Developer: Raven Software
Release Date: Q4 2006
Hey, remember all the fun you had playing the X-Men Legends games? Activision, which employs few if any fools, does, and they wish to hook you up again. This time, they’re expanding that style of gameplay to the greater Marvel Universe, and to pretty much every console you can think of.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is the story of what happens when Dr. Doom reunites the Masters of Evil, and proceeds to attempt to mess up the wider Marvel Universe. In the face of such a threat, Nick Fury assembles every superhero he can get his hands on, forming them into a brand-new superteam that’ll plow through dozens of Marvel’s signature villains. You’re free to assemble your own four-man crew, give it a name, choose its logo, and build its reputation over the course of the game.
Twenty characters will be playable from the word “go” in Ultimate Alliance. At E3, we saw Spider-Man, Captain America, the Thing, Wolverine, Elektra (you see, when you get a really bad Hollywood movie, it means you get thrust into completely uncharacteristic licensed storylines like this one), Ghost Rider, Thor, Blade, and Dr. Strange enter the fray, each one wielding all the powers and moves you’d expect them to. Spidey used fast combos and his webs; Cap sent his shield rebounding around the room; the Thing crushed some skulls with powerful hits; and Ghost Rider busted out his mystical chain. Each character will have different skins, like in X-Men Legends; the classic Marvel design for Thor is in the game alongside the more hippie-ish look for Ultimate Thor, and Wolverine has both a costume and a set of street clothes.
Between the playable characters, the unlockables, and the villains, there are more than a hundred and forty Marvel characters in Ultimate Alliance, which is the most that’ve ever been featured in a single game. So far, villains include the Scorpion, as a sub-boss; Dr. Doom; Ultron; and Galactus himself, who’ll rampage through a Skrull city at the same time you are. In one stage, as you’re pummeling little green guys in the foreground, Galactus is dismantling skyscrapers in the background. This is all well and good… until Galactus notices you, and you’re forced to run for your life.
You’ll also affect the fate of the larger Marvel Universe with what you accomplish. Depending on what objectives you’ve reached in each level, you’ll alter the endgame’s epilogue, allowing you to see just what effect you’ve had. For example, one stage takes you underwater to deal with an impending civil war in an Atlantean city. If you prevent the civil war, it’ll have a different effect on the epilogue than if you let the war start.
Ultimate Alliance also features online cooperative play, just as X-Men Legends II did, with players cooperating to defeat enemies while simultaneously competing for experience and kills. Each of the playable heroes also brings a special “heroic mission” to the table, where one player takes control of a superhero while the other three control three of that hero’s signature villains. You can opt to beat the hell out of your buddy in a three-on-one handicap match, or throw the fight on purpose so you can continue with the game.
If Marvel Ultimate Alliance has a serious flaw at this point, it’s that it looks a lot like the X-Men Legends series, right down to the frenetic melees; all that next-gen power has been thrown into awesome backgrounds and the occasional amazing boss battle. If you liked those games, you’re almost guaranteed to like this, and any serious Marvel fan will get a kick out of the sheer spectacle of the game (and/or the playable character roster; Blade vs. Skrulls! Who’d’ve thought?). We’ll be following this game right up until its release, but we have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
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