STAFF REVIEW of Marvel Ultimate Alliance (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006.
by Adam Rivard

Marvel Ultimate Alliance Box art If you've played Activision's previous X-Men Legends titles and liked them, it's a safe bet you're going to like this action RPG as well. It looks good, features a decent roster of playable heroes, and has creative level design.
From the get go, Dr. Victor Von Doom is threatening the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. He?s heading up to destroy it with his group known as the Masters of Evil while Captain America regroups his team, which consist of Thor, Spider-man and Wolverine, to take out the cyborg-controlled assault ships attacking. After this first sterling cut scene, which nicely captures the personalities of the first team of fighters, you?ll work your way through the helicarrier, when you might realise that perhaps the foursome of Spidey, Captain America, Thor and Wolverine are not what is needed for this mission. No worries. Just find the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo within a level, portal down and pull up The Thing, or Ironman, or Black Panther, or ? If this is sounding like an all-star roster of some of the best Marvel super-heroes of all time, you are absolutely right. But it gets even better. There is Daredevil, Deadpool, Dr. Strange, Elecktra, Ghost Rider, The Fantastic Four, etc?
While the game does feature a crazy amount of characters from the Marvel universe, the attention paid to detail is absolutely great, giving each character their own special abilities and attitudes, from Spider-Man?s joking attitude to Captain America?s leadership skills to Wolverine?s badass-ness.
The special abilities are also quite unique to the characters in the game. For example, Spider-Man?s web, being able to hang enemies from the ceiling and swing around the level with his web and so on. Ghost Rider can chuck enemies into the air and then use his chains to slam them down onto the ground, which is fun to see.

Those that have played the X-Men: Legends games will recognize the way this game plays out (great game to play with the wife or girlfriend, by the way). Too put it simple you manage a team of four threw a level that has many enemies standing between your team and its objective at the other end of the level. Each of the superheroes have unique abilities, the right mix will see you through each of the challenges that await you. As you fight, you get experience, which translates into levelling up to improve your skills. You can also let the game auto-assign the skill points if you are lazy, but the person that wants to manage the team will be able to disable the auto-assign feature and customize the characters the way he or she sees fit.
The game will take players through a variety of different areas from the Marvel universe, like Atlantis, and pits you against tons of super-villains. The choices that you make while playing through the missions have somewhat of a bearing on the outcome of the game. The story-arc will be different depending on how you play through a given situation, giving the game a very dynamic feel. On the other hand the puzzles in Ultimate Alliance are tending toward simple, pretty much the only puzzles you?ll be faced with are pushing and pulling objects into new locations.
As I stated earlier, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is an action/RPG game that plays out very similarly to the X-Men: Legends games. However, whereas the X-Men: Legends titles were pretty much all done as a top down games, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance gives you a bit more control over the camera, even being able to rotate it to the side of your team. The camera does get hung up once in a while but not enough to take away from the experience.

Almost every character can unlock three alternate costumes, unlocked only when you play as that character. The alternate costumes are absolutely fantastic but they aren't just for show this time around. Each has three upgradeable stats that affect how your character performs. One outfit may allow you to increase the Max Health and the rate of XP gained while another gives a bonus to a specific type of attack and increases defense. Ultimately, the type of upgrade proves far less important than dressing your hero the way you like him or her to look; old school or not old school that is the question?

As if that weren't enough customization, you also can create your own super team. After selecting the appropriate icon and name to represent your team, you choose four charter members. Anytime you play with at least three members you gain Team Experience. As the team levels up, you can add more roster spots and improve overall performance with enhanced damage and upgraded health. In some ways this defies the idea of having two-dozen playable characters. If anything, this will discourage play with a variety of heroes.
One of the main features in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is the online play, which offers competitive co-op and just normal co-op. Basically, the competitive co-op mode means that even though you and your online buddy are working together, you?re still fighting over things like experience points and kills and trying to get more than your team-mate; for bragging rights mainly.

Boasting the largest collection of Marvel heroes and villains in one title, Marvel Ultimate Alliance is a terrific game for the die-hard fan of Marvel comics. Those that enjoyed X-Men: Legends will also find this game entertaining. There are some failing points, but overall, this game is a delight to have in my collection. More than 20 playable characters, 17 locations, and the ability to control the destiny of the world and Marvel Universe; this game has the elements superhero fans crave.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.6 / 10
Visuals: 7.6 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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