Monday, December 04, 2006

Marvel Ultimate Alliance impressions

So last week my friend Joey, who incidentally is the only other person I know with a Wii, lent me his copy of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. He wasn't too impressed with it, in his short time playing, citing some control issues as its main downfall. But I was particularly interested to play it not only because it features some of my favorite superheroes of all time (yes, I was a Marvel zombie as a child), but also because after watching this cool commercial filled mostly with actual gameplay footage, I assumed that I would really be THWIPping my hands along with Spidey, SNIKT!ing along as Wolverine, and Clobberin' baddies as the Thing. While the game surely isn't devoid of these elements; the commercial is extremely misleading as to how the Wii control scheme works with regards to mimicking your heroes actions. And that more than any real fault of the game, pisses me off.

The game is made by Activision and is built on the X-Men Legends engine, which to my surprise, I didn't really like very much. But then again, I think that might've had something more to do with the super slow paced gameplay than any mechanics issue. Well, that and the fact that I was never one of those crazed X-fans; I was always more into Spidey, and the Silver Surfer. Ultimate Alliance plays as an overhead adventure co-op, with 4 heroic teammates on screen at a time (you control only one, but can switch to another at anytime, and a fairly decent AI takes the others). Every character has their specific special powers and abilities, and you help your team progress through the semi-labyrinthine levels fighting thugs along the way and solving simple puzzles. It's a pretty straightforward adventure really; but the coolest key feature is being able to select your band of heroes from the entire Marvel catalog (a good selection of about 15 are available from the start) , and then you can level them up through continual gameplay.

last night, when I finally cracked the box and started playing I was struck by a few things right off. Firstly, wow great cinematics, and then the fantastic voice work. The dialogue is spot on, and after playing for a few hours I'll say I really think they nailed the characters down extremely well. The opening cinematic is also so good, I watched it twice. Anyhow, then I started learning how to play. The learning curve is a bit of a slog, sure I got it alright, but I was not only seriously disappointed that my hand movements do not match what my character does onscreen, but that the fine gestures called for by the game are just too subtle for the Wii to pick up all the time. When the difference between a horizontal shake of the Wiimote, and a single draw left produce totally different action, in the thick of battle, I simply don't have room for controller errors.

That said, the game itself is pretty solid. The story seems decent, and there are lots and lots of characters. I wonder if maybe the movement issue really comes down to just one of those cases where the developers haven't yet figured out how much or how little to do with the motion sensitive controller. This is the kind of thing I could see getting better by the next iteration of the game. The game also looks prety good, but if you go over to, and check out the video comparison between the XBOX 360, the PS3, and the Wii version of this game you'll see how good it should look.

However if anyone out there does have a Wii, I'd say definitely go for it on this game, especially as a rental. I'm kind of itching to get back to it now actually. Too bad I have a whole afternoon of work in the way. I'm enjoying the game on the whole, and think it would probably be even better in co-op mode with two or more players. Despite any concerns I might have, getting a chance to be Spider-Man, or The Human Torch or Captain America in any capacity is fun. If you've got a next gen system I definitely think you won't regret checking this one out. Its a fun story, and an interesting if not wholly successful use of the Wii control scheme.

I give Marvel UA a partway through (3.5 hrs) score of 8/10

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