Software developer Raven has had a great run in the comic book video game franchise. From the record-breaking sales of dungeon crawler-style X-men Legends and X-men Legends II Rise of the Apocalypse, game-players were anxious to see what was next.
Both X-Men Legends games are lots of fun, allowing the addition of up to three additional players who can drop in and out with ease, not interrupting gameplay.
The first game provides an introductory character with Magma of the New Mutants. While at first this seems strange, as you play through, it’s clearly a nice choice. The enemies are the mutant-hunting robots, the Sentinels, along with flash-back scenes from classic issues such as the original X-Men‘s battle with the Juggernaut.The conclusion is a very satisfying battle with a Super-Sentinel aboard a space station hovering over the Earth’s surface. The climax is watched by Apocalypse, leading into the sequel game.
The follow-up features the unique ability to play online (though this is very choppy from time to time) as well as the ability to play as one of the villainous super-team, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
This addition of villains such as Magneto and Juggernaut really fleshes out the game, but it’s the surprise unlockable character Iron Man that is the icing on the cake. A big Iron Man fan myself (the Ditko-designed armor really sends me), I was pleased with this surprise. It makes no sense to have the Avenger in the game… until you realize what comes next.
My neighbors could hear me scream “Do an Avengers game!” every day and apprently Raven heard as well.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance is the pinnacle of super-hero video games. A mind-blowing array of playable charcters, the ability to build your own team and interchangeable costumes, allowing players to alter the fiery demonic Ghost Rider into the Old Western Ghost Rider is a big old tummy run to the comic fan community.
The story is inspired, taking tips from classic Avengers stories by having a new Masters of Evil team up to destroy the world, leading the team into adventures in the underwater city of Atlantis, onto the blue area of the Moon (the realm of the Inhumans), and even to the far reaches of the Shi’ar Empire (from the classic X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga and current Uncanny X-Men: Rise & Fall of the Shi’ar Empire).
Characters include the Fantastic Four, Blade, Iron Man, Storm, Daredevil, Black Panther, Wolverine (everyone’s fave) and even Doctor Strange (I’m still stunned they included the Gene Colan-designed blue mage costume). All characters have four interchangeable costume designs with their own unique abilities.
It’s the quality of the design and animation of the characters that floors me. It’s a real thrill to see Spider-Man swing along or use his ‘human slingshot’ maneuver to drop a thug.
And finally getting the chance to play as my favorite character, Captain America, is a special treat. The animation and control over his shield-throws is fantastic and the design of the character really captures his strengths ina way rarely seen in the comics… unless it’s the recent Steve Epting Captain America series we’re talking about.
Guest appearances are a veritable who’s who of the Marvel Universe. In the opening battle on the SHIELD helicarrier, you are set up against the Winter Soldier and Radioactive Man only to battle Fing Fang Foom and later MODOK (in a rather hilarious ‘high school science’ riddle game).
It’s such a joy to play on your own, but the real pleasure comes in when you add a second character-player.
Nothing in a video game experience comes close to the joy my buddy Mike and I had when we defended the Skrull Home World from the attack of Galactus. Running down elevated footpaths while the world-devourer lumbers along in the background, bug as a skyscraper, is a stunning moment.
This past April, Marvel released 8 new characters for download via X-Box Live.
Now you can play as the bowman Avenger, Hawkeye, the nimble X-Man Nightcrawler, the green goliath the Hulk (I was always scratching my head as to why he was ever left out of the first game) and even ‘Slim’ Summers, Cyclops.
But players are no longer restricted to playing the good guy. Taking a tip from their previous games, the inclusion of villains has been made. Now you can be Sabretooth, Doctor Doom, Venom or Magneto.
As is always the case, the big question is ‘what comes next.’ Already there are rumblings of an Ultimate Alliance 2 game. I’ll definitely be on line to grab a copy… as soon as I get myself one of them there fancy X-Box 360‘s.
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