Monday, October 30, 2006

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Review

Yes, I bought it. Yes, I think it's awesome. No, it's not perfect. No, that doesn't matter one damn bit.

The point is that while X-Men: Legends and X-Men: Legends II was good solid button-mashing fun, they had two strikes against them from my point of view: I don't care very much about the X-Men.

I mean, I like individual X-Men and all, but as a whole, as a mythos, they don't really do much for me. So while it was fun playing as Nightcrawler, Wolverine, or Colossus, the whole "Apocalypse is coming blahbity-blah-blah-blah" thing was kind of wasted on me. In point of fact, I played through to the end for the sole purpose of unlocking Iron Man as a character, which was good fun.

That said, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is exactly what I wanted when I played X-Men: Legends. Team combat, RPG-Lite using more of the Marvel Universe than I thought possible.

That's important, because the basic gameplay is identical to X-Men: Legends. Four heroes, battling through hordes of baddies, picking up items, unlocking costumes, customizable teams.

It's the expansion outside the X-realm that makes all the difference.

The plot --- Dr. Doom and the Masters of Evil (including Baron Mordo, Loki, Enchantress, and Ultron) are up to their usual shenanigans, and so Nick Fury gets the MU together to stop them --- is standard comic book fare, beautifully shown in cutscenes that are almost worth the price of admission alone.

The fact is that if you've ever wanted to assemble the Avengers, Fantastic Four, or hell --- maybe you just always thought that Ghost Rider, Black Panther, Silver Surfer, and Mr. Fantastic were the ultimate superteam --- and tear some shit up, this is the place to do it. In the span of the first third of the game, I:

1) Repulsor-rayed Fin Fang Foom in the eye
2) Whacked Mandarin upside the head with Mjolnir
3) Went all "clobberin' time" on Crimson Dynamo's sorry ass

The most adrenaline-pumping, "I can't believe how cool that was" moment so far has been slinging Cap's shield at a roomful of Doombots... and CONTROLLING THE SHIELD AS IT RICOCHETS OFF THEIR NOGGINS AND KILLS THEM. It's one thing to see it in the comics. It's quite another to make it happen myself.

There's a good bit of costumage here, too --- four for each of the 23 playable heroes. Which means I can deck out Thor as Beta Ray Bill, Iron Man as War Machine, or Cap as U.S. Agent! Nicely, each costume also grants specific benefits to the character, so it's not just eye candy.

And the little touches are nice as well. In Stark Labs, you'll see the various Iron Man armors stored in capsules. In Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, you'll see the Book of the Vishanti, and various other well-know artifacts. You'll travel to Asgard, Atlantis, Murderworld, Mephisto's Realm, Castle Doom... it's a virtual sightseeing tour of the Marvel Universe.

(By the way, I cannot stress enough how cool it is to make Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Sue Storm, and Captain America as the Avengers. Yes, it's my dream lineup come true!)

There are a couple downsides to the whole operation: the gameplay can get a tad repetitive, and you're forced to replay the whole thing several times to unlock EVERYTHING. Also, each character has 2-4 powers that could be done away with entirely to keep from complicating things.

That said, this game is a Marvel Zombie's paradise; fun and engaging, with the spirit of old-school Marvel intact.

Plot: 3/5. Standard comic stuff, but the cutscenes advance well and let's face it: you can't go wrong with Dr. Doom as a villain.

Gameplay: 4/5. Action-y with the role-playing elements basically boiling down to increasing the awesomeness of a character's powers when they level up. 1 point off for making you stand around and wait for 5 minutes for a character to come back after they "die".

Presentation: 4/5. Nice power effects (Thor calling down the lightning is especially impressive) and beautiful cutscenes.

Extras: 5/5. Between the costumes, trivia games (!), comic art, concept art, movies, and characters, there's a ton of stuff to 'squee' over.

Comic Book Goodness: 5/5. Engaging, well-told, and F-U-N. The character dialogue is in character and spot on. I'm told the XBox 360 version has Moon Knight and Colossus, while the PSP version has Hawkeye. Either way, it's a hoot.


Blogger Cap'n Neurotic said...

My roomies and I have spent the better part of the last week playing X-Men Legends (yes, we're a bit behind the times), which has had the effect of making me want to go dig all of my mutie books out of storage and re-read them. It amuses me that both of my roommates (comic novices) insist on playing as Wolverine, while I (comic addict since the age of 4) avoid using him at all costs . . . except for the time I picked him and Colossus just so I could do the fastball special.

Man, am I a geek.

Anyway, playing Legends has gotten me pretty amped about Ultimate Alliance; glad to hear it will live up to my geeky dreams.

3:22 PM  
Blogger CalvinPitt said...

I only rented the original X-Men Legends, and didn't really like it, but damn, do I love this game. Which is good, seeing as I traded in 5 other games to help make this affordable for me.

I really liked getting to leave Iceman in Ghost Rider's place in Hell. Hmm, I guess I really should go rescue him...

6:32 PM  
Blogger Mallet said...

God damn...

Having; Deadpool, Ghost Rider, Dare Devil, and Moon Knight, shoot beat and burn, Loki to death might have been the single greatest gaming experince I've ever had.

And (spoiler in this line kinda) Jean Grey getting to die, Twice, makes it the perfect marvel game.

Oh and you forgot the absolute best part: Namor gets a guest appearence.

P.S. I believe Moon Knight has three outfits.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Cap'n: Oh, it will surpass the geeky dreams.

Calvin: Same here. X-Men was OK, but the repetitiveness of the environments really wore on me, as did the cheap deaths (falling off cliffs) and the constant babysitting of the team's health. MUA eliminates both of those.

(And for the record, I left Blade in Hell.)

Mallet: Yeah, as soon as I saw Namor pop up I thought of you. As far as single great experiences in MUA, I'm going with Thor, Iron Man, Cap, and Dr. Strange beating the living SNOT out of Cyclops (erm, "Dark" Cyclops). :-)

And yeah, Jean kicks it.

11:05 PM  

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