Game Review: Marvel Ultimate Alliance

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
(8.4 of 10)
Platform: Windows XP (PC)
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software/Beenox Studios


There were times when a game, exclusive for console platforms, comes out and I wish, as a PC gamer, I had a console too. One of those games was X-Men: Legends, a game developed for Playstation 2, Xbox, and Game Cube. Fortunately, its sequel, X-Men: Legends II - Rise of Apocalypse, made its port to the PC. Delightfully enough, the game's success also lead Beenox Studios and Raven Software to port another "from comics-to-games", action-RPG into the PC. This time, however, it's not just the X-Men but the majority of the Marvel universe.

In the story, Dr. Doom has formed a group called the Masters of Evil, which is a grand conglomeration of all super villains in the Marvel universe, and boldly attacked SHEILD's helicarrier. To counter the threat, Colonel Nick Fury, director of SHEILD, immediately called in for help and formed an ultimate alliance of super heroes.

Doom and Fury. Those are cool, if not intimidating, last names.

Like the X-Men: Legends franchise, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance also has a sublime story, the kind that can only be found in comic books. Although it is quite linear, the plot is grand and elaborate, with a bit of twist that casts a dark light and strains the alliance of heroes. Though one thing I really liked about the story is the change of atmosphere. It is less fantastical, if compared to your standard PC RPG, yet it's still magical and has a touch of modern and sci-fi elements.

There have been several changes made to the gameplay of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance -which you may, or may not, like- but for the most part it still feels and runs like X-Men: Legends II. You can choose from a wide array of characters, each with their own set of skills, to form your four-man team of super heroes. Then hack, slash, shoot mystical bolts, or sling webs to clear out any obstacles or opponents thrown at you in order to reach/complete your objectives. When you've trashed a lot of villains and their underlings, your characters will progress in levels. Simple enough.

Choose from more than 20 Marvel super heroes to form your team.

However, the game this time is more action than RPG. There's no more stat point allocation and there are lesser skills to choose from, disabling you to customize characters to your preference. Items have also been minimized in the game. Items can only be gained in weapon caches and boss fights, and each hero can only wear one item. There are also no merchants in the game so you can't buy any items, though you can still sell all your loot through the interface. Twitch and/or rapid press action sequences are also introduced in the gameplay, which feels out of place in the game and was really an unnecessary addition.

On the technical side, all of the problems in X-Men: Legends II still haunts this game, and has gotten even worse. The behavior of A.I. controlled characters are quite erratic. Sometimes, they will stand and watch while you're being pummeled by enemies, and attacks if you don't want them to. They will also opt melee attacks -if they do attack- instead of using their awesome powers. Playing this game with a mouse and keyboard is also very awkward, especially during combat and using powers, because you have very little options to configure your keys and buttons.

Visit Atlantis...and beat the crap out of crazed Atlanteans.

Although there have been some bad changes in the game, some of the new features will compensate for the loss. The "My Team" feature is probably my favorite. At some point during the game, you'll be able to create and name your own team. Then when you use that team to save people and defeat villains, you'll earn reputation points. As your team's reputation grows, you'll earn team skill points which will able you to buy improvements for your team. The new hero outfit is also a nice feature. Each hero has four unlockable skins, and each has a different set of modifiers that act like passive skills (Increase defense, damage, etc.). These modifiers can be bought and upgraded by using SHIELD credits -which is the monetary unit in the game.

Graphics & Sounds
Raven Software entirely eschwed the cell shaded characters this time and upgraded the game's graphics, to next-generation, by using mesmerizing effects, highly detailed 3D environments, and scintillating advance lightings. Your team will also venture into plenty of different areas, all of which are rich and wonderfully designed, giving you a varied scenery. In addition, all the cut-scenes are still as movie-like and gorgeous as they were in X-Men: Legends II.

Deadpool, the merc with a mouth, one of the reasons I dig this game.

The music in the game are all well orchestrated and varies in each area, ranging from serene to heavy, in order to give you an appropriate atmosphere. The voice-overs are also quite passable. Though the female NPCs evidently have the same voice actress making them all sound monotonous.

Overall, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is quite an enjoyable game with an undeniably good story. But with all the changes that have been made, like the removal of stat allocation and introduction of twitch action, I felt it took a step down from X-Men: Legends II (that or maybe I'm biased because Age of Apocalypse is my favorite Marvel story arc). Still, I highly recommend this game to action-RPG afficionados and especially to Marvel Comics fans, because controlling your favorite heroes (Deadpool and Ghost Rider for me) is a blast.