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Dec. 12, 2006
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
1/11/2006ActivisionRaven Software1-4, 2-4 MMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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One of the frantic battles.
In the last couple of years comic book based licenses have boomed into big business once again. With movies such as Spider- Man grossing around $US800 million each worldwide, and X-Men, Fantastic Four, Batman, and Superman all smashing past $US300 million each comic books are a hot property in the cinemas. Video games aren't too dissimilar so it's not surprising to see companies cashing in on the craze. Activision are one such company, and indeed probably the company that is pushing the adaptations the most. Last years X-Men Legends II: Rise of the Apocalypse was a stunning title and now the developers at Raven Software are set to unleash Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.

For decades, Earth’s Super Heroes have opposed evil in their own cities, and on their own terms. But now, Dr. Doom and a newly reformed Masters of Evil – the greatest collection of Super Villains ever assembled – have plans for world domination, and the heroes must band together to defeat them. Players not only determine the fate of Earth, but also control the fate of the Marvel universe.

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Flame effects are nice.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is basically an action RPG where players create their Marvel dream team from a swag of comic book characters. Gamers will have to create and custimize a team of four super heroes selecting from an initial roster of 20 playable characters including Spider-Man, Wolverine, The Thing, Captain America, Elektra and Thor – and battle notorious Super Villains including Dr. Doom, Galactus and countless others. In all the game includes a massive roster of 140 comic book characters! Needless to say most of your favourites will be there but without giving them all away I can confirm you'll come across Blade, Invisible Woman, Ghost Rider, Ulik, Iron Man and many more in your travels.

This 20+ hour title is played from a top-down perspective through 17 wonderful locations such as Atlantis, the Shield Heli-Carrier and the Skrull home world. Basically you have to kill anyone that gets in your way of discovering the truth behind Dr Doom's plans. The locations and story have been developed with the assistance of Marvel’s own C.B. Cebulski ensuring authenticity to the comic books is retained. Each of the characters has melee combat moves such as punching and blocking but also some Super Hero Powers which give them, well more power to take out the numerous enemies. Spider-man for instance has Web Bullets to attack enemies, Spidey Sense to slow down time and Web Snare to freeze enemies in a web. There are more, and each character has their own list of special moves. Raven Soft have also worked hard on the AI which is pretty relentless at times, but also sees enemies reacting to your every action, start a Super Hero move and they'll back off a bit. As you play through the game it's also possible to swap characters in and out of your party at any save spot to ensure you have the best, or your favoured, combination in your team.

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Wolverine gets his claws out.
The boss encounters in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance also deserve a mention. It seems that the "press the button in time with the icons" philosophy has been transferred from other titles. Interestingly I remember a time not so long ago when companies were criticised for including such gameplay (Sega's Shenmue on the Dreamcast being a prime example), but not it's back in fashion. Much like Sony's God of War bosses have weak spots and should you be positioned correctly you'll have the opportunity to strike them down with a sequence of timed button presses. Fortunately, much like the entire game, this is always enjoyable and entertaining.

I have to say one area where this game does excel is with the multi-player options. With a multi-tap 4- players are able to compete on a single console in either a cooperative mode, or competitive. Interestingly this competitive mode allows you to continue to play the story, but keeps track of each individuals performance before allocating experience at the end of the levels. Online gameplay is available through Gamespy. When playing online one person boots up their save file, and three others can join in the mayhem. To be honest we only sampled online gameplay rather briefly but there were some amounts of lag as we played which was disappointing - although it may have been due to the internet connections of the other gamers whom I was playing against rather then an issue with the game itself.

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C'mon Supersize Me!
Disappointments in this game are few and far between. I would have liked to see a bit more variety in the gameplay, in terms of more open levels and certainly some more challenging puzzles. Games such as ICO have shown that detailed puzzles can add depth to the gameplay. It would have broken up the gameplay just enough to stave boredom a little long. Boredom? Yes, at times I felt that the game was degenerating into a series of battles which, while entertaining, became too repetitive at times.

Raven Soft's visual department has been working overtime on this game. While Activision’s X-Men Legends 2: Rise of the Apocalypse had a wonderful 2D comic book look to it last year, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance has a more realistic look to it. The characters are now modeled in 3D and while there are some frame rate issues when you look at the quality of the graphics it's a small compromise. The are several cut scenes through the game and they are pretty damn nice - certainly worth sitting through a couple of times.

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Pushing PS2 graphics to the limit.
Audio doesn't quite fare as well as the graphics. While there is some pretty good music throughout the game this department is really let down by a lack of dialogue - and poor quality dialogue for what's there. This really is one area where Raven Software should have spent a little more time polishing the game prior to release.

What more can I say about this game. If you like comic books, or indeed even a couple of characters in this game, then this is definitely worth checking out. The quality of Activision’s titles on the Playstation 2 this year have been quite stunning with stunning titles such as Call of Duty 3, Tony Hawk's Project 8 (review soon), and of course the stunning Guitar Hero II in their roster. The only reason not to get this game on the PS2 this year, is if you're planning on getting a PS3 at launch next year!

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSImpressive graphics which look better then those in X-Men titles.
SOUNDSome nice music, but game needed more, and better quality, speech.
GAMEPLAYAn entertaining game with plenty of characters and gameplay variety.
VALUEA fairly lengthy game for its type at over 20 hours, good multiplayer.
OVERALLMarvel: Ultimate Alliance is one of the best comic book based games of all time. With so many characters, and solid level design this a title worth adding to you collection this year.

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