aspect is that all the individual components gel into a fully realised Marvel adventure, with no glaring problems whatsoever. Fun and frantic throughout, you’ll be bashing baddies and experimenting with the massive array of characters and their respective abilities for a long time. Marvel Ultimate Alliance is, strangely enough, exactly what the title implies. It is the ultimate cast of characters, and the game preaches teamwork every chance it gets. The heroes even call each other by their hero names, seemingly out of respect. It looks great, feels great, and it’s Marvel. This means anyone with a penchant for Marvel madness can do no wrong to pick this one up, and even any fans of solid Action RPG games would do well to check it out.
The Score
Simply great fun to play. It embodies everything in the Marvel universe, which is a legendary license unto itself, while simultaneously providing an extremely solid Action RPG experience. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Content

New characters coming for Marvel Ultimate Alliance
26 Mar, 2007 Magneto and the Incredible Hulk headline the content.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance interview
12 Aug, 2006 We speak to producer Matthew Paul about Activision's ambitious new title.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Review
16 Feb, 2007 Hold the power of the Marvel team in your hand.
7 Comments
7 years ago
"I choose you - Spiderman! Wolverine! Silver Surfer! Storm! Iceman! Moon Knight! Pikachu!"

haha nice. I was really looking forward to this title but when I got to the gamestore to buy it I was too tempted and ended up getting CoD3 and Carbon probably a good decision but im still going to get Ulimate Alliance but maybe a little further down the track.

The game looks great although the environments look a bit bland but who cares when you have such a awesome list of playable characters! Shame about the Hulk and Punisher though..
7 years ago
my little brother just rented this i have beaten
SPOILER
Fon Fam Foom the dragon
its quite enjoyable
7 years ago
i'm interested to know how the Wii version handles. moving insync with your character to perform his/her moves sounds interesting, but i'm not convinced of the effort put into the control scheme.
7 years ago
it may work well if my local Video Ezy (where I wanna work but I don't know how old u have to be) has the Wii Games for rental i may check it out
7 years ago
ObsoletE wrote
i'm interested to know how the Wii version handles. moving insync with your character to perform his/her moves sounds interesting, but i'm not convinced of the effort put into the control scheme.
The Wiimote actually controls the camera (Swing it around) but I heard it actually works icon_smile.gif The Nunchuck is the walking around bit and A is jump.
7 years ago
7 years ago
El Taco wrote
ObsoletE wrote
i'm interested to know how the Wii version handles. moving insync with your character to perform his/her moves sounds interesting, but i'm not convinced of the effort put into the control scheme.
The Wiimote actually controls the camera (Swing it around) but I heard it actually works icon_smile.gif The Nunchuck is the walking around bit and A is jump.
what just for the camera I thought you could use it for moves
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Publisher:
  Activision
Developer:
  Raven Software
Players:
  1-4

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