It has been almost 10 years since Marvel: Ultimate Alliance was released to rather favorable reception, the game took the best parts of the X-Men: Legends series and expanded the characters and story to include the rest of the Marvel Universe. Now the game has been ported to PS4, Xbox One, and PC (Steam release), so does the game hold up years later? Sort of.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance opens with the nefarious Dr. Doom and the Masters of Evil attacking a SHIELD Helicarrier for reasons we learn later. Soon after players are hopping between many well-known locales such as Atlantis, Mephisto's Realm, and even Asgard. The story is separated into five acts that as a whole feel like an entire Marvel comic book crossover event. From start to finish I was eager to know where my next mission would take me. As you visit different areas in the game you'll meet a wide array of Marvel characters such as Weasel, Wyatt Wingfoot, Wong, and even Uatu. Of course, you'll also bump into a good number of Marvel villains some well known and some rather obscure (Fin Fang Foom fans holla!).
My favorite part of the game came from the interactions between characters. Having certain heroes engage in conversations with specific NPCs, including bosses, would trigger voiced dialogue for the characters. Some interactions are easy to figure out while others are obscure however, none hold a candle to the interaction from having Deadpool in your party in X-Men: Legends 2 when you fight Deadpool.
The amount of playable characters in the game is a dream for many and a nightmare for the rest. With 32 characters to ultimately choose from but the restriction to only use four at a time, the possibilities for superhero team-ups are rather endless. Personally, I stuck with my faves: Spider-Man and the Human Torch and shuffled around the remaining two characters as I saw fit.
The gameplay can be defined as an action RPG or a simplified Diablo clone. As you progress through the game characters gain experience points and once enough experience has been attained the character will then level up and either learn a new power or have a power strengthened.
Combat itself is not super deep or intuitive, in fact, I would go as far as calling it repetitive and sometimes boring. There is a light attack button and one for heavy attacks, mixing the two buttons allow for different combos to be produced like a trip or a pop-up. These "flavorful" combos were really only useful when later enemies decided to become invulnerable to all attacks except for certain combo attacks. Holding down a shoulder button (R2 on PS4 and RT on X1) will bring up the superpowers available for that character, while pressing one of the face buttons will execute it. Finally, pressing one of the buttons on the directional pad will allow you to switch from from character to another.
Of course aside from the impressive roster of Marvel characters both playable and NPC, a huge draw for the game is the co-op. Up to four people can play the game locally or online, teaming up to take down the Masters of Evil. Local couch co-op works perfectly fine with the drop-in drop-out mechanic, just as it did many years ago. Online co-op needs some work, my experience with it was almost unplayable. First off, the input lag it horrendous. Pressing an attack button and then having to wait a second or two before it actually went through is the difference between life or death in some fights. Not only that but if someone's connection was poor enough that they were kicked, there is no way for them to re-join the game in session.
Back in 2006 when the game was originally released on PS3 and Xbox 360, the framerate would sit around 25fps but would dip lower depending on how much was happening in-game. For the remaster, the game runs between 30 and 40fps but even on new hardware I noticed the framerate drop multiple times. The "upgrades" to the remaster aren't anything grandiose either, character models and shadows look slightly better, but just let nostalgia take the wheel on this one.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is not innovative in any sense of the word, but that is not a bad thing.
$40. That is the asking price for this remaster. If you have never played Marvel: Ultimate Alliance but have an interest in it, either wait for a sale or find the Xbox 360 or Wii version for a lot less. If your nostalgia for the game runs high just like mine, your nostalgic appetite will be sated. It took me around 15 hours to complete the game and with the amount of collectibles as well as a New Game Plus, the game can provide endless amounts of fun.
I know it sounds like I am super down on this remaster and I partly am. The price is too high for what little has been done but the game, while somewhat dated, is still one of my favorite licensed superhero games. This remaster isn't Spectacular or Amazing like Spider-Man, it isn't even as Astonishing as the X-Men. It's just a poor remaster of an otherwise good game. At least Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 isn't a disappointing sequel or anything, right?