Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Xbox 360 Review

I was never a huge comic book fan… in fact in my 22 years on this earth less than a dozen comics have ever sat in my hands and only about half of those have been read from cover to cover. I am however a big fan of the Marvel universe and try to see as much as I can of it through other means such as the movies and those old Saturday morning cartoons for both the X-Men and Spiderman – enough about me let’s get back to the game!

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is not the first time Activision and Raven Software have worked together… their other big releases being of course the X-Men Legends games. Right from the get go it is highly evident that MUA is a step up from the X-Men games rather than a brand new attempt at the genre. This should not be taken as a dig at the game though as the X-Men Legends titles were one of the more entertaining Marvel titles released in recent years.

In the game you are given the option to pick a team of four heroes and control one of them at any given time with the other three being controlled by the computer. The team of four is picked from a selection of 20 super heroes available. The selection includes most of the usual suspects being the likes of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Ghost Ms. Marvel, Deadpool and Moon Knight. You are then able to switch between the four characters in your team on the fly with the D-Pad. The game’s story is in all honesty a bit pointless and is a means to an end to get a collection of over 140 characters into the game. It revolves around Dr. Doom forming a group called Masters of Evil (consisting of Loki, Ultron, Baron Mordo, Enchantress & loads more) and launching a series of attacks.

Although there are a collection of 20 heroes, all of them share the same controls, but depending on who they are something different might happen. For example if you hit “Y” (the jump button) when in control of Wolverine he will just double jump, but if you do the same while in control of Spiderman he will shoot out a web and swing. However, if you press the same button while controlling a character that has the ability to fly they will take off and hover in mid air. All the characters also have basic melee attacks mapped to both the “A” and “B” buttons. They also have special attacks where you must hold down “RT” and from there – depending on your skill level – you will have a selection of high impact moves and stat increasing moves mapped to the face buttons. If you are in control of Spiderman you can then throw out web missiles; Captain America can throw his shield; and Wolverine can go wild with his adamantium claws. There are also a few basic combos thrown in as well with the likes of “A”, “B”, “A” resulting in a string of punches that can do a bit more damage. The game also adds a small bit of RPG flavour to proceeding to upgrade your team as you advance – with coins you collected from smashing up objects on each level – helping lift the game up from being just a basic brawler.

Of course, the big draw of this game – just like X-Men Legends is playing with friends and this is where MUA shines. If any of your mates come around when you’re playing they can help you out and take control of any one of the 3 other members you have in your team. The way the game handles multiplayer over Xbox Live is a bit weird though as you can only play using details on the host’s saves meaning anyone connecting to a game will have to pick one of the host’s characters instead of using one of their own. It could be argued that this was done to stop newcomers from joining stages late in the game with one of their low-level characters – and thus dying a lot – but it would have been nice to have the option to bring your own characters in regardless of their skill level. Of course being a 360 release there is also the option to unlock achievements and get some Gamerpoints – thankfully all the achievements are well implemented with most of them unlocking as you advance though the game with only one or two of them seemingly being given away too easy.

MUA is a multi-format release and when you combine this with the fact that game is viewed from the top down you realise you are not going to get some of prettiest graphics ever seen on a 360. Nevertheless the game still has a selection of striking effects and little touches to try and keep you entertained as you play though it. There are also a few cut scenes inserted here and there to propel the story along – sadly they do not use the in-game engine and thus have that disjointed feeling you used to get with older Final Fantasy games. Thankfully, the voice acting in the game is surprisingly good with everyone evolved putting in some hard work to bring their superheroes to life. Most of the lines delivered when in a battle are slightly OTT, but they suit each of the characters well – they are super heroes after all! The music in the game is also solid if not spectacular, but if you are playing the game with a few mates you will probably be having too much fun to even notice it.

Although MUA can be played and enjoyed as a single player title it is in the multiplayer where the entertainment lies – especially if you have access to four controllers and a similar number of like-minded friends willing to put in time to finish the 15+ hour quest. In all honesty there is nothing really “next-gen” about the game and due to it being a multi-console release the graphics are nothing to write home about either, but when you add all the parts together something special really shines through. It is a game almost in the same vein as the great Lego Star Wars albeit a little more grown up and once you don’t head in with sky-high expectations there is loads of fun to be had.

Good while on your own… great with a few friends!

8.1 out of 10

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