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Xbox 360



Xbox 360






Raven Software



T (Teen)



October 24, 2006



- Great mix of well-known and "fringe" characters to play

- Streamlined role-playing aspects make it accessible to everyone (and action fans)

- Story that doesn't reveal itself in-full until the closing chapter

- Multiplayer and play over Live is great



- Combat can become repetitive during long sittings

- Some weird "jitterbug" glitches and buddy AI pathfinding issues



Review: X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (XB)

Review: The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (XB)

Review: X2 Wolverine's Revenge (XB)

Interview: Marvel Ultimate Alliance Q&A



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Marvel Ultimate Alliance

Score: 8.5 / 10


Marvel Ultimate Alliance takes the same general mechanics of the X-Men: Legends series, strips out most of the complicated role-playing aspects, and lets gamers concentrate on beating the crap out of things with a variety of well-known and minor Marvel legends, from Deadpool to Moon Knight to Dr. Strange to Iron Man to Colossus, brought together by Nick Fury to fight a new threat posed by Dr. Doom, who has assembled an array of villains – Loki, Mysterio, Arcade, Enchantress, Rhino, Ultron, Fin Fang Foom, and many others – plotting who knows what, but it probably isn’t good.  It’s comic book stuff and it’s damn fun, especially when you bring a few friends along.


marvel ultimate alliance          marvel ultimate alliance


The game starts with control of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Thor, and Captain America, but after the opening level the gamer is given the chance to swap out characters to create your own “Superhero Team” which can be imbued with special team bonuses if you keep them together.  You start with four team slots, but as you earn reputation points for your team, that number of members can be expanded without receiving a penalty to your reputation.


To further enhance your characters there are many different items to be found in each level or collected from defeated bosses.  Each team member can only be equipped with one at a time.  On top of that each character can also have their abilities upgraded by earning XP, buying abilities (with the tokens found




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everywhere), and skill points.  Further, changing a character’s costume opens up further customization as each outfit has a trio of different values that can be upgraded as well.  Fortunately, if you’re not one that cares about these kinds of things – optimizing your characters for better effect – the game can be set to “auto allocate” which largely takes


care of equipping characters with gear and skill points.  (But some of it just screams to be done manually.)


Marvel Ultimate Alliance also takes care of auto-leveling any unplayed characters or characters like Ghostrider or Blade that are found during the course of the game.  So when you swap in a character that should be at Level 1 because you haven’t used them, they are brought to within an experience level of your current team.  It’s a much friendlier approach than penalizing you for sticking with a core group then changing it up later on in the game.


The single-player game, where you switch between characters at will by hitting the directional pad, is quite long and moves through many different areas of the Marvel Universe including the Skrull homeworld, Asgard, Atlantis, and Mephisto’s realm to the final confrontation with Dr. Doom in his Latverian castle.  But you can also play co-operatively, with up to three other players or over Xbox Live.  While we’ve come a long way since the original Gauntlet, Marvel Ultimate Alliance has some of that old school charm which makes it very playable.

Button-mashers should have little problem getting into the action, but those among us that like something called “combos” should be happy too.  Besides the moves performed with the “weak” and “strong” attacks, pulling the right trigger and a corresponding button button allows access to special moves which drain your “mana” levels.  And there’s also the team moves like when The Thing picks-up and throws Wolverine into the fray.  When battling the larger enemies like Galactus or Arcade, the action cuts briefly to a more cinematic sensibility and you’re tasked with hammering on a specific button or matching button presses with what flashes onscreen.  That said, the repetition of the action can get ugly if you sit down and play for long periods.


marvel ultimate alliance          marvel ultimate alliance


Besides the multiplayer aspect lengthening the shelf life of Marvel Ultimate Alliance there are also a ton of one-off hero missions collected throughout the game that can be played through that help flesh out the heroes if you’re not familiar with them.  These challenges are difficult but the rewards aren’t super so it’s more for bragging rights than anything else.  Finding these missions is pretty tough to; after finishing the game the first time I had only collected about half of them.  (Fortunately, when the game is completed each level can be accessed pretty much at will so you can go hunting for them later.)


The technical aspects of the game – graphics, sound, lack glitches/bugs – are generally good.  The camera can be zoomed in a bit and rotated in most areas so you can always see what you’re doing; each character has unique moves; the quips of the characters and soundtrack are above average.  There are a few glitches that pop-up though, mostly related to pathfinding of your, generally well-behaved, AI buddies.  I found that during some stages, my AI buddies would find ways to fall into bottomless holes; or they’d get stuck mid-jump causing them to go into a “jitterbug” phase.  A bit frustrating when it happens but not game-stopping.


Being a bit of a Marvel fan – not so much the recent stuff – I had a ton of fun with Marvel Ultimate Alliance, more so than X-Men Legends: Rise of Apocalypse.  Besides just being fun and funny (I found the Pitfall mini-game hilarious for some reason) for Marvel fans, there’s enough here to warrant keeping the game in rotation long after its release.  Of course, there's room for improvement, like adding more characters to the playable roster, but the game is left wide-open for a sequel so expect to see an Ultimate Alliance 2.


- Omni

(November 15, 2006)


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