Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Price: About £15
I am a fan of the Marvel Universe. From a young age when I used to watch the X-Men cartoons, right through to watching Avengers and loving it last year.
However, I’m not exactly a hardcore fan who reads all the comics and knows everything about the universe. And I think this is where the game started to fall down for me – I wasn’t sufficiently versed in the universe.
On the surface, there’s a lot to like. The idea of assembling your dream team from a whole host of superheroes has kept pub conversations going between geeks for many years, and it was good to look through who was available and pick them out. Each superhero then has a host of special powers that they acquire as they level up, and a Final Fantasy style finisher move that, when selected, triggers a chain reaction between the heroes with sufficient charge, causing cataclysmic damage. Which all looks really cool.
The game starts with the Helicarrier under attack, and you then proceed to run through a series of corridors, fighting badguys at a slightly awkward arial camera P.O.V. This is pretty much the standard for the entirety of the game. Even as heroes gain powers, combat remains pretty much standard button mashing, though you can combine moves with other heroes to do additional damage, and the corridors of the Helicarrier may switch out for the halls of Asgard or underwater worlds, but it’s still very much a platformer pretending to be a bit more open plan than it actually is.
Which is all fine, really – I loved Baldur’s Gate back in the day, and that followed pretty much the same pattern. But Ultimate Alliance had a few more issues than it did good points, or ignorable ones.
Firstly, Sixaxis. I HATE sixaxis controls. They are so hard to get right, and even when you think you’ve done it, the controller doesn’t always pick it up, and it’s just a recipe for throwing the controller at the television (which would probably get you through the sequence). There is an option to turn it off, but it’s not obvious, so I got most of the way through the game before it drove me mad enough to change all the settings to find it. The sixaxis stuff is only used in boss battles, but the number of times I spent far longer defeating a boss than I should have done due to failing the sixaxis mini games probably added over an hour to my gameplay time. I also have armstrain from shaking the controller so violently during the battle with Galactus. Ouch.
Next, I found by about halfway through I no longer cared about the story. The problem of having interchangeable characters is there’s no real vested interest with them. The plot was essentially Doctor Doom is trying to take over the world. Fairly standard superhero fodder. But because the characters I was controlling could have been literally anyone in the entire universe and it would have made no difference (some instances of unique dialogue aside) it was really difficult to invest in the story.
And finally, I think it was a game really designed to be played by two people. You always have four characters in your team, but the AI is rubbish. There were plenty of sections where I was frantically pressing the ‘Assist’ command, only to watch them run around in circles categorically not assisting me. There was a mission where you had to destroy a computer in a very short time limit – which could have been done had my entire team been attacking the damn thing, but they just kept running up and down the stairs and not doing anything useful. I got frustrated and missed it out. Well done, AI, thanks to you, the entire west coast of America was destroyed in the final sequence.
There were a lot of extras – simulator disks with side missions on to unlock special outfits for each of the heroes, and playable characters to unlock. But, despite usually being a stickler for 100% completion, I got to the end of the story and just deleted the game straight off the playstation. I imagine with the flaws ironed out, this could have been a good game. And for the Marvel enthusiast, it’s great. My sister’s boyfriend loved it because he learned so much about the universe and its characters. But for me, this one just didn’t quite live up to the mark.
Next Up: Rage