Review by jordini

"Marvel: Ultimate Alliance; hero or poser?"

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is, at its heart (or engine, I should say), an upgraded version of the X-Men: Legends series. Along with its new style of graphics, it adds a lot of new features and innovations, but still, one has to wonder; is Marvel: Ultimate Alliance merely the same hero under a new and better costume? If the answer is “yes,” then the next question to ask is “Is that bad or good?”

Graphics: 7/10

As I mentioned earlier, Alliance's visuals take a departure from Legends' cell-shaded style, going for a more normal appearance. I must admit I was a little disappointed with the change. The graphics looked sub-par, especially when zooming in. That's not exactly the game's fault, though; my graphics card wasn't even supposed to be able to run it. So, with a decent system, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance can look pretty sharp.

The cinematics, on the other hand, were the best I've ever seen. They were so crisp and detailed that all the other graphics paled in comparison. They made the mission briefings look downright ugly. It would have almost been better to lower the quality of the cinematics to match everything else.

Audio: 6/10

The music didn't blow me away, nor did it have me throwing my speakers across the room. In other words, it was average. There was nothing really notable or notorious in this area.

In a game like this, voice acting plays an important role. Marvel: Ultimate
Alliance pulls it off fairly well. With a few exceptions, most of the characters sound just like you'd think they would. Also, they really capture the comic book spirit with their authentic dialogue. For example, Spider-Man's “Next time, can I fight somebody who doesn't smell like old cheese?” Or Captain America's “It's because I eat right.”

Like the music, the sound effects were good, though nothing special. One thing about the sound, however, was that it seemed poorly balanced. Often times, the music would come blaring through the speakers, drowning out the dialogue. The blame, however, probably falls again on my aging computer.

Game play: 9/10

Alright, here's how it works in a nutshell: Pick a squad of four heroes from a pool of 16 Marvel characters (with seven more to unlock), take direct control of one of them (with the option to switch on the fly), and lead your team through the level, overcoming anything in your way.

Each character has a unique set of powers and abilities (nine in all), from Mr. Fantastic's elastic body, to Captain America's ricocheting shield. You'll start off with a few basic melee moves and one power (not including flight, teleportation, or swinging, which select characters have). As the game progresses, you'll gain experience, money, and equipment, enabling you to buy, unlock, and upgrade powers and costumes.

Gamers who have played either of the X-Men: Legends games will feel right at home with Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. The game is fresh and innovative enough though that it won't bore Legends veterans. Alliance has a lot of new features, such as mini-games, charging up attacks, and gaining momentum for extreme attacks.

The mini-games; they're one of the best things about Alliance. When you walk up to a bomb to disarm it, unlike in other games, you won't simply hit a single button. You'll have to quickly tap a complex series of keys. Caught in the grasp of a giant? Better start tappin' that key to pry open his fingers! I suppose those are more like micro-mini-games, but they do make Alliance stand out among similar games.

While it's true the objectives of each level are fairly similar (fight your way to location x, destroy or retrieve object y, then defeat boss z), Alliance keeps things interesting with its dynamic level environments. From (literally) the bottom of the sea to the surface of the moon, you'll get to interact with over 140 characters from the Marvel universe. That, combined with tons of secrets and items to find, makes Alliance a comic book lover's dream.

Story: 7/10

The story in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is actually pretty generic. Dr. Doom is up to no good so it's up to the heroes to yet again save the universe. “Been there, done that,” you say? While it's true Alliance has a rather predictable plot, it is well-written, interesting, and makes great use of its Marvel license. It isn't so much the story that appealed to me, though. It was the environment and feel of the game.

There were so many characters to interact with; characters that played up their comic book personalities almost perfectly. For example, Deadpool's “We need a superhero band. I can just picture it: Storm on lead vocals, Wolverine on bass, the Thing on drums. And I don't mean to brag, but I play a pretty mean bagpipe.” Lines like that are what really make this game great. Alliance's story is decent, but if it didn't draw on the rich Marvel universe as much as it did, it would've gotten a much lower score.

Also, an innovative feature in this game is that the choices you make will affect the Marvel Universe. I won't say more than that for fear of spoiling the end, but trust me, it's really something.

Controls: 7/10

Most gamers seem to agree that a controller is needed to play this game well. I found that the keyboard (if properly set up) worked just fine, though. Actually, I prefer it over a controller. The controls are fully customizable so there's not much of a problem here.

There are, however, a number of bugs and path finding issues. Characters will occasionally get stuck on stairs or even in mid-air.

The interface is simple and well laid out. Pretty standard for this type of game.

Multiplayer: 9/10

Marvel: Ultimate
Alliance was made to be enjoyed with friends. I'd almost go so far as to say that two players double the fun, three triples it, and four quadruples it. As in the Legends series, joining and leaving a game is seamless.

Alliance really improves multiplayer over the already great Legend's. From the smoother health and energy system to the new competitive mode, Alliance is great fun with others. There are a few multiplayer features missing that were in Legends, such as brawl or king of the hill, but those were never too good anyway.

There is also online play, which I have yet to experience. I've heard that it is fairly slow and buggy, though.

Value: 8/10

The game's campaign lasts about 15 to 20 hours (it took me about 17) which is pretty lengthy for this genre. Plus, you can always go back and play again on one of the three difficulty levels with a new team and new, unlocked characters. This game is well worth the 40 or so dollars it costs.

Overall: 8/10

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is a lengthy, solid, rich, and an incredibly fun game. It does draw a lot from the Legends series, but you know what they say: If it ain't broken, don't fix it. This game manages to improve a lot on its predecessors, though. In other words, yes, underneath is the same Tony Stark, but he's wearing a brand new suit of Iron Man armor. In the immortal words of Stan Lee, ‘Nuff Said!

Appropriateness: 7/10

Aside from the standard gameplay factors, just how appropriate is this game for younger gamers? Well, the Game is rated T for teen and I think that's a fair rating. There is violence, but it is bloodless and relatively harmless. As for the language and innuendo, I don't think you'll find anything in Alliance that would be in anything more than a PG movie.

It should be noted that there is quite a bit of magic in this game (from Norse gods to sorcerers). There are also some demonic elements. However, it is nothing too dark or serious, considering the game's light-hearted feel.

In conclusion, I'd say that this game is actually a lot more appropriate than other T rated games out there. There are also a lot of positive elements in Alliance, such as sacrfice, working as a team, courage, and the consequences of abused power

Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/06/06

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