The tacked-on motion controls and lack of online support take some of the shine off this otherwise dependable superhero adventure.
- Huge, eclectic cast of Marvel heroes and villains
- deep, yet largely optional character-customization system
- great variety of environments.
- Wii controls feel clumsy and tiresome
- graphics suffer from indistinct textures, nasty aliasing
- only console version without online multiplayer.
No longer content with covering the localized struggles of Marvel's mutant superheroes as it had in the X-Men Legends games, developer Raven Software has blown its established action role-playing game formula out to an intergalactic, interdimensional scale with Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. With more than 20 unique playable heroes; a massive campaign that features a wide variety of well-known Marvel Universe villains, supporting characters, and locations; and plenty of hidden extras, it's the biggest piece of Marvel fan service seen in a video game. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance has made its way to virtually every console under the sun with pretty consistent results. Its appearance on the Wii, though, is the hardest to recommend, due to slapdash use of the Wii controller and the omission of the online cooperative play found in every other version of the game.
Ominous deeds are afoot right from the start in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Dr. Doom has brought together a coalition of supervillains under the Masters of Evil name, whose first act is to attack a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. An opposing coalition of superheroes quickly comes to the aid of S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, who takes command of the situation and coordinates the superheroes as they continue to track Doom and his minions across the universe and into different dimensions. The sheer quantity of Marvel supervillains you'll face on your quest to defeat Dr. Doom is genuinely staggering. Heavy hitters like Ultron, the Mandarin, Mephisto, Loki, and Galactus all play major roles, but there's still room for lower-profile villains like M.O.D.O.K., Fin Fang Foom, Arcade, Grey Gargoyle, Blackheart, Super Skrull, and literally dozens of others. There are a couple of truly excellent twists and turns, and the story does a good job of concealing the true nature of Dr. Doom's plans until just the right moment. Some of the finer points, such as the excess of long-winded expository speeches in between levels, don't stand up to close scrutiny so well, but the narrative is successful in keeping the game moving at a fast clip.
Your starting lineup in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance consists of Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man, and Wolverine, but after a few levels playing with these heroes, you're given the option to create your own custom team. At first you'll have about 18 different heroes to choose from, and they represent a good cross-section of high-profile heroes and more obscure fan favorites. Old-schoolers like the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and several X-Men are there, as are a number of heroes who are likely unknown to those who don't keep up with comics, such as Moon Knight, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, and Deadpool. As you progress you'll run into other heroes such as Blade, Dr. Strange, Ghost Rider, and the Silver Surfer, who will in turn join the cause. Part of the fun of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is the sheer variety of places the game takes you. While the X-Men Legends games seemed stuck mostly in dungeonlike corridors and sewers and such, here you'll visit some of the most spectacular and mythical locations in the Marvel Universe, including Mephisto's Realm, Asgard, Mandarin's palace, the Skrull homeworld, and, finally, Dr. Doom's sinister Latverian castle. Many of the environments really do look as if they came straight out of a comic book.
Despite the familiarity of the underlying gameplay formula, which sticks mostly to the same disciplines that drove hack-and-slash dungeon-crawlers like Diablo, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, or Raven's own X-Men Legends games, there's a bit of a learning curve with Marvel: Ultimate Alliance on the Wii, which does a pretty clumsy job of translating controls originally designed for more standard controllers. You'll need both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk to play. The analog stick on the Nunchuk controls character movement, and in what is probably the game's most clever and intuitive use of the Wii controller, tilting the Nunchuk side to side causes the camera to rotate accordingly. Many of the basic maneuvers like grappling, blocking, dodging, jumping, and opening doors are all assigned to simple button presses, but most of the combat is performed by moving the Wii Remote in different directions. You'll wave the remote back and forth to perform simple attacks, move it sideways to perform a sweep attack, move it up to launch your enemy into the air, and move it down to perform a stun attack. Each hero has a unique set of special powers, which require you to hold the B button on the remote while you move the controller around.
A little bit of the combat can be off-loaded to button presses on the remote, but it can be awkward, and you're still going to have to shake that remote a good deal either way. The problem with this control system is two fold. For one, the controls feel imprecise, and though the combat is inherently prone to button mashing, this makes it difficult to perform specific attacks when you really need to. Second, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is a game where you fight enemies in volume, and the relentless controller shaking becomes tiresome quickly. Bottom line, this control scheme is no more intuitive or immersive than something more conventional. Indistinctly waving the remote around, which often gets the job done, is no more analogous to the action than pressing a button. It hurts the experience well more than it helps.
Though you have little control over how your heroes' basic stats (like health and energy) increase, with each new level you're given skill points that you can put toward special powers. Each hero has eight or more special powers in an arsenal, though many of them are inaccessible until you reach certain experience plateaus. You can also use cold, hard cash that you pick up by beating enemies and smashing crates to purchase points, though they start off pricey and become exponentially more so as you progress. Each hero also has three alternate costumes that you can unlock, which not only can drastically affect the hero's appearance, but also come with a unique set of bonuses that you can pay to increase. Defeating significant villains and finding special treasure chests will usually net you a piece of performance-enhancing equipment. Usually any hero can use any gear you happen upon, though it never shows up on their person, and there are also lots of rare pieces of gear that only specific heroes can use.
- Player Reviews: 75
- Game Universe:
- X-Men: Mutant Academy (PS, GBC),
- X-Men: Mutant Wars (GBC),
- X-Men: Next Dimension (GC, PS2, XBOX),
- X2: Wolverine's Revenge (PS2, GC, XBOX, PC, GBA),
- X-Men Legends (PS2, XBOX, GC, NGE),
- X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (XBOX, PS2, GC, PSP, PC, MOBILE, NGE),
- X-Men vs. Street Fighter (PS, SAT, ARC),
- X-Men: Children of the Atom (PC, PS, SAT, ARC),
- Spider-Man / X-Men (GB, GG, SNES),
- X-Men (GEN, GG, AND)
- Number of Players: