It's been five months since Marvel: Ultimate Alliance was released on the Xbox 360, bringing together a huge band of heroes and villains from the Marvel comics universe and letting players kick, punch, blast, and claw their way through a fast-paced comics adventure. Next week, the game will see the first big update from Activision, and we recently had a chance to get a sneak peek at all the four-color thrills that will be available in the downloadable packs.
First and foremost, the update will include eight new heroes--four villains and four heroes. The lineup will include heroes Hawkeye, Nightcrawler, The Incredible Hulk, and Cyclops, while the villains pack will include baddies Venom, Sabretooth, Dr. Doom, and Magneto. Each pack will be sold separately for 500 Microsoft points ($6.25), and you'll have the option to buy both for 800 points ($10). As you might expect, eight new characters means a whole mess of new moves and powers you can take advantage of when carrying out the various missions that make up Ultimate Alliance.
On the heroes' side, Nightcrawler is a lean and nimble mutant capable of quick strikes with his dual swords. He can also teleport from one spot to the next when you press the Y button twice--a handy way of getting from one level to the next or bypassing obstacles that might otherwise be impassable. Some of Nightcrawler's cool special moves include whirlwind sword attacks and the ability to quickly "bamf" from one opponent to the next, dealing pain to multiple foes in the process. Hawkeye is a marksman with a bow and arrow, and you'll want to take full advantage of his ranged attacks. With some of his special attacks, Hawkeye can fire arrows as fast as you can press the A button, so it's a good idea to keep one hand in the quiver at all times.
Bruce Banner's mean, green alter ego The Incredible Hulk joins the ranks of MUA heavyweights such as Colossus, The Thing, and Luke Cage as a pure powerhouse. Like the other bruisers, Hulk can grab enemies and use them as rag-doll clubs, and he also has some devastating area attacks such as the Hulk smash and the Hulk stomp. Finally, Cyclops brings to any team his powerful optic blasts, which, like Hawkeye, make him a force to be reckoned with at long range.
On the villains' side, some of the heaviest hitters in the Marvel universe are now yours to control. There's Magneto, whose powers include the ability to send waves of magnetic force at opponents, or create a powerful shield protecting him from harm. Sabretooth has deadly claw attacks that make him an incredibly powerful melee combatant. Venom, perhaps the best-looking new character of them all, is a hulking mass of black evil, capable of firing off tendrils of black symbiote goo that damages any enemies in the area. Last but not least, there's also Dr. Doom (who--spoiler alert--also happens to be the bad guy in MUA). Doom's powers come from his mysterious suit of armor, and include blasts of green energy and shields similar to those of Magneto.
As in the original game, making different combinations of the new characters in MUA will give you different team bonuses. For example, when teaming any four of the new characters together, you'll receive a "Shaba Ultimates" bonus (named after the company that assisted with the new character development) in the form of a 15 percent boost to your maximum energy. Teaming only the four new villains together will give you a "Rogue's Gallery" bonus of a 10 percent-reduced power cost.
Though it isn't long before you can access the new downloadable characters, you will have to get through the first stages of the opening S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier level before you can access the S.H.I.E.L.D. access point and make your team adjustments. As before, you'll be able to level up your characters either by allocating points to your characters' various powers and attributes, or by letting the game handle it for you (we recommend the former, however). Each of the new characters will also have devastating new extreme moves for those times when the going gets really tough.
One thing that isn't 100 percent clear with the downloadable content in MUA is how the game will be handling some of the odd character interactions that will likely crop up now that characters like Dr. Doom are playable. We just aren't sure what's going to happen when a playable Doom character meets the game's villainous Doom (though we suspect Kurt Busiek might be able to speculate). However, judging by some of the new achievements in the game, the developer seems to be taking these improbable interactions into account--consider achievements such as "Doppelgänger" (25 points, "Doom has spoken with himself") or "Wrong Claws" (25 points, "Sabretooth has been mistaken for Wolverine). In addition, there are achievements for Cyclops speaking with Jean Grey and Xavier talking with his old friend/foe Magneto, as well as points to earn from unlocking new skins for each of the new characters on the roster.
Though there doesn't seem to be anything in the way of new missions with the first downloadable update to MUA, the new characters are sure to please Marvel diehards who dream about playing as stalwarts like Venom and Nightcrawler, or wreaking havoc as the Hulk. The downloads will be available next week, so keep an eye out for them, true believers.