Marvel Ultimate Alliance Hands-On

We attempt to thwart the evil Dr. Doom with the help of Wolverine, Captain America, and all their closest friends in the Xbox 360 version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance.

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What does it take to defeat a supervillain? That's easy, all you need is a superhero, right? But what if you need to defeat a supervillain who commands an army of angry robots and insidious mutant freaks? For that, you need a whole team of superheroes, and when it comes to superhero teams, it's impossible to beat Marvel's starting lineup. If you can name all of the members of Alpha Flight, or if you think of Stan Lee as much more than a mere mortal, you'll definitely want to take note of the latest game from Activision and Raven Software. Marvel Ultimate Alliance is an action role-playing game that lets you build a team of some of the greatest, most well-known superheroes in comic book history and use them to pound the evil out of Dr. Doom and his cohorts. We did just that at the 2006 Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany, and based on the short demo level we played, Ultimate Alliance feels very similar to the X-Men Legends games--but that's certainly not a bad thing.

The demo began with a slick prerendered cutscene that showed some intense combat between the superheroes and the enemies. One by one, Wolverine, Captain America, and Spider-Man showed up to dispatch some Ultron Warriors, which are basic sentry robots. Wolverine sheared one in two with a swipe of his mighty claws, Spider-Man used his web to pick up two of the robots and smash their heads together, and Captain America knocked down a robot and then decapitated it with the edge of his shield, which was very cool, indeed.

After the intro, we learned a bit of the story. It turns out Dr. Doom is up to no good and has scrounged together a fearsome group of villains that are collectively known as the Masters of Evil. We didn't get any specifics, but the basic plot seems to involve Dr. Doom either taking over or possibly destroying the world. Either way, we couldn't let that stand, so we took control of a powerful and diverse team of superheroes and started busting some heads.

The team we started off with included Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain America, and Thor. Just as in the X-Men Legends games, you only directly control one character at a time, while the other three characters in your party follow along and fight as necessary. You can take control of a different character at any time by pressing one of the directions on the D pad. If you've played the X-Men Legends games, you know that it's good to build a party of diverse characters, because you'll often encounter enemies or obstacles that will require the abilities of a specific character. If you have a well-rounded party, you'll basically have a hero for every situation. Of course, you can always take control of a tank character like Wolverine or The Thing and just bash your way through everything in your path.

There are more than 20 playable characters from the Marvel universe in the game, so you can expect to see plenty of familiar faces in the roster. Each character has special moves that can be performed by holding the right trigger and pressing either the A or B button. Wolverine does a fierce slash with both claws, Captain America throws his shield and it bounces around the area hitting enemies, and so on. In addition to these special attacks, each character has two standard attacks--one is strong but slow and the other is quick but relatively weak. There are also aerial attacks that you can perform while jumping in the air. For example, you can leap into the air by pressing the Y button, then press the A button to slow down time slightly and perform a type of diving punch. That's not all you can do, either. You can also grab your enemies and toss them into objects in the environment or throw them over ledges. The X button is also used to pick up items, which can then be wielded as weapons.

After getting our bearings (which didn't take long), we began to explore the surroundings. The demo level took place on a large ship with pathways taking us around the outside of the ship, through interiors, and back outside. As we moved along the path, we encountered and dispatched dozens of enemies, usually three or four at a time. While all this was going on, the chaos was further elevated by scripted events such as huge explosions that rocked the environments and gave off some nice visual effects. But the explosions and fire are more than just window dressing, because you can take major damage from flames and can likewise toss enemies into the fire to roast them to an even charcoal black.

After following the path through the crumbling ship, we eventually stumbled upon a boss fight. Scorpion, one of Dr. Doom's Masters of Evil, showed up and proceeded to inform the party that he was going to kill them. Of course, that isn't so easy when you have four of Marvel's best superheroes to deal with. We proceeded to beat down on Scorpion in a straightforward manner, simply attacking him over and over until he died, at which point the demo ended.

The visuals in Marvel Ultimate Alliance are impressive, mostly because of the special effects and destructible environments. The game has the same isometric perspective as the X-Men Legend games, which works well and gives you an unobstructed view of your surroundings at all times. However, you can still move the camera with the right analog stick, which makes adjusting the camera on the fly easy, as long as you aren't trying to fight at the same time. The level we played was filled with things like barrels and debris that could be destroyed, usually yielding items or credits. The characters look good, and it's easy to tell them apart because each one is very distinct. The attack animations look powerful and are fun to pull off, especially the special attacks.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance is scheduled to be released this October, so stay tuned to GameSpot for more details as they develop, as well as a full review. Also, don't forget to check out our coverage of all the other games from the 2006 Leipzig Games Convention.

Discussion

23 comments
Andries-Willem
Andries-Willem

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

NND1
NND1

Lookz Dope, I need a good Marvel SuperHero Game

tig1979
tig1979

Looking forward to this one immensly

the_viking
the_viking

At last =) The vikings get to be in a game=) Nice

miiiguel
miiiguel

Yeah XML was great, XML2 was good...! Can't wait for this, saw the trailer of E3 that Ms placed on Lve with gameplay footage, and it looked very nice, the biggest sprites I've seen in an isometric action game (it could been zoomed though, can't say).

wenbin09
wenbin09

didn't sound particularly exciting!!! but still will be keeping a lookout~

jcloverboy
jcloverboy

Can't wait for this title - the x-men legends games were great.

justino
justino

This preview has some amusing lines in it, but most of it reads like a straight appreciation for the game. I wonder, what did the writer want to see, but didn't see? Was there anything worth noting as a possible hiccup to fun? I read this kind of preview and it seems like the game might get an 85% or 90%. But not many games get that kind of score!

Spotswoode
Spotswoode

i loved x men legends 1, and i thought it was heaps better then 2, the powers worked so much better in one. i hope its more like that then anything. they were exc ellent games for the time

Vypor
Vypor

I know this probaly won't happen but I think It woud be nice to play from the villians point of view (this may lead to a city of heros/city of villains sort of thing minus the MMO part we pray)or maybe unclock the villian story mode after game completion (like playing as the green Goblin in spiderman the movie). I know this is not going to happen but I would like to play it from both sides like in LoTR:BFME2

noelveiga
noelveiga

XML was far better than XML2, and though I like some of the ideas in this game, I still fear it'll keep making less storytelling efforts and present more basically interchangeable characters. The greatness of XML was how inmersive it was, how it took you to this X-M en world from the outside moving in. I even took characters with me simply because I liked their interaction in the story mode (Iceman+Magama was a classic). XML2 was simply a generic hack and slash with XMen characters and no plot whatsoever. With a 20 character roster and freedom to create a team of superheroes it seems we'll be getting more of XML2 and less plot and character development.

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

sounds kinda boring so far but looks pretty cool

caybeirwouleyfe
caybeirwouleyfe

WAIT!!!! all i've seen is the xbox 360 version but what about the other version's i'm especially anxious to see how it play's on the wii and ds. But nothing they ony show the xbox 360 version !!

k0sun7eash3d
k0sun7eash3d

If this plays true to the xmen legends style, it'l definitely be worth buying

Jedi_Osborn
Jedi_Osborn

I'm really looking forward to this one.

darkpsymagic
darkpsymagic

seems that it'll be cool, just that I wish it had more than 20, I mean like 50! C'mon, there's plenty of characters in the Marvel Universe, of course it'd be a little harder to chose just 4 at a time, but like in X-ML 2 it's a hell of fun to play with so many different characters... mm I'll get it anyway. ;-)