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Marvel Ultimate Alliance

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ RPG/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

Marvel Ultimate Alliance is your chance to control many of the heroes from the Marvel Universe in an epic battle against some of universe's more iconic enemies.

From the first level on, Ultimate Alliance takes on a very dirty and nitty-gritty look. Environments are being destroyed (either by you or some external event) and the harsh lighting typically casts deep shadows onto the metal floors and glass walls. The locations aren't the only things that come off nicely. All of the characters (be it the generic grunt or one of the specific characters from the comics) appear as they do in the standard time line. I make that distinction because although "Ultimate" appears in the game's title, it doesn't take place in the Ultimate universe (which should be easily recognized by Nick Fury's um... more traditional ethnic background). Let's just say, if you have a system that can support this game's non-trivial minimum requirements, then you will definitely be pleased with what you see.

Soundwise, this game seems to have it done right. In-game conversations between your heroes and NPCs (when there is actual talking involved) sound as they should. Thor's Nordic accent comes out crisp, while Iron Man has a distinctive metallic sound to his voice, and Wolverine sounds just as gruff as he always has. And the game's music is very motivating and orchestral and thus really pulls you into the action of the game.


Gameplay:

Marvel Ultimate Alliance starts off with Dr. Doom assembling the largest number of super-villains ever into the Masters of Evil. Now S.H.I.E.L.D. has called upon the world's top heroes in an effort to stop the biggest threat to hit the Earth since Galactus' last midnight snack.

With 20 different heroes to ultimately unlock and play as, and another 140+ Marvel characters to fight against or deal with, Ultimate Alliance is an Action-RPG the likes of which the Marvel Universe has never seen before. Many of the iconic heroes from the comics show up in this title and if you partner your teams right, they will get special boosts. For instance, putting The Thing, Mr. Fantastic, The Human Torch and The Invisible Woman together net you the Fantastic Four team and your team gets an extra 20 health for every knockout, while assembling the classic Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Black Panther) will increase your max energy levels by 15%. This added effect is great for people who are long time fans of the universe and want to see just which combinations the developers thought to include.

But, you aren't restricted to the teams the developers came up with either. After a certain point in the game, you can define your own team, and the more you play with those characters together, the more of a reputation that team gets, and thus the more team points and the quicker each hero levels up or gets bonuses.

One interesting thing to note is that you might want to go back and play past levels with different teams, because though you won't necessarily learn more about the game story, going up against a super-villain with a particular hero will get you some slightly longer and less generic conversations. For instance, one of the first bosses is Scorpion, so make sure Spider-Man is on your team. Or when Bullseye is coming up, put either Daredevil or Elektra in the ranks. Radioactive man is coming up? Throw in Thor.

With the recent release of Justice League Heroes (another comic-themed Gauntlet-style game), it is hard not to compare the two. Where the JLA game forces you to use only two characters at a time, and only the specific characters that are scripted, Ultimate Alliance seems to have the upper hand here, but it seems like with the game's overall feel (as far as storyline and flow from one mission to the next), Heroes tends to do a better job.


Difficulty:

Marvel Ultimate Alliance is a hack-n-slash with leveling up capabilities all the way. Though you are constantly increasing the strength of your characters, the enemies are also getting stronger. There were very few times when I felt like I was more than a match for the huge number of enemies that swarmed me and rarely did I feel like the room of villains was too much for me to handle.

The only times I felt like I was outmatched and really had to work in order to keep my team alive were during some of the bigger boss battles. I don't mean when I went up against Bullseye or Scorpion, but the giant dragon Fin Fang Foom on top of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier.


Game Mechanics:

Marvel Ultimate Alliance's controls are a little rough, but I have always had an issue with trying to effectively use a keyboard and mouse for action games (with the exception of FPS' of course). You move around the 3/4's view world with the W-A-S-D keys and attack with your mouse buttons. Your current character's special powers can be activated with the number buttons. Jumping and flying are done with the space bar and you can switch between your four heroes with the arrow keys. These sound like simple controls, and they really don't take a lot to get used to, but I found little things like reaching up to tap one of the number buttons just to use Captain America's shield or Iron Man's energy weapons to be just a bit too cumbersome.

In the end, I plugged in my wired Xbox 360 gamepad and went to town. Plus, by using the gamepads, you can plug two in and have some local multiplayer action going.

Ultimatly, Marvel is a pretty good game, though my personal preferences for this style lean towards using a console over the PC. With a high-end computer and a good gamepad, Ultimate Alliance comes off just as good as it's entertainment center brothers.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 2000/XP, 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible 128MB 3D hardware accelerator card, Pentium 4.2 GHz or AMD Athlon XP 2000+ (1.6 GHz), 512 MB RAM, 8GB HD space, DirectX 9.0c compatible true 16-bit sound card, also supports Xbox 360 wired gamepad.
 

Test System:



Alienware Aurora m9700 Laptop, Windows XP Professional, AMD Turion 64 Mobile 2.41 GHz, 2 GB Ram, Duel NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GS 256MB Video Cards, DirectX 9.0c

Sony PlayStation Portable WTF: Work Time Fun Windows Secret Files: Tunguska

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated