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March 31, 2007
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
23/3/2007ActivisionActivisionRaven Software1-42-4
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Captain America strikes the enemy.
Over the last decade comic book licenses have boomed into big business again. With each Spider-Man movie grossing over $US800 million worldwide, and X-Men, Fantastic Four, Batman, and Superman all surpassing $US300 million each, comic books are a hot property once again. Naturally with the blockbuster movie comes the inevitable video game tie-in. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is a game that rounds up many of Marvel's biggest superheroes and puts them all into one giant game. We've already seen the PS2 version which we thoroughly enjoyed and were keen to see the results of the game moving to the next-generation. Have the developers succeeded in making this version the game to have?

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Spider-man uses his special powers.
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.

Developers Raven Software were responsible for the very impressive X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse on multiple formats last year, and they have taken the knowledge and feedback from that title, and it's predecessor, and applied it to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Indeed, the action RPG styled gameplay remains largely unchanged - pick a team of heroes and battle your way through 17 massive levels using their powers to your advantage, and to destroy evil. Speaking of levels, they really are one of the strong points of this game. The variety of locations taken from the comic books is impressive and includes Niffleheim, Asgard, Skrull Planet and the final battle at Dr. Doom's Castle.

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C'mon, don't just stand there!
Gamers will have to create and customise a team of four super heroes selecting from a roster of over 20 playable characters including Spider-Man, Iceman, Wolverine, The Thing, Captain America, Blade, Elektra and Thor – and battle notorious Super Villains including Fin Fang Foom, Mephisto, Dr. Doom, Galactus, Loki and countless others. New to the next-generation version of this game are two exclusive playable characters - Moon Knight and Colossus. In all Marvel: Ultimate Alliance includes a massive roster of 140 Marvel comic book characters! As you battle through the levels you can easily switch between the four characters in your team by pressing the D-Pad, with each direction corresponding to a different hero on your team.

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The effects (flames) can be quite nice.
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 have 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 Software have also worked hard on the AI for both friend and foe 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. Each of the characters also has two alternate costumes - the first is unlocked when you have controlled the character and achieved 30 kills, while the second is unlocked when you reach 175 kills with each character.

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Backgrounds are sharp, but not overly detailed.
Where Marvel: Ultimate Alliance does vary from your typical action title is the RPG elements, and in particular the ability to up skill the characters on your team. As you progress through the levels you earn experience points which can then be used to give your team more powers. The game is quite impressive in the way that while you increase the abilities of the four characters on your team, the ones left behind and not selected will also be automatically upgraded so if you switch to them in later levels they aren't left without suitable powers to attack enemies.

Yet another area where Marvel: Ultimate Alliance does prove itself is with the multi-player. Offline the game supports up to four players at a time and the online gameplay is exactly the same. Although finding a current game online is hard then a needle in a haystack (in fact we only managed to find a couple of games running all week) we suspect that in the coming weeks as more people pick up their PS3's, and perhaps secondary titles when they've played through their first picks the numbers will increase. When playing online one person boots up their save file, and three others can join in the mayhem.

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4-on-1, now that's an unfair fight.
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 on PS2 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 'clear the room' type battles which, while entertaining, became too repetitive after a while.

So to the visuals. Yes they are in 1080p (and we have a 1080p TV to check them out on which is sweet) but they just don't shout out 'next-gen'. Don't get me wrong, of all the versions of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance available this is certainly the best on the market, it's just that we've seen better from the PS3 already. Having said that the lighting and particle effects are very strong and while the main playable characters are great to look at with great modeling and animation, many of the enemies are generic looking foot soldiers. When will developers learn that not every enemy army need look like a clone? We also have to add that the backgrounds are rather repetitive and dull within a single location. In fact Activision's Call of Duty 3 is a much better game visually. Fortunately the cut-scenes have been done very well and do flesh out the storyline.

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Wolverine with his claws out!
Audio in this title, as you would expect, fares quite a bit better then that in the PS2 version. The speech is still more limited then I hoped but the overall orchestral sound, sound effects and surround sound are effective enough to ensure this is a game which you won't mind turning up.

It's fair to say that while the gameplay is great, the story solid and the audio impressive Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is let down by the graphics. Sure they're at 1080p, but that doesn't mean that it looks great. Also impressive is the massive roster of Marvel characters which appear in this game, and with around 20 hours of game time it's one of the longer titles on the market at the moment too. Marvel and Comic book fans should check this out.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSTo be honest, I was quite underwhelmed by the graphics on the PS3. I expected more razzle dazzle!
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 options including online play.
OVERALLMarvel: Ultimate Alliance is a great title, but it's not as mind blowing as I expected for a next-generation game. Still, Marvel comic book fans, or those looking for a solid action title would do well to pick this game up.

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