Did you love X-Men Legends and couldn’t get enough of Rise of the Apocalypse? Then get ready for the ultimate super hero (and super villain) game ever made. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance blows the doors off the Marvel vault unleashing more than 140 of your favourite comic book characters, good and evil, allowing you unparalleled freedom in creating your own Marvel Dream Team.
And you’ll need every bit of super hero power and their combined unique abilities to defeat Dr. Doom, who is back to his old tricks. He has recently reassembled the Masters of Evil, the greatest collection of Super Villains ever seen, and plans nothing less than world domination. With Marvel’s own C.B. Cebulski penning the story, you can be sure this is one adventure that will hold true to the Marvel vision. Players not only determine the fate of Earth, but also control the fate of the Marvel universe. The missions you accept, the objectives you complete, and how you interact with other characters throughout the game will determine how the story plays out. Make no mistake; Ultimate Alliance is nearly identical to the style and gameplay of X-Men Legends, only on a much greater scale and with a lot more flexibility and customisation. Out of the box, you get to pick from 20 playable characters and more are unlocked as you progress through a surprisingly lengthy and varied campaign. You are free to mix and match any available characters creating your own “team” then customise that team with a unique name, icon, vehicle, and even start building a team reputation. Ultimate Alliance now offers much more control in levelling up your characters, so you can focus on your favourites or spread the experience evenly across the team for greater balance. Your quest will take you across 17 exotic locations, many of which like Atlantis, the Shield Heli-Carrier and the Skrull home world, will be quite familiar to Marvel fans. Each of these highly interactive levels will offer their own unique style of gameplay allowing for ground, air, and even underwater combat. These styles are enhanced with new moves, blocks, grapples, and amazing super powers. Ultimate Alliance does a great job of balancing the experience, so if you bring rookie characters into a seasoned party they will quickly rise through the levels with minimal effort to catch up with the rest of the party. The underlying RPG system is surprisingly complex for an action game, but for those who don’t want to micromanage the characters and their abilities, you can simply use the “auto-assign” system that will automatically pick new super-powers for each character when they level-up. The interface is excellent, not unlike Fantastic Four and X-Men Legends, where you pick your lead character with the D-pad and the rest of the party falls under adequate AI control. You can assign various dispositions to your party making them aggressive or defensive, and they are quick to attack whatever person or object they see you swinging at. Heroes never die, at least in Ultimate Alliance, and if you or anyone else in your party goes down they are temporarily disabled and removed from the party for a set amount of time. If you find a Shield pad before that time is up you can replace the injured member with a new hero until you are notified that they are back and ready for active duty. You can also use these Shield pads to save your game and swap any characters or even the entire team if you wish (as we saw in the X-Men Legends games).
Each character has their own set of melee and grapple moves, which work really nicely. You can even disarm the enemy if you do a grab move at just the right time. Nothing is more satisfying than grabbing a guy and tossing him to his immediate demise rather than beating on him for 10-20 seconds to achieve the same goal. You can also use the trigger to shift those physical attacks into super-hero moves and powers, whereby the face buttons are reassigned to character-specific actions. Characters will often have many more than four moves at their disposal, so you will need to pick and assign your favourites for the quick-access menu. Super-powers are now much more interactive than before. Previously, you used to hit the button and watch the animation, but now many of the moves require further interaction like continued button presses to keep the attack alive for extended damage. It’s pretty cool, especially with characters like Colossus and The Thing. You’ll never get tired of using him to pick up enemies and wield them like rag-doll weapons and one of the best super-powers has to be Captain America’s shield, which can be upgraded later in the game so you can actually control it after it’s thrown.
So, if you love comics, super-heroes, or just want to experience a fun and challenging action-RPG, Ultimate Alliance delivers the goods. Sure, the levels and even the gameplay get a bit repetitive at times, but there is always great action and the potential to share that action with your friends, and that is what really make this game rise above its predecessors and a total joy to play.