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.