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Marvel Ultimate Alliance - Join the fight!

  • Apr 24, 2007
Rating:
+4
Pros: Fun action, great co-op, solid graphics

Cons: Goofy voice work, mediocre online play, not much of a story

The Bottom Line: A fun action RPG that is heavy on the action and light on the RPG.

Games based on familiar intellectual properties are either excellent (Knight of the Old Republic) or terrible (Superman). With Marvel Ultimate Alliance, we are given another familiar intellectual property featuring your favorite band f Marvel superheroes. Does it live up the standards of the comic or does it fall short?

Read on, dear reader....

•• Story ••
The story is as simple as possible and the stuff of nearly every comic book. A bad guy, in this case Dr. Doom, has assembled a merry band of super-villains called the Masters of Evil who are trying to, wait for it, take over the world! Basic stuff, but it’s what every comic junkie would expect in a game like this.

•• Gameplay ••
This game is called an “action RPG” which means it has elements of action and elements of Role playing games. I prefer to call it a dungeon crawler because it is very much like Diablo and Dungeon Siege. You have a top-down look on your party and uncover areas of the map as you traverse them. The enemies are defeated by simple button mashing with a few special abilities thrown in for good measure. When you come across an enemy boss or a fellow hero, you are given some options to have conversations. This is the RPG element of the game and it is minimal in Marvel Ultimate Alliance.

The conversation trees usually consists of a single path and the few choices you are given have little to no impact on the direction of the game. The RPG elements don’t change the outcome of the game or the direction of your character. They are simply a means to give you more story and more mostly useless dialog. I found myself hitting the A button quite a lot to skip ahead to something more interesting.

The action, however, is fairly entertaining, though quite easy. Bad guys are thrown at you fairly sparsely, and there are an awful lot of grunts soldier types tossed at you early in the game. It isn’t until much later in the game that you face more difficult bosses and characters from the comics.

Along those lines, there are probably a hundred or so villains, heroes and cameos in the game. Comic fans should go nuts over this fact alone and it’s fun to see and control your favorite heroes from yesterday and today. And controlling them is easy. The analog sticks control the movement and the camera, while the buttons allow you to attack, pick things up, jump, and fly (if your character can do so). As well, the trigger allows you to access special powers.

Special powers are specific to the character and quite faithful to the comics. Wolverine has special fury modes and Iron man can shoot projectiles. Given that there are over 20 characters, I certainly only skimmed the surface of what each one can do. While at first glance, this might give the impression of adding replay value, but when you get to it, the powers of the heroes are fairly similar. You can either eat the bad guys up or shoot them from a distance. Don’t get me wrong, this is fun and swapping characters in your party is a great part of that fun.

Swapping character can be done at special checkpoints. As well, you can save the game, load a previous game, and revive downed members. Once in swap mode, you can browse the heroes as if they were standing in the display window of Macys. From there you can upgrade characters with the points you’ve acquired or look at their special abilities. Customization can also be done here by buying new costumes. Lest you think new costumes are simply eye candy, each costume has different properties which enhance different characteristics. A very nice touch.

In all, the game is very fun, especially with a friend. As a matter of fact, a friend is much better to play with than the Ai since they do rather dumb things. If you go up to a pole and start beating on it to no avail, the rest of your party will start to beat on the pole. IT really makes them seem like sheep. As well, if I went into a corner to beat up some crates to get coins, my posse of heroes would utterly surround me, often trapping me into the corner, forcing me to wiggle and jump my way free. I suppose a friend could do that while play co-op, but then you need better friends.

•• Graphics ••
It’s obvious that the graphics have been beefed up for the Xbox 360 version. Everything is very shiny. The environments are shiny, the objects are shiny, the characters are shiny. Yes, the game is a bit too… shiny. Somehow I don’t think Spider-man is supposed to look perpetually wet, but he does. Aside from that minor gripe, the graphics are excellent. The character models are very well detailed (as far as you can tell from the distance) and the environments are very well rendered, even in standard definition. The icons on screen a re a bit tough to read and I had to find out what each power did, by simply trying them instead of relying on the indicators in the HUD.

Of note, are the cinematic quality cutscenes. I’ve never seen cinematics rendered so well in a game before. Absolutely top notch.

•• Sound ••
The sound in M:UA is a mixed bag. The music is great with a lush, dynamic score that changes on environment and situation. The effects are well done, often rocking my subwoofer. The weapons effects are varied, fun and exciting. But the voice overs are cheesy. Why do all comic book heroes have to sound like, well, comic book heroes. Full of gusto and scenery chewing, the voice work is mostly annoying and over the top.

•• Multiplayer ••
As mentioned before, Co-op in this game is a blast. You get to be one hero in your party and your friend gets to be another. Of particular coolness is the ability to join mid game. Fans of Lego Star Wars will be able to appreciate that. My son was playing for a while and then I grabbed an extra controller and hopped right in. We had a blast. A nice touch when playing with a 7 year old is the warping feature. If he lollygags behind too long, he’ll automatically warp to me, making the pacing of the game even.

For those who have no friends, online play is decent, if a little dull. You can play strangers in arcade mode which basically pits you against them in a cooperative setting. While you play the missions, you are scored for number of hits, accuracy and powerups. The winner is the one who has the most points. It’s kind of like golf- not only are you playing against each other, you’re playing against the course. It’s fun, but not substitute for co-op play.

•• Achievements ••
The achievements in M:UA are fairly basic,, though plentiful. You get them for completing the game and doing some online stuff. There are a few hidden achievements, but nothing that will make achievement junkies stand up and take notice. It shouldn’t be a tremendous challenge to get all the achievements in the game without being too easy like King Kong or any sports game.

•• Parents Should Know ••
This game is rated T for Teen and is filled with comic book violence. There is no noticeable blood and the language is mild. While the meat of the game is fisticuff action, it should be fine for most kids, especially if you already let them read comics.

•• Conclusion ••
A fun action RPG that is heavy on the action and light on the RPG.


Recommended:
Yes

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More Marvel Ultimate Alliance reviews
review by . November 12, 2010
If you thought The Avengers where awesome, Wait till you see the Ultimate Alliance.
      Originally released for the Xbox 360 Marvel Ultimate Alliance was later ported to the Wii and Playstation 3 consoles. Developed by Raven Software and Vicarious Visions and, published by Activision Ultimate alliance was released for the Wii on November 16th 2006.      The premise of the game is simple, Dr Doom and the Masters of evil are close to seizing an immense amount of power. In response to this new threat Colonel Nick Fury assembles a team of Super …
review by . June 20, 2009
This game, along with Forza 2, came with the Xbox 360 when I purchased it.  This is really what ignited my interest in superheroes & comic books.  There is a huge line-up of characters that you can chose from & certain sections of the game include parts of the backstory on each hero.      I liked the fact that you have several characters on your team & can change them out as needed.   You have 4 heroes on your team & can play with …
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Jeffrey Kafer ()
Ranked #734
Voice over artist specializing in audiobook narration. Hear more at http://audiobook-voice-over.com/ and http://JeffreyKafer.com
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Wiki

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance lets you create a four-member strike force of Marvel Super Heroes. If you had to assemble a team of the best heroes, who would you pick? Choose wisely, because this is an alliance for the ages -- the team you create will face incredible evils, from the most exotic locations on Earth to the neighboring solar systems. Partner, battle and interact with more than 140 characters from the entire Marvel Universe, in a multi-mission quest with an innovative combat system. Command the largest roster of Super Heroes ever, as you determine the fate of a universe. Compete or cooperate online - coverge in battle against legendary villains, and Switch between cooperative and competitive mode to partner or challenge 3 other players
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Details

ESRB: T - (Teen)
Number of Players: 4
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software (PS2, Xbox, PS3, Xbox 360), Vicarious Visions (PSP, Wii), Beenox Studios (PC), Barking Lizards Technologies (Game Boy Advance)
Console: Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PS2, Ps3, PC, PSP
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: October 24, 2006
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