VIDEO GAMING

Game review: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 & 2 are oldies but goodies

You might expect a pair of fighting games from 2006 and 2009 to be too old to provide much fun, but Marvel aficionados will find much to entertain them

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 September, 2016, 8:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 September, 2016, 8:03pm

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 & 2

Activision

3½ stars

I consider myself a pretty competent geek. But when the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games were released to the previous generation of consoles (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), I wasn’t nearly geeky enough to appreciate them. I had never heard of Elektra or Dr Strange, not to mention some of the lesser know heroes like Black Panther.

A decade has passed since the first Marvel Ultimate Alliance came out, and I’ve watched way more Marvel movies and TV shows than I though I would. That includes all three Iron Man movies, two Thor movies, two Captain America movies, two Incredible Hulk movies, two Avengers movies (haven’t seen the new one yet), two seasons of the Daredevil Netflix show and one season of the Jessica Jones show.

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My wife is just as crazy about the Marvel properties as I am now, and couldn’t wait to play a co-op fighting/role-playing game in the universe we’re familiar with.

That was two weeks ago, and since then we’ve been hopelessly addicted to the 2006 game Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which was recently re-released with the 2009 sequel Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 as a downloadable package for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. We don’t plan on stopping until we reach the end of the second one.

Up to four players can take control of their favourite Marvel superheroes, which can be constantly switched in and out at save points. Just like Double Dragon and other classic beat-’em-ups, you’ll spend most of your time kicking and punching, and the rest utilising each character’s power. Even a decade later, the range of powers is impressive, and I’m particularly partial to Captain America’s shield toss.

Unlike other games of the beat-down genre, both Marvel Ultimate Alliance games are role-playing epics, consisting of dozens of hours of play and a cheesy but faithful story that made zero sense to me in 2006. Now that I’m a Marvel faithful, I can’t get enough of it.

Unfortunately, this is a direct port of some fairly old games, and the developers seem to have made no effort to remaster them for the next generation of consoles. They both look fine for older games (especially in high definition), but both the PC and Xbox One versions are fairly glitchy. Thankfully, I’ve been playing on the PlayStation 4.

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As good a these titles are, this re-release is nothing more than a quick cash grab that required no effort from the developers, stuck with a price tag that would be more appropriate if the games had been graphically upscaled and remastered properly. If you already own these games, don’t buy them again.

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I only rented the first Marvel Ultimate Alliance back in the day, excited by the combat but put off by lack of friends to play with it. Now that I have an understanding of the lore and a lifelong friend to play with me, I couldn’t resist ponying up for the overpriced deal. Marvel Ultimate 2 is even more impressive than the original, and approaches the kind of cinematic quality Marvel properties are known for today.

If I lived by a strict ethical gaming code, I’d tell you to avoid these games, just to encourage publishers to put more effort into their re-releases. But this superhero package is just too much fun not to recommend.