Raven Software first proved it could make an RPG back in 2004 with X-Men Legends. The company has been known for making shooters in the past, but they have succeeded in combining two unlikely elements together: Superheroes and Action Role Playing.
Two years later, after releasing X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Raven Software releases Marvel Ultimate Alliance, their first attempt at using other Marvel universe characters, other than the X-Men.
The story starts off with Dr. Doom and a collection of various super villains, who call themselves the Masters of Evil, attacking a S.H.E.I.L.D. helicarrier. Colonel Nick Fury sends out a distress signal to all available superheroes in which the heroes Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, and Thor answer. After saving the helicarrier, the heroes meet up with Nick Fury to create a team that will counter the Masters of Evil and discover what exactly the evil villains are trying to accomplish.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance seems to visit every single landmark in the Marvel universe, as well as feature dozens upon dozens of villains and heroes in the fictional universe. I was very impressed at the number of playable characters there were in this game.
Heroes that you could play as included Ghost Rider, the entire Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Iron Man, Deadpool, Dr. Strange, Ms. Marvel, Iceman, Captain America, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Elektra, and Storm. There are also five heroes that you can unlock in the game by doing certain tasks. The PlayStation 2 version, unfortunately, does not include any exclusive unlockable heroes like the next-gen and handheld versions included.
The all-star lineup goes on and on. Though you can’t play as the other heroes, you will most likely see them throughout the game. Characters like Nightcrawler, Odin, Professor Xavier, Bruce Banner, Black Bolt, and Cyclops will be apart of the story. The amount of villains that appear in Marvel Ultimate Alliance also impressed me quite a bit. Popular villains such as Rhino, Dr. Doom, Ultron, and Galactus appear in the game, while lower profile characters like Radioactive Man, the Skrulls, and Arcade are also in the game.
Each character that you came across in game had surprisingly great voices. Most of the characters in this game haven’t even been heard in any other form of entertainment, such as a movie or another game. People like The Watcher and Captain America had voices that fit their personality and look perfectly.
Having never played any of the X-Men Legends games, I had little idea on how Marvel Ultimate Alliance would play. I always thought it would be as fun as maybe a Double Dragon, or another beat-em-up game like Fighting Force.
The game reminded me of Diablo. The camera pointed top down on your players, and you would guide them through each level while collecting many items and power-ups and defeating several waves of enemies along the way.
You do beat up a ton of villains during the game, but it’s not exactly as I imagined it would be. Your allies are pretty intelligent, and they will help you defeat an enemy that you are fighting whether you need help defeating it by yourself or not, but sometimes they seem a little too aggressive.
They keep bouncing back at enemies after being hit with the same attack repeatedly. I also noticed that it didn’t seem that any enemies would be taking much of a hit from you. I could be playing as The Thing and smacking a tiny little henchman, and I wouldn’t feel like I hit it that hard at all.
Boss fights are sometimes handled the same way as fighting regular enemies. Your team of four heroes must hit the main villain(s) over and over again, until they die – not that exciting.
Every once in a while there may be some kind of object or weapon you must use to attack and harm a boss, but that also isn’t very exciting, since all you have to do is hit a simple sequence of buttons. Each boss hits you with at least three different combinations of moves. Once you find the pattern of the boss you’re facing, you’re most likely not going to have any problems facing them for the remainder of the fight.
Occasionally, one of your heroes would die, and you would need to go to a save point to revive them over again. Save points aren’t exactly common in this game. You will have to navigate through a level to find one. They’re placed at specific points on each level, and they seem to be in fairly good spots.
In order to revive one of your heroes, you will be forced to wait a couple of minutes, and then go to a save spot and select “revive” from the menu. You may be at the save point right before a boss fight, and you’ll be forced to wait four minutes or so for one of your heroes to revive. This can be annoying at times.
You’ll be collecting a lot of coins that can be used as money during the course of each level, as well as comic books that can be used to play solo hero missions, and upgrades.
Coins can be spent on alternative hero skins, such as Spider-Man’s Venom suit and the classic Wolverine X-Men style look, and powerful upgrades and moves. You can earn coins by defeating enemies or selling items that can be used to equip on allies. The solo hero missions take you back to a comic book scenario in which a specific hero and villain is involved. These are pretty fun, though they are filled with a massive amount of enemies that attack you. Since they are solo missions, you have no help at all from your team.
The graphics in Marvel Ultimate Alliance weren’t all too good to look at. The cut scenes had some very nice looking graphics and animations, but in game, the graphics were very low quality. Some characters had faces reminiscent to Max Payne in his first game.
This constipated look made me sort of nauseous at times while playing. The game play is smooth, with no frame rate drops or anything of the sort. This is pretty excellent since there will be about a dozen of characters on screen many times in the game.
I am a pretty big Marvel fanatic, and I did have a blast playing this game regardless of the poor graphics and boring fights at times. Marvel Ultimate Alliance has many things to do, and it is a very lengthy game to play.
If you’d like, you can play with up to three other people, with each member of your team being controlled by a friend. You can even play this title online to play with others. With over 20 heroes to play as, dozens upon dozens of villains to see, tons of places to go, and several hours of game play, Marvel Ultimate Alliance is something to check out for you Marvel fans out there. If you’re not a big fan of comic books, this is still a pretty solid action RPG title to check out.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Language, Violence. This game can also be found on: GBA, PC, PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, Xbox, and Xbox 360.