The game starts out with one of best opening CG movies I have witnessed in gaming with Dr Doom attacking one of S.H.E.I.L.D's Helicarriers. Nick Fury calls in reinforcements of Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Thor. After repelling the assault the heroes are drafted in to stop Doom and his cohorts in a plot that just seems to go slowly downhill in an excuse to visit various places famous to Marvel fans. Things start off strong but never quite really hold together well enough so that by the end I just didn't care all that much about what was happening, I was rather disappointed.
The gameplay fortunately is actually quite fun to play, if only for fans. For each mission you get to pick four different Marvel heroes from a pretty expansive list of characters including Blade, the Fantastic Four, several X-men, Deadpool, and even Moon Knight. These characters can be swapped between on the fly in battle and the roster can be constantly changed at save points till you find a team you feel comfortable with.
Each character has unique attacks and abilities of their own matching their power with different strengths and weaknesses. As your characters level up more points can be put into these skills increasing various attributes from duration, attack power, range etc depending on it's effects. Many of the attacks do look quite impressive and give a good feeling of impact genuinely making you feel like a Marvel powerhouse, I can't tell a lie, hitting people in the face with Captain America's Vibranium shield just never got old for me.
On top of normal leveling up each character also has access to multiple costumes from classic, modern, ultimate etc. Each costume has different skills either boosting health, element attacks or various other bonuses as well as changing the character's appearance which are all quite nice options.
During the course of the game your party of course ends up fighting many famous (Infamous perhaps) Marvel villains as both sub bosses and main bosses each of which drop equipment specific to them which also increases various stats and skills when equipped to your characters
All this leads up to a negative however, these characters, stats, costumes and equipment are great, I love micromanaging gear in RPGs, love it, that is when the menu is comfortable to use. Marvel Ultimate Alliances menu layout is terrible. Even after 20 hours of playing I found in fiddly and badly designed, I let the characters auto level up just because I hated going into the character menu unless I had to, not a good sign.
As afore mentioned the CG movies to this game are of incredible high quality, not just in content but from a technical perspective they really look stunning. It seems that all their time and budget went into those though as the in game graphics are painfully dire. This is especially obvious during close up cutscenes where textures are often just undetailed blocks of colour, even as a four year old title at the time this would have been ugly, I have seen PlayStation 2 games that look better. I suspect that is part of the problem though that it was ported from the PlasyStation 2 as this game was released on just about everything available really hurting it leaving it as an undetailed embarrassment.
The voice acting fares better though at least with most of the roles being suitably cast and performed though a few of the villains are occasionally wince worthy and sound like an amateur youtube video.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance is a surprisingly large game to play through. There are several different hubs to explore, tons of characters to talk to as well as many large dungeons and collectables like comics, stat boosts and Danger room discs that give added challenge missions, I was pretty impressed by the amount of content.
The game originally had an online multiplayer, the servers for this however seem to be shot as some friends bought this game with me to play it online and we simply couldn't connect or find each other no matter who hosted the game. So if you do get it, local play is all you can expect.
So it boils down to this really, if you have the choice, get Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, it looks better, has a better story, a superior menu layout, it is the ultimate Marvel dungeon crawler. On the flipside though this game is now pretty cheap and if you are a big Marvel fan there is fun to be had using the characters powers, just don't expect much more than that.
+ Using Powers is fun
+ CG movies are brilliant.
+ Great selection of characters to play as.
+ A decent amount to do.
- In game visuals are terrible
- Menu layout is awful.
- Plot feels a bit silly.
- voice acting is hit and miss.
- Online multiplayer seems to have been knocked on the head.