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Marvel Ultimate Alliance - Student Review

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ Fighting/ Party

Graphics & Sound:

In terms of graphics, the Nintendo Wii doesn't really stand much of a chance against the PS3 or XBOX 360, but it works for Marvel Ultimate Alliance. In a top-down brawler, all you really need graphics-wise is the ability to distinguish your character from your friends' and the enemy. The opening sequence is visually outstanding though; I actually enjoyed watching it and hoped it would be a bit longer. I only wish the rest of the cut scenes looked so nice. The voice acting is alright, but some of the heroes' witty catch phrases can get old pretty quickly. The soundtrack is sort of nice and usually doesn't stand out so much that it gets annoying. In other words, it does exactly what a soundtrack should do... most of the time. By that, I mean when it comes to certain moments in the game when a character speaks, the soundtrack keeps playing at full volume. This makes it very hard to hear what the character is saying. Since I couldn't always hear the characters, I decided to read the dialogue box instead; this also proved to be quite annoying, since the text was so small. My television has a 27" screen and I only sat about 6 or 7 feet away while playing, but I still found myself straining my eyes and even moving in closer to the screen to make out the words.


Marvel Ultimate Alliance is pretty straightforward, like most brawlers: get from point A to point B, grab some treasure here and there, and kill whoever gets in your way; tried-and-true, though nothing very new. There are many characters to pick from, though I wish they'd have included a few of my favorite X-Men (*coughs* Night Crawler! Gambit!).

There are two different play modes: Cooperative and Arcade. In Arcade Mode, you try to grab as many coins as you can and get more kills than your friends. The objective is to play better than your friends, and at the end of each mission, you get to see each character's score. In Co-op Mode, you work together and share coins, though each character gains skill levels independently. You can unlock alternate costumes as well, each of which have their own set of attributes to build upon.

During missions, you occasionally stumble upon a character's mini bonus level. This is sort of nice if you like to break away from your current mission every once in a while. Since the bonus levels are largely single player missions, they can eventually become boring for other players. While the other players have the opportunity to control the enemies in these bonus levels, they are limited to those characters' abilities, meaning they'll only have two or three attacks to perform on their former friend. They'll also be dying and respawning every two seconds, since it only takes a few hits to kill the average enemy. Not to say it isn't at all fun, but damned if it isn't annoying to figure out where your newly spawned character is before your friend kills him.


Marvel Ultimate Alliance isn't all that hard for the most part; even if you're playing alone, you should be able to coast through a few levels without killing one of your guys. Some things just got on my nerves though, such as the aiming. In some instances, like when you find yourself using a turret gun, it's nearly impossible to tell when you're aiming at your target.

What's more annoying is the target never seems to stay still long enough for you to judge whether or not you're hitting it. This could be solved by simply adding a crosshair on the screen or, dare I suggest, using the Wii-mote to manually aim at the screen. Seriously, I don't know why someone else didn't think to do this. The controller is also part of the reason the game is more difficult than it has to be; I found myself wishing the game didn't use so many gestures. I would start to fight some guys and pause a moment to remember which gesture it was to trip an enemy or to send him into the air. Those precious few moments are almost enough to get your hero killed.

Game Mechanics:

The Wii version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance utilizes the motion sensitive remote in an attempt to make it seem even more interactive than the other console versions. What it seems to do, though, is detract from the game. It really doesn't fit a game like this one, where you run around killing enemies with your friends. You don't want to memorize certain gestures to simply knock a guy down, while using certain button combos for other things, such as special attacks; it's too much. It's also very impractical. The lift or lower gestures may seem fine in theory, maybe even fun, but I didn't like them a bit. When I play a game, I don't keep my arms raised; I rest them on my lap or furniture. But if I'm suddenly expected to lower my arm, what do I do? Well, obviously I must first raise my arm then lower it. If I raised it too fast though, I've already screwed up and triggered the lift gesture.

Another annoying gesture is the Nunchuck shake. I had to watch a loading screen probably five or so unnecessary times because of this worthless gesture. It's used for activating objects and entering/exiting areas. Once, I was standing near the entrance of a level and my nose suddenly itched, so I quickly scratched it. Of course, I used the hand my Nunchuck was in and caused myself to go back to the previous area. For the life of me, I can't figure out why that gesture was implemented into the game since hitting the (Z) button does the same thing. Quite possibly the only useful gesture is the Nunchuck tilt. This controls the camera depending on which direction you tilt the Nunchuck. This gesture actually saves the use of another button and it just feels so darn neat. I actually gave up on all the other gestures in the game besides this one; I just mash the (A) button and use the (B) button for combos. That's the way a good 'ole brawler is supposed to be.

This game may be worth a rental if you have a Wii, especially if you're a huge Marvel fan. But I wouldn't suggest buying it. This could have been the best console for the game, but it just wasn't thought through very well, apparently. The controls are too weird and some of them are even unnecessary. If you have the means, I would recommend picking up a copy for a different console.

-Gabriel A. Cutrer

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