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PLATFORM: Nintendo Wii
ESRB RATING: Everyone 10+
DEVELOPER: Raven Software, Vicarious Visions, Beenox Studios, Barking Lizards Technologies
Growing up I wasn’t much into comics. It wasn’t that I didn’t like comics, I was planted in front of the t.v. during the 90s for Batman the Animated Series, Fox’s X-Men and Spider-Man series (with its final scene where Stan Lee fulfills his dream of riding up and down on Spidey). Even the short-lived and poorly done Iron Man was included in my Saturday activities.
Granted these shows really don’t do justice for the written product, although Batman TAS was great. My view of comics was that these stories had been around for ages. On top of my other childhood-teenage activities, school, video games, sports, not getting laid, I had to draw the line somewhere and comics were it. I couldn’t devote the time or the resources to catch up on all the stories.
This lack of knowledge of the Marvel and DC universes, and their infinite crises and civil wars, worried me at first about reviewing a comic-book game. Yeah, I had some basic knowledge from cartoons and wikipedia, but could I completely understand what was going on in what was supposedly an expansive game like Ultimate Alliance? Did it even matter?
Based of the success of the X-Men Legends series of games, Activision put together a plethora of Marvel Superheroes (except no Hulk smash!), pitting them against Dr. Doom and a hoard of Supervillians.
Now I don’t know my M.O.D.O.K. from my M.O.D.O.C. but the game appears to be pretty inclusive of the major players in the Marvel Universe, but for the X-Men because frankly, after the movies and their own series of games, they’ve gotten enough.
By virtue of having the game on the Wii, this version of Ulitmate Alliance differs from the PS3 and XBOX 360 versions with the added feature of motion control. Scratch that. This version of Ultimate Alliance is worse than the PS2 and XBOX 360 versions due to the feature of motion control.
The game suffers from the worst motion control I have seen on the Wii. When playing the game for the first time, a menu prompts you to going through the motion controls, supposedly to fine tune the calibration for the game. At first I thought, wow the controls on this are going to be perfect. After playing the game for 20 minutes, however, I realized that the calibration was put in to save time. The controller had roughly 50% accuracy.
So instead of using the full variety of moves for each character, I spent 5 minutes at the beginning of each session futilely waving the controller around and then spend the rest of my time using the generic A button. Yawn
One plus of the game is that it offers countless special moves for each character. For me, Captain America’s Shield Throw, while basic, was a favorite. Each character features a super special move, but more often than not it was a big production with little in game results.
Speaking of little results, it seems that was also the product of the brainstorming sessions for level design. The game attempts to be more than Double Dragon by not scrolling right to left, but a level consists of: Go to point A to get item X. Now collect the two blahs blahs and bring them to point B to open the door to the next area. Rinse. Repeat. Fight boss.
As an added boring feature, the designers didn’t even make the levels all that difficult. At no time was there a major risk of dying. This seems to follow the growing trend in games to not have the balls to kill you without a moment’s notice. Don’t believe me? Download a few virtual console titles and tell me the difficulty hasn’t been ramped down over the years. I’m not looking for Super Star Wars difficulty, but there should be some suspense.
Admittedly the boss battles, ranging from seemingly super-lame Marvel villains, like Bullseye to top-notch level villains like Dr. Doom, are executed pretty well. There is a difficulty, which is a welcome surprise from the mundane levels and each battle entails some sort of strategy.
Which brings me to the real meat of Ultimate Alliance, team building. It seems that the designers based on the success of the X-Men Legends series hoped the game could only rely on the catalogue of Marvel Heroes. With over 20 playable characters, each with 4 alternate uniforms, the game tries to rely on the element of customization.
If the Ultimate Alliance had the gameplay to back it up, then the library of characters, uniforms, comic drawings and side-quests, (oh yes, each character has his or her own boring side-quest) would be an awesome add-on, but in the end, it’s the gallery section of any video game put to the forefront.
Before moving on, I just had to mention the horrific dialogue of the game. I’m convinced the only instruction give to the script writer was make sure to be crystal clear on what the player has to do next. Oh, and be done in 30 minutes. The line ‘I bet The Vision knows,” will be burned into my nightmares until my grandkids are playing Mario Party 68.
The game plays in an overhead view that allows for the player to see the most action. With the numerous hero outfits to earn and choose from (and if you enter certain cheat codes, very easy to acquire), its nice to see classic outfits vs. ultimate outfits, but the thing is when put into the level environments, the uniforms pretty much blend together.
Along the course of the game you can earn certain comic drawings, but has anyone, but for the sake of completion, actually cared about getting gallery items? How often do you go into the game gallery? And if you do, when was the last time you slashed your wrists?
Maybe I’m being too rough because publishers do put out video game art books and most modern games include a gallery section, but that only perpetuates the stereotype that these things can be considered art.
Bottom line, the presentation is below-average for Wii. Hell, even for a Gamecube outing.
The voice acting is adequate, which I imagine is all that they were going for. But as mentioned above, the dialogue is reminiscent of a poor-man’s Dr. Acula (and that isn’t trying to be joke).
Because of the insane amount of heroes, there is some replay value. But going through this game more than once, just so I can see Luke Cage going Sweet Christmas on some punks, really doesn’t seem that appealing.
In a weird turn, the game rewards the player for sticking with the same team throughout and for forming “special teams,” with some sort of theme like the Avengers or the Fantastic Four. So playing as a new team each time adds to the replay, I guess.
For someone who has a hard-on for the entire Marvel universe there are tons of replay value, but for me or even a true comic book fan, I imagine, the novelty of creating different teams wears off after a little while. Is anyone going to shell out $50 so they can make the Super Underground Secret New Avengers?
If you’re a comic fanboy that hates good video games, you’ll love this outing. If you have any like of video games, regardless of whether you have even heard of comic books, you see Ulimate Alliance on Wii for what it is, a poor video game with a lot of bells and whistles.
Maybe with online play or multiplayer, on a different system the game could be an-above average effort, but with awful controls, a lame storyline and little to no difficulty, Ultimate Alliance for the Wii just isn’t worth the time.