Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Preview

We ally ourselves with the Wii and take on all comers in Activision and Vicarious Visions' upcoming title.

We've been anxious to try out the Wii version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance, an action role-playing game that throws everyone and their mother into one big fight to save the world from certain doom. The game is the evolution of the winning formula of character progression and item collection that's been used in the X-Men Legends games, and it tosses in some nice customization touches, as well. Though development of the lead console versions of the game is handled by Raven Software, New Jersey-based Vicarious Visions is handling the Wii dev chores. The veteran developer has proven itself to be more than just a port house and has consistently delivered some smart conversions and expansions of titles on other platforms. Given the developer's ambitious nature and the potential afforded by the Wii controller, the marriage of the two has appeared destined to pay off big. We recently had the chance to log a healthy chunk of time with the upcoming Wii game and got a good feel for the core game, as well as VV's slick Wii twist.

Get ready to battle the forces of evil in Marvel Ultimate Alliance for Nintendo Wii.

We played through a sampling of levels taken from different parts of the game that let us check out several different members of the game's cast of 20-plus playable characters. For those keeping a running tally of the combatants, we tried Iceman, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, Thor, Thing, Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Wolverine, Electra, Ghost Rider, Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, Captain America, and Spider-Man. The heroes featured their own unique moves and abilities that, if used with the right combo of heroes, can wind up being excellent complements to one another.

We checked out a whopping 10 levels and saw a number of the eclectic cast of characters being assembled for the adventure, which ran the gamut from playable to cameos. The first two levels we tried were on the now-familiar S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier level at the start of the game and found Cap, Spidey, Thor, and Wolvie responding to an SOS from Nick Fury.

The first level culminated with us taking on the Scorpion, while the second part of the helicarrier level pitted us against Bullseye. There wasn't much new from a content standpoint in the level, which we've played a few times now on the other consoles the game is appearing on. The big difference from our previous play-throughs is that the level now contains a number of small polish tweaks that display hints on how to play.

The next set of three levels we tried found our superteam going proactive and trying to take out the villainous Mandarin. As a card-carrying villain, he seems like a logical choice to be a part of Dr. Doom's newly reformed Masters of Evil, who are set up as the game's protagonists in the helicarrier level. The levels offer a change of pace from the airborne madness of a helicarrier under siege by villainous robots and find you exploring the Mandarin's fortress and dealing with his henchman, many of which are animated statues. The first Mandarin level led to a confrontation with the Grey Gargoyle, a lesser-known villain in the Marvel universe who's a pain thanks to his ability to temporarily turn you to stone. The second Mandarin level had us crossing paths with everyone's favorite sorcerer supreme Dr. Strange, who we unlocked as a playable character. The last Mandarin level had us facing off against the villain himself, who wielded his trademark rings, each of which has a unique and annoying ability to cause trouble.

The cast of characters in Marvel Ultimate Alliance will feature heroes from all corners of the Marvel universe.

The Mandarin's Asian-themed castle was a sharp contrast to the next two areas we played in the always-troublesome Arcade's Murderworld. For those unfamiliar with the red-haired villain, Arcade is a hired hit man who used a lethally booby-trapped amusement park, the aforementioned Murderworld, to take out his targets. The levels featured a whimsical but deadly tone to them, as circus-themed foes came out of the woodwork to try and kill our heroes. The first part of the level ends with MUA's quartet of heroes attempting to free the X-Men's Jean Grey from Arcade's control (and features a very awesome retro game we'll share in a bit), which lead's to a fight against the powerful psychic. The second Murderworld level takes place in one of Arcade's signature Murderworld locales--a giant pinball machine--and features the Shocker and Rhino as your adversaries.

The next level offered a decidedly satanic change of pace from the previous levels we tried, thanks to a run through Mephisto's realm. For those unfamiliar with the big M, Mephisto is an entity of pure evil, often mistaken for the devil, who wields vast mystical powers and has his very own realm chock-full of slaves. The evil creature's mystical dimension was heavy on the supernatural and ended with you choosing to free Nightcrawler or Jean Grey (who's apparently all "damsel in distress" in MUA).

The next-to-last level we played featured a boss fight against Ymir, the frost giant. The tall one should be familiar to fans of Thor and Norse mythology aficionados, as should his icy realm of Niffelheim. The claustrophobic battle had our team of tiny heroes taking on the massive ice-club-wielding brute as they were cornered in a section of frozen forest in the realm.

The Human Torch's flame effects look swell on the Wii.

The final level we played was a not-so-scenic tour of the Skrull homeworld, which was currently being "tenderized" by devourer of worlds Galactus, the scariest dude in a purple headdress you're likely to ever meet. We've seen the level in an early state when we got our first look at the game. The run for survival through the streets of the alien world as Galactus does his best Godzilla impressions has been polished up quite a bit, though it's still very tough to not get fried when he starts flinging beams.

The sampling of levels gave us a better feel for MUA's tweaking of the X-Men Legends formula and, more importantly, get a feel for the Wii control scheme, which we find to be very smart. Vicarious has mapped actions to movements of the controller that feel a bit odd at first, but once you get comfortable with them, they work well. You'll handle movement with the analog attachment and use the remote for your attacks. Shaking the remote from side to side does a basic attack. Swiping the controller to one side will let you trip someone. An upward motion triggers an uppercut, while a downward motion performs a stun. Finally, thrusting the controller performs a lunge attack. In addition to these standard attacks, holding down the B button will serve as a modifier that lets you perform any of your hero's super attacks.

The interesting aspect about the scheme is how Vicarious has assigned the analog peripheral a variety of context-sensitive actions. An upward motion next to objects picks them up, and a downward motion throws them. However an upward motion in front of a door will open it. Swiping with the controller will let you dodge. The most interesting element of the analog peripheral's use is its role in camera control. By tilting it either left or right as you play, you can move the camera around your character, which is slick since you can do it while attacking.

As far as the actual content goes, the game follows the same basic structure as the Legends games, with some new tweaks to make the experience more streamlined. You'll still use a hub that houses a variety of familiar faces from the Marvel universe and will offer different services, such as info and side missions. In addition, you'll be able to edit your gang of four as you open up more characters and costumes. The costumes have turned into one of the most interesting aspects of the way the new leveling system works. As before, you'll earn experience that will level you up and let you assign points to your characters' powers. However, a new addition to the character-enhancing mix is the abilities you can buff up that are specific to a hero's costume. As you play, you'll eventually unlock three additional outfits for each hero. The costumes will have unique attributes--such as enhanced defense, health, or other buffs--that will vary widely, offering serious alterations to your character's stats. Better still is how Vicarious and Raven have used the feature to further bulk up the game's roster of heroes. While the game does have a set number of playable heroes you can unlock, the costumes offer some slick variations that amount to whole new characters. For example, one of Thor's "costumes" is a Beta Ray Bill skin that remakes the Norse god into his alien homie. We'll obviously be shot dead if we say too much, but suffice it to say, if you've been following recent Marvel events like Civil War, you'll be very pleased by the heroes in MUA. Better still, there are some very cool classic folks thrown into the mix, as well.

In addition to the core game mechanics, Vicarious has made sure to toss in all the cool extra modes Raven is including in the other versions, such as an arcade-style mode where you'll compete with friends for the most points and a very cool bit of retro action. As we mentioned earlier, you'll find a cool extra in Arcade's Murderworld in the form of an arcade game you can play. The game is a new spin on Activision's classic Pitfall. The visuals look exactly the same when you play it, with one twist: Amidst the blocky sprites on the simple backgrounds, you'll notice that the "Pitfall Harry" you're guiding is actually a smoothly animated stick-figure representation of one of your team, complete with enhanced abilities depending on the hero. For example, Iron Man can float briefly, which is handy for flying over snapping crocodiles (we'd prefer the ability to repulsor their heads off, but so it goes).

Yeah, okay, we'll say it. 'It's clobberin' time!'

The visuals in the game are falling somewhere between the current-gen versions and the Xbox 360 versions we've seen. The game uses the same viewpoint as the Legends games, though there's considerably more going on in the backgrounds. The character models all feature a good amount of detail but nothing too flashy.

Based on what we played, Marvel Ultimate Alliance is turning out to be one of the brighter lights in the Wii launch lineup. The game already appears to have the appeal of its X-Men Legends cousins, and the new control scheme is one of the smartest uses of the Wii controller we've seen, considering MUA is a conventional game not made specifically for the platform. If you were a fan of the Legends games, or were always curious about them, Marvel Ultimate Alliance is well worth a look when it ships this November. Check back for more on the game in the coming weeks.

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Discussion

79 comments
georgetkat
georgetkat

"a part of Dr. Doom's newly reformed Masters of Evil, who are set up as the game's protagonists in the helicarrier level" Um, shouldn't that be "antagonists", not "protagonists"? Unless you play as the villains in that level, which would be realllly f'ed up!

Mkherkzen
Mkherkzen

I want some good hack'n'slash style game at Wii's launch. I thought about buying Project H.A.M.M.E.R., but, as it is now delayed, I'm starting to think seriously about Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. After all - Thor also has a hammer, right? :D

bottomdollar
bottomdollar

Hmmm, maybe Nintendo is hiding somethings.... Maybe online play will be available at Launch with titles like this and Red Steel. On the other hand, that wouldn't make since ONLINE play is sooooo popular with peopl these days.

fatdawit
fatdawit

sounds great better than legends 2

ArfenZard15
ArfenZard15

I've never bought a game like this before, but from the looks of it, It'll be one of my Wii gmes before long!

CheddarLimbo
CheddarLimbo

This looks promising. I never played the Legends games, so I feel like this won't be "more of the same". I'll get to join in on the action with the formula already refined and polished. What about some online multiplayer action for this title, Nintendo?

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

Marvel games are generally a pile of turds. They really must get another developer to do them.

pcanepa
pcanepa

looks and sounds good... ima get a wii go that i can play this game. and i wanna play the rest of them too like red steel. the wii is gana be great. i still love my 360 though. but i gotta admit that the wii is gana be a great console to own. its gana look nice next to my 360.

Impostorzim
Impostorzim

Something tells me that they'll get this Marvel Alliance thing right. Nemesis was nice and all, just didn't feel it like this one. Honestly, as long as Spider Man is still in it, I'm good.

Gingtin
Gingtin

still not to sure about this one. dont really like the camera position....hmmmmm. but i'll have to wait till it comes out. looks pretty cool. plus thor! spidy!

eric2mrng
eric2mrng

"NINTENDO: ULTIMATE ALLIANCE where you use Mario, Samus, Link etc to defeat Bowser, Ganondorf etc. That would be awesome" not a bad idea..

mexisnake
mexisnake

Can't wait to play as Blade and use his sword with the Wiimote:D

shadowmagx
shadowmagx

As much as i enjoy playing action games, if this game takes after the xmen legends games, i think that ill be in a stupor

LoWpS
LoWpS

never really liked marvel...

-Battalion-
-Battalion-

I'm no big comics fan, but this game looks like it's worth checkign out all the same.

LucasAW
LucasAW

Sounds like its worth looking at, but still.. the graphics look pretty pathetic from the pictures ive seen. But we all know, it aint graphics that make a game good!!

tau1234
tau1234

been there done that

kaziechameleon
kaziechameleon

i love marvel, but this games graphics look retarted considering when it's coming out, it looks like it still belongs on the ps2, not the wii, or the 360 for that matter.

nick1500
nick1500

i never played x-men legends but this gmae sounds to br eally sweet and fun. GOTTA PlAY GOTTA PLAY GOTTA PLAY

zuntyh
zuntyh

Why does everyone whine about graphics of games!??!? Graphics are nice but are not in league with gamplay.....come on think final fantasy....final fantasy II for example....i bought that not long ago...but it overwhelms a lot of my ps2 games by far! oh yeah i wanna play nightcrawler =P favourite charactor....is he playable from start does anyone know?

StCroixPSOP
StCroixPSOP

This game is going to be really good. I own both of the X-Men Legends games, which this is like. It is gonna be a bit tricky using the "wiimote", but that is why the big N is giving us a gamepad as well. I do like the fact that you can play as the greatest Marvel characters out there. And for Nick gregory saying the graphics are poor, I think they look a lot better than your avatars graphics and for spykiller, saying that comic games suck, well, you got a point there but they are getting better.

tim_aka_link
tim_aka_link

sorry for the double post but what about NINTENDO: ULTIMATE ALLIANCE where you use Mario, Samus, Link etc to defeat Bowser, Ganondorf etc. That would be awesome:D

tim_aka_link
tim_aka_link

This will be one of the first games I buy. My Team : Spider-Man Captain America Silver Surfer Ghost Rider No_Ob- Wont buy but might rent it What do you guys think about the cover? personnaly, i find it horrible ...Are you serious?

Riorio99
Riorio99

nice! My team line up. Punisher Spidey Iron man Captain America

XYoshiX2
XYoshiX2

Lol you guys say your old school players. I say the real old school players were the time when consoles weren't even out, and arcades were in play. If you ever played time crisis etc.. you do realize you pick up a gun and interact with it by point and shoot. Thats exactly the same as picking up a wii controller and using it as a pointing device. I know those trekkie fans would want to have a game that would use the phaser gun! *hint hint

vincent4444wow
vincent4444wow

I think the cover is awsome this game looks sweet!!!!! I already have it pre ordered for the psp

No_Ob-
No_Ob-

Wont buy but might rent it :) What do you guys think about the cover? personnaly, i find it horrible

ItaloIII
ItaloIII

it will be good if the punisher is in the game

GigaKaiser
GigaKaiser

"Why is this part of the X-men Universe??? It has all the marvel chracters. " X-men is a part of the MARVEL universe. There is no X-Men Universe.

Mercenary19
Mercenary19

Why is this part of the X-men Universe??? It has all the marvel chracters. Also, this game looks horrible, so I don't actually care anyway. I'm just bring the issue up for discussion.

jmac777
jmac777

I am Ghost Rider..Rider..rider..rider....

No_Ob-
No_Ob-

einsp "You don't have to make large, sweeping movements to make Link attack with his sword. To the contrary, the game will easily register a simple flick of the wrist and make Link swing accordingly, and if you've got your sword sheathed, moving the controller in this fashion will simply draw the sword, if no enemies are directly in front of you. So you'll be able to shake or wiggle the controller back and forth rapidly to attack, rather than having to swing your arm in a big arc. " thats for zelda I know, but you'll probably be able to set the sensitivity like every other game... That way you won't have to do a workout to play with the Wii... "Nintendo gives the Wii a "classic" gamepad" i know that controller has been made for old games, but maybe some games will use it or use the gamecube controller, cuz yes the Wii can read gc disc and has port for gc controllers Anyway, well see maybe that remote will be a revolution or just a piece of crap... i wish for the best :)

TintedChimes
TintedChimes

game looks weird...might play weird, need to try it out first.

spykiller
spykiller

The comics are fantastic but the game will not be as good as the comics. Making a comic into a videogame is a great task but itsn't the same.

einsp
einsp

I dunno i dont think this wii mote thing is going to take off its good for zelda its ok for platformers but its not going to work out for everything ecspecially sports i mean before you know it were gonna be make hand puppet gesters with the controller just to play a game? they said its suppost to be easier to use then your average controller but it looks to me its getting more complicated and anybody who thinks that the average controller is difficult to use isnt a gamer, and nintendo if i want a workout when i play a game ill play dance dance revolution or ill go to the local gym.

kerensky287
kerensky287

I don't get it. The Masters of Evil are the... protagonists? That means the good guys. Did they make a mistake or something?

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

i unno. it looks nice but i dont know if i will buy it