Raven Software has been on a roll lately with its comic book adaptations. First it was the X-Men Legends series revitalizing the heroes, and now they’re taking it one step further with Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which includes heroes from all over the Marvel Universe, and of course a healthy dose of villains as well. The game is similar in many ways to the X-Men Legends games it’s modeled after with some nice inclusions to differentiate itself.
As with the Legends titles, a fully customizable team of four heroes is available to you at the start of the game. Initially at your disposal are 18 heroes, with seven additional unlockable as your progress through the game. Two next-gen-exclusive characters, Moon Knight and Colossus, are also included in the more-expensive versions of the title. All these heroes work together (with your help) to take down the Masters of Evil, a multinational allegiance of villains and arch-enemies who are under the leadership of the man himself, Dr. Doom. As you make your way through levels, experience points are earned and, in a very light RPG style, characters level up and gain more special moves, from Wolverine’s Fury to Spider-Man’s Web Snare. Interestingly enough, even heroes who aren’t on your team and are sitting on the sidelines level up with you, so if at the last minute you want to throw Dr. Strange into the mix for some magic support, he will have the same level as your battle-tested group.
Very early in the game you are allowed to officially create a team out of your ragtag group of heroes, and the combinations you choose allow bonuses for that particular team ranging from higher health to better team synergy. These are in addition to potential enhancements that the various outfits that each character has. Team members can be swapped out at will, but you will lose any team bonus when non-sanctioned members are added. Thankfully, one upgrade option for the team statistics is to extend your bench with additional heroes. If by chance — or on purpose — you select a group that’s already a team (the Avengers or Fantastic Four, for instance), additional bonuses will be granted to your team.
When you break the game down to its basic level, it’s not as much an evolution over the Legends titles, but a slight variant. Rather than force players to deal with the minutia of health and power upgrades when you vanquish a baddie, this time around floating orbs are automatically routed to the player-controlled hero. Should that hero already be at capacity, the orbs will make their way to the next hero in line. This slight change allows the gamer to concentrate on the chaos onscreen rather than have to keep an eye on the meters. The action that takes place on screen does get rather chaotic with super heroes beating down enemies and orbs swirling constantly; this fault was in the Legends series as well, and due to the nature of the game it’s still here. There will be times that, thanks to the action onscreen, you will lose sight of your controlled character or simply be attacking thin air, but you’ll be having such a blast linking Deadpool and Thor’s attacks that this will be easily overlooked.
For those with Xbox Live Gold accounts, Marvel Ultimate Alliance offers probably the best way to play this game: online with friends. Up to four players can join in on a game and take on the Masters of Evil together. The game can either be played co-operatively sharing a common goal or in an arcade mode that also has a common goal but also rewards players for being greedy, killing the largest number of baddies or being the most destructive on a per-level basis. Both modes are a blast, as you can easily have a conversation with your friends because the action onscreen, while hectic, doesn’t require the concentration of a surgeon. A cool thing with the online matches, aside from beating down the MoE with friends, is the ability to save the game on your console and continue it solo if you wish. Conversely, you can use one of your already-started solo campaigns as the starting point online.
Having played both Legends titles on the last generation of systems, this was one title I was looking forward to, even as a guy who never was into the comic book scene. When a game comes around that is simply a blast to play, it doesn’t matter how much of the back story of each character you know, just that you are having fun. While the graphics aren’t superb, they convey the spirit of the game perfectly, and the voice work is really second to none; the personality of every hero is here in spades. Raven once again has proved that a license that in the past may have been mishandled can return to greatness when applied in the right way.
- Overall: 8.5
- A chaotic ride through the Marvel world. Exciting, fun and even moreso when you play with friends.
— Jeff Paramchuk