If you are a careful reader of my monthly column, you may have noticed I lean heavily towards RPGs. There are a variety of reasons for this, not the least of which is that I can actually finish them. Knowing my weakness (and my affection for Spider-Man) my beloved Patrick got me Marvel: Ultimate Alliance for Christmas. The game was a great deal of fun and was able to distract me from The Burning Crusade – at least for a little while.
The best way to describe this game is X-Men Legends 3. It has the same set up as the previous two games, the only difference being the roster of superheroes you have to choose from. There are a few X-Men on the team, Wolverine most notably. But you can also choose from The Fantastic Four, a large chunk of the Avengers, and a smattering of other Marvel heroes. There are even a few non heroes in the mix such as Deadpool and Electra (although Electra’s status as hero changes just as often as whether or not she’s alive).
From this roster you select a team of four to control. Then you run around the universe slaughtering hundreds, if not thousands of enemies. The more you kill, the more experience points you earn, and the more you level up. The creators have added a few “improvements” to the game that I feel are worth mentioning. There is a multiplayer cooperative mode, just like in X-Men Legends, but there is also a multiplayer competitive mode. As a result, gear can’t be shared between players even in cooperative mode which is extremely irritating. There is also default auto gear equipping and point allocating that does all the leveling up for you. Personally, I consider leveling up the best part of the game so I turn off the automatic options at the first opportunity. Cooperative mode is still a lot of fun, though. Although I must once again point out that enjoyment hinges on whom you are playing with. My friend Sean has a tendency to throw barrels of explosives at me just to annoy me. Oh well, at least he’s stopped flying all over the screen, making sure everything takes ten times longer than if I were playing alone.
Speaking of flying, I would like to mention that the AI of your allies leaves something to be desired. On at least two separate occasions, heroes with the ability to fly dropped to their deaths. The most memorable was Thor. Somehow, I think a bottomless chasm shouldn’t be so hard for the Norse god of thunder to step around or fly over! I guess they just don’t make gods like they used to.
Minor glitches and inconveniences aside, this game is a great deal of fun. You run around (or fly or web swing) battling the forces of evil, gathering collectibles, and solving puzzles. Most of the puzzles are straightforward and intuitive. If you run into trouble though, you can always find a walkthrough somewhere on the internet. However, the walkthrough can’t play the game for you. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but there are one or two mini-games that can become very frustrating very quickly. The worst of these is a version of Pitfall that you have to traverse to advance in the game. I suck at Pitfall. I’ve known this since I was seven and kept trying to avoid being eaten by alligators on my best friend’s Atari. My skills haven’t improved in all these years (and you’re nuts if you think I’m going to tell you exactly how many). It was only the fact that I had infinite lives that allowed me to triumph after a very vexing forty minutes.
The best part of the game is the heroes. There is a great deal of pleasure to be found in using the Human Torch to inflict fifth degree burns on half a dozen aliens. Including Spider-Man or Deadpool in your party means a lot of snappy patter designed to make you laugh. There’s also a lot of fun stuff to unlock and the replay value is high because you’re going to want to try out all the heroes and one run through isn’t nearly enough.
If you buy this game for the newest consoles on the market (Wii, PS3, or the 360) you get an extra three heroes on top of everything else. But if you’re like me you haven’t gotten around to it yet. I leave the decision of which platform to purchase the game for to you. I would only suggest not buying it for the Wii, this game’s controls are set up in the standard fashion and the Wii’s innovative controller doesn’t mesh with it smoothly (Ed Note: I beg to differ). But beyond that, I think you should head out right now and pick up a copy. If you liked X-Men Legends, you’re going to love Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.
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