Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
Get Your Super Hero On!by Wootini
Somehow, Activision has done the impossible they made a superhero videogame that actually didn't suck. Of course, once they hit that winning action/RPG formula with an X-Men game, they pretty much applied it to whatever, and hoped it would still work. Heck, I hear they're actually going to do the second Fantastic Four movie tie-in game in the same style. Basically, for the computer game geeks, it's Diablo, but with superheroes. You lead a team of four heroes on various missions where you defeat minions and smash crates/barrels/vases/etc for bonuses on your way to the super-villain boss battle. Lather, rinse, repeat.
What makes the games work is that they let you either just run around beating the crap out of things, focusing on the action while the computer handles the RPG. Or, you could go all-out yourself and control every single detail of your various heroes' powers and abilities. Personally, I opted to let the game handle everyone else while I focused on using one particular character throughout so I could make sure I spent points on raising the levels of the powers I was using the most.
The story is some convoluted mess that has Dr. Doom enlisting every single villain in the Marvel Universe to join forces to do... something. Look, I rented the game from Blockbuster, and only got halfway through it before I had to return the thing. So don't look to me for the intricate details of the plot twists. If there are any. It's just an excuse to send you to the four corners of the four color comic world, everywhere from Atlantis to Mephisto's realm. On the plus side, there are a lot of characters to choose from. You can unlock extras as you go along (and Xbox 360 owners can even purchase additional playable heroes and villains to download), but the roster you start with is pretty impressive. Everything from Captain America and Spider-Man all the way down to obscurities like Moon Knight and Blade. Seriously... Blade.
On the negative side of things, the voice acting ranges from moderately adequate (Spider-Woman, Nick Fury) to painful (Black Widow, Spider-Man), and the background rock music is what I expect they pipe in over the Musak in hell. And if you have the misfortune to die at any point, you have to wait about five minutes before you can resurrect your hero, whether or not you're at a save point. But hey, at least it's a few minutes you can use to hit the john or grab a snack. Also, while the graphics are nice and purty (though oddly shiny on the 360, like everyone's a shiny plastic action figure), the comic geeks in the audience will be a little perturbed that it's a mix of the Ultimate Marvel universe and the regular flavor. So until you've unlocked all the costumes for everyone, you're going to have Ultimate Captain America fighting alongside standard comic book Spider-Woman or whatnot. I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but trust me -- I'm only a moderate comic geek, and I had to take Cap off the team because his costume was wrong to me.
So Activision has found the winning formula to make a comic book game that won't make you try to gouge your eyes out with the controller, but after the novelty of seeing all the different heroes wears off, it's pretty monotonous just blasting your way through level after level. Still, it's almost worth it just to get to the Murderworld level where Arcade forces you to play Pitfall. Swear to God. On the 2600. It's awesome.