Marvel: Ultimate Alliance

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance

Raven's next-gen superhero smorgasbord is nearly complete. We go hands-on to find out how it's turning out.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: October 6, 2006
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Who knew that a top-down action RPG series like the X-Men Legends games would end up becoming such a hit? The whole idea of taking the Gauntlet (or perhaps more accurately the Champions)-style hack and slash dungeon crawl, throwing in a ton of comic book references and adding a customizable upgrade system with on-the-fly four player switching doesn't seem like that revolutionary, but it clearly resonated with RPG-hungry comic geeks out there.


With next-gen looming on the horizon, though, the series needed a shot in the arm. Sure, a jump up in graphics would help, but what the series needed was an expansion in scope; take the same basic concept, but add more of everything. That's precisely what developer Raven Software did with Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, heaping in 140 characters from the full breadth of the Marvel universe, adding in more skills, more powers, more control over what kind of team you pick and packing in more levels.

Earlier this week, we took a peek at how things are coming along, and we're happy to report that the game is indeed every bit as good as the previous entries -- at least in what we've seen, which was a nice mix of the series' classic combo-heavy super-powered dungeon crawls with some new large-scale boss battles that take advantage of the PS3's unique combination of graphical prowess and fancy-pants new controller features.

In much the same way Call of Duty 3 is blending the motion sensing aspects of the Wii controller and the graphical oomph of the Xbox 360, Ultimate Alliance feels in many ways like the best of both worlds, offering a game that delivers the best parts of the other two next-gen systems. In fact, now that the game is running in 1080p, it's arguably the best version of the game available, and may well signal the kind of combined plusses experience that the PS3's combination of features offers in cross-platform games.

A good example of this is the pair of boss fights that we played through. The first took place in Ymir's Domain, the icy home of one of Thor's enemies. Just as in the comics, Ymir swung a massive icicle club that, if we didn't jump to avoid the shockwave from, would cause significant damage (it was explained that this was higher than normal because we effectively skipped ahead in the story and didn't get the benefits of leveling up). At the same time, Ymir summoned a minion to harass the rest of the team. Killing him was the key to defeating Ymir, however, as the ice monster would drop a huge spear.

By grabbing the spear and then jumping up onto the ice club, we kicked off a mini-game that had us quickly pulling the whole SIXAXIS controller back toward us, down away from us, to the left and right as random prompts would come up. Once up on Ymir's back, wiggling the controller back and forth would raise up the spear and jam it into the base of the ice god's neck. It took a little getting used to, but we adjusted fast enough to complete the sequence three or four times to fell Ymir and move on. The controls weren't perfect, and we felt like we needed to hold the controller parallel to the ground to get the sequence to work, but when it did, it was quite satisfying -- if a little gimmicky.

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