Saturday, December 30, 2006
Good: Terrific multiplayer, amount of powers, RPG elements
Bad: Glitches, not nearly as fun with one player, unnecessary SIXAXIS utilization
Jake Plummer doppelganger: Corsair
The spirit of the successful X-Men Legends games lives on in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and it provides a bigger and better gameplay experience. While it may not be an enthralling single-player title, it has some of the best co-op gameplay available.
MUA is basically a comic book nerd's wet dream. It features well over 100 Marvel characters, ranging from the obvious (Spiderman, Wolverine) to the more obscure (Arcade, Dum Dum Dugan). Over twenty of them are playable, and you'll assemble a team of your favorite four to take on Dr. Doom and his minions.
Each of these characters has a monstrous variety of special moves and powers, and the list only grows as you level them up. Selecting which character type is crucial, as a team of only Thing-esque brutes or magic users would do little good. My favorite setup was Spiderman (for range attacks and Spidey Sense), Thor (power), Deadpool (regeneration and grenades), and a revolving door for other characters that need to level up.
Playing with friends is a must for this game, and it's great to strategize before heading into huge battles. We had Deadpool be the most aggressive, as he could always back up and regenerate health. Spiderman usually stayed back and shot webs from afar, and Thor usually took out enemies with his variety of elemental and melee attacks. It's not nearly as fun to play this game single-player, as A.I. can't adequately recreate the fun of playing with friends.
The X-Men Legends games were a lot of fun, but tended to get somewhat monotonous. MUA does a fantastic job of mixing up the gameplay to ensure this doesn't happen. Minigames are abound, from a full-on Pitfall recreation to a section in which you control bumper cars. Puzzles arise from time to time, but they're never too basic or annoying.
Collectibles and unlockables are similarly abundant, and should be another huge bonus for Marvel enthusiasts. You can collect sketch books of concept art, as well as optional missions based on individual character's comic stories. Like the Legends games, you can also test your knowledge with a variety of trivia questions.
Despite the excellent gameplay, some issues come up in the technical department. Glitches are fairly commonplace, and your characters will often get stuck in mid-air or on environmental objects. More than once, a character would be placed above thin air after a cutscene, causing them to fall to their death by no fault of your own. In addition to these problems, there are some wholly unecessary SIXAXIS controls tacked on.
There are numerous stretches of the game that feature tons of enemies onscreen (especially the Iron Man onslaught). During these especially hectic moments, it's very easy to lose track of where your character is. Some jumps and platforming sections can also be terribly frustrating if you don't have any surviving characters that can fly.
Viewed with a top-down perspective, MUA doesn't do anything to strain the hardware of the Playstation 3, and actually looks noticably worse than the 360 version. Despite this, everything looks crisp and well-designed, and there is a huge variety in environments. You'll travel to circuses, rooftops, outer space, and a castle in your quest to topple Dr. Doom.
All of the voice acting is borderline cheesy, but the sound effects for explosions and super-powers are adequate. You won't exactly want to download the soundtrack, but it's not terrible by any means.
If you've got four controllers and some friends to play with, then I'd highly recommend checking out Marvel Ultimate Alliance. It may have a few glitches, but the extremely replayable and customizable nature of the game make it a very entertaining experience.
First Play: 8.5
Replay Value: 9.0