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Marvel Ultimate Alliance

Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ Fighting/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

From the second the intro movie for Marvel Ultimate Alliance started, I was on the edge of my seat. It was the first comic book game where I felt like they were properly portraying the feelings and attitudes of the comic book characters. I have played a large majority of the Marvel games and have really liked them, for the most part. This game, again, has some really great comic book elements to it. We will see how it stacked up as a game below.

You have already heard me rage about the sweet CGI opener. I really hoped to see a lot more of this along the way, but I was sadly mistaken. Don't get me wrong. I am impressed with the cinematic cut scenes they were able to get from the gameplay engine. They were well done. However, it doesn't feel like there has been too much done graphically to set it apart from X-men Legends. The look of the game was OK, but reminded me too much of the earlier titles.

The sound bytes for each one of the characters were masterfully done. As a fan, I ask for a little more variety, but as a developer, I understand how much went into getting the sound the way it was. Kudos guys. I think that the voice casting and talent were dead on the money. The music was great, but the voiceovers stole the show. They kept a level of submersion for the player that was second to none. There are several voice announcements that you hear when you are in Stark Tower that are awesome to the true comic readers and fans. I am sure you have made Stan proud.


Gameplay:

In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, you start out as the four heroes Wolverine, Captain America, Spider-Man and Thor. You are able to switch between any character in your group, as long as they are conscious, of course. Each one gives you a good taste of how all of the other characters will function.

Once you get your feet under you in the first mission, you will approach a shield access point. You can't miss them. They are these huge, glowing disks on the floor that are about 10' around. When you stand on one, you can access a save point. Here you are able to switch out your team members for your favorite characters. I liked going with the entire Fantastic Four team. You can also revive fallen comrades or extract them from the area back to the main headquarters in Stark Tower. There are many characters to choose from, and there are quite a few that have to be unlocked as well. Unlocking these characters is your prerogative. This is done by collecting certain statues or by associations with NPC's during the game. Guessing who these characters are isn't too hard if you can pick out their silhouette. Just kidding, I couldn't tell; they all look alike standing there. From the character select screen, you can also get details about each one of the characters in your team.

As you progress, you level up your characters. This goes toward improved combo moves and powers. You also collect coins that can be spent to upgrade your characters on the character info page. Additionally, you can change and unlock different uniforms the characters have worn over the years. By changing outfits, you also change some of your abilities in the form of different attributes associated with the suit.

All of this is very cool, but when you get to the core of the game, it is just a button-masher; this is not a bad thing, however. There are combos and tactics, but really in the heat of it, it is what it is. Your goal is to take out the Masters of Evil any way you can. Claw, scrape, zap and tear your way though the onslaught of baddies.


Difficulty:

Marvel Ultimate Alliance presents its own level of difficulty no different than any other button-masher. They progressively begin to bring on more and more enemies, until you are overwhelmed. They begin to take more and more punishment to defeat. And, just when you are positive that you have beaten the main group, and your thumb is about to explode off of your hand, they just bring on more. I liked the rate that the difficulty increased. I happily went about button-mashing my way through the game until about the fourth level. Then, all of the sudden, I found out that I needed to pay attention to that little health bar thingy and the well being of myself and my teammates. This is a good challenge as far as button-mashers go.

Game Mechanics:

Marvel Ultimate Alliance, as I pointed out above, is a specific type of game - a button-masher. For those who maybe haven't heard that one before, basically it goes, HIT ALL OF THE BUTTONS, GO, GO, GO. There are combos and they are effective, but you still just have to get in there and mash away until the dust settles. The team A.I. is OK about following you around the best that it can. You will still lose one of your team only to have them pop back up in a second or two. The problem I had is with them crowding me, but never moreso than in the Atlantean level where you were underwater. You run into them constantly, and after a while they get the clue and will move. It takes a sledgehammer to get the hint across, but they will move.

After you have defeated a boss on a level, there will usually be a token left behind that is a part of their power. For example, you defeat Scorpion and he leaves behind his tail. Your characters can pick these items up and use them as a bonus to their character. The problem is that once it is picked up by a character, you cannot trade it around. This, and the way leveling works, pushes you to have to decide on a team of four real quick, and then stick with those four throughout the game. I wish there was an inventory system that allowed trading.

I really liked playing this game. I will play it again even though I have to start over to really power up a team of four each time. This is by far one of their best iterations in the Marvel series. If they keep making them, I will keep playing them. In the future, however, I hope they create a more RPG style of inventory to accent a decent combat system. Until next time, Spider fans.


-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

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