Review by Bkstunt_31
"Be a superhero! A great game for the comic-book fan!"
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance knows who its target audience is: hybrid video-game, comic-loving nerds. It comes out strong, offering many playable super-heroes in a Baulder's Gate-like dungeon crawler. But how can you trust these games, knowing that each year so many bad comic-book based games get turned out? Well, read my review , of course!
The story starts off with Col. Nick Fury aboard a spaceship headquarters being attacked by Dr. Doom's minions. Realizing that he needs help, he contacts Captain America, who teleports onto the ship with Thor, Wolverine, and Spider-man. We're not told why this Ultimate Alliance between super-heroes was made, but it's their duty to help Nick Fury.
Despite what seems like a weak beginning, and it is (they could've easily and quickly explained all these super-heroes joining up since a variety of different villains team up together), Ultimate Alliance takes off from there to portray a grand story of Dr. Doom's ultimate plan. Along the way he is helped by countless villains in many different settings.
I really enjoyed the variety of enemies to fight, but I also felt that they could've had a bit more variety, since some villains were repeated unnecessarily. The developers definitely earned extra points by the sheer amount of back-story and comic-book lore on each of the playable characters, as well as making training simulators available that star different characters, as well as some enemies even! There are also a dozen or so optional objectives throughout the game that can affect the story as well as the future!
This is where the game really shines. Like I said before, it is a dungeon crawler with super-heroes. In it, you control a team of four heroes and proceed through the different locales battling minions until you reach the boss or any one of the multiple mini-bosses. The bosses are usually well-known villains that are fighting in their own domain, but the min-bosses can come from any hero's domain. I won't list what heroes you can control, but suffice to say there are quite a few, and many of them can work together to pull off a joint attack as well as giving their team unique bonuses.
The gameplay is fairly standard, as each hero has a weak and heavy attack, as well as four mapped super abilities that you can pick. Each character also levels up, allowing you to put points into their abilities to make them stronger. They can also equip different outfits which give them different passive abilities, as well as different looks. To level up passive abilities, you must obtain SHIELD coins with which to purchase them. You can also equip different items which you obtain from weapon-caches or villains that will give you different stat increases. So as you can see, each player will play the game differently.
The true joy comes when you play multi-player though, as there is nothing quite like teaming up with a friend. The only things I really didn't like was that there was no way to find out what attacks you could perform with what other heroes, and the camera system, while mostly solid, would sometimes trip me up. Also, while the enemy AI is decent, your allies will often just stand there while you do most of the work (again, you can't beat multi-player).
The graphics look good, no doubt about it. While they aren't the best thing you'll see on the PS2, they're not bad. Each character is instantly recognizable, but since the camera is usually centered in an overhead view, you don't get too many close up shots of the characters. As I mentioned before, each character also has four different outfits that they can wear, not only affecting how they look, but how they play as well. Great job there, developers! Each characters special move animations run smoothly, and the environments are not only varied but very smashable. Enemies are recycled throughout the stage, but thankfully change from area to area, adding much needed variety.
Frankly the graphics are fairly standard fare of any quality PS2 title, but they definitely get bonus points for the outfits and smooth animations. To top that off, there is also collectible artwork available on many different characters that you can review and is used for the loading screens.
Music/Sound Effects: 8/10
The music varies from area to area, and ranges from rock anthems to kooky clown music, depending of course on where you are, as it is always appropriate. No matter where you are, though, it always sounds decent and won't drive you to mute your TV.
The sound effects are what you will primarily be hearing anyways, the only exception to that will be when you are doing some back-tracking through an enemyless area. Thankfully, the sound effects are decent, each noise sounding exactly like it should. You're also going to be hearing a lot of voice acting in the game, first by your hero's quips that they say after they dispatch an enemy (my favorite was Blade saying "You're, uh, going to want to see a doctor about that..."), and secondly by each mission briefing. The enemies can be quite annoying at times, not so much in how they say something, but in how often they say it. But the overall quality of the music and sound effects scores this category an eight.
Re-playabilty/Extra Content: 9/10
Since there are so many different combos and teams available to play, as well as so many different styles, Ultimate Alliance delivers excellent re-playability! Grab a few friends while you're at it! And all the extra content, from unlockable players to all of the extra scenarios, combined with all of the lore and trivia in this game, make it a comic-book nut's dream come true. I should also add that Ultimate Alliance appears on a number of different platforms, some of which affect who you can play as, and while this review is for the PS2, I would take that into account if you have multiple systems to choose from.
Overall a high eight, and one of the best comic-inspired games I've ever played, bar none. Even despite its comic-book nature, Ultimate Alliance is just plain fun. You should be able to find it fairly cheap now, so if you can I would encourage you to give it a try! Also, if you like it, be sure to look for Ultimate Alliance 2, which should be coming out fairly soon. Have fun and keep playing!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/12/08
Game Release: Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (US, 10/24/06)
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