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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Raven Software
Genre: Action RPG
Players: 4
Rated: T (Teen)
Release Date: October 24, 2006
Written By: Matthew Prunty









Ever since the X-Men Legends was first created, Activision and Marvel have been trying to create the ultimate mutant experience. When X-Men Legends II: Rise of the Apocalypse was released, the intense four-player action was taken to a whole new level when Xavierís X-Men and The Brotherhood had to team up to ride the world of Apocalypse. With the third installment, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, it is no longer about the X-Men, The Brotherhood, or mutant superiority, but about the survival of the world. With a host of new features and an immersive cast of mutants, could this truly be the ultimate fighting experience?

From the get go, it should be made clear, you wont start out with the entire mutant cast from Marvel (140 mutants total). You will have your pick of 20 mutants, from which you must form your team of four. Once you team is formed, you have the opportunity to name you team, give them their very own logo. After each mission is cleared, you have the option to switch up members within your team. If you feel that one fighter is lacking, you can switch him/her out for another. But by using the custom team option, you can unlock more mutants and new features and abilities by building experience with that same cast of fighters.

One thing you will notice off the bat about Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is that the game is pretty well balanced. After playing through a few levels, if you decide to switch up a fighter or two, you donít have to worry about hem being overwhelmed due to the lack of experience. They will quickly gain experience within the battles, which will allow them to hold their own and catch up to the rest of the team. There are several RPG elements within this title, which can be complex at times, but are rather simple to understand. As your characters build experience and level up, you can unlock various special abilities, for which you can assign yourself, or have the computer automatically pick a new maneuver/ability for that particular fighter.



Each characterís fighting moves are broken down into three categories. You have melee, grappling and super-power moves. For those who like hand-to-hand combat, they will utilize the melee attacks a lot. But seeing how you can several punches and kicks with a simple grapple and toss, grappling is your best bet when near ledges. There are even combo maneuvers, where you can go from a series of melee attacks and/or grapples to one of your several super power moves that you acquire along the way. The super power attacks require more than just simply pressing one button and sitting back and watching the end result. Some attacks would require you to keep pressing the button you used for the special move in order to keep the attack going, or deliver more damage. Think of Marvel Vs. Capcom, and you know what Iím talking about. An example of the super-powers being interactive would be when you through Captain Americaís shield, which is fully controllable once thrown after gaining a certain amount of experience.

If you have played RPG titles like Tales of Symphonia, then you will notice you have the ability to set various dispositions to your other team members. While you are controlling your lead character, you can set your team to either be aggressive and go all out, or be reserve and protect the core of the team. The A.I. is pretty responsive, but there are times where you have to take control of your team. If you are trying to unlock certain doors or access computers, you have to manually put your team in position in order to gain access. This isnít a real bother, but at times, it can be rather annoying circumstance. When it comes to the enemy A.I., itís very predictable. You will notice that they generally always go after the character that you are controlling. If you are the only powerful character on your team, this is a benefit to the supporting cast. The computer will less likely attack your teammates, thus allowing them to attack without threat of defeat. Or you donít want to do too much fighting, you can have the enemy follow you to areas that have ledges, and simply throw them off.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is all about teamwork. Your team has to work together to battle through the various linear constructed levels. Whether it be eliminating enemies, to accessing computer terminals, or even tossing/breaking various crates and barrels, the team must watch each otherís back in order to make it all the way to the sub-bosses and eventually Galactus and Dr. Doom. In the case of boss battles, you have to plan out strategic tactics in order to avoid taking serious damage while delivering countless blows. This teamwork formula is also evident within the solo adventure when more than one player is playing. If you are playing with three other people offline, you have to watch each otherís back instead of going at it all alone. But if there are four of you playing together, and someone has to leave, there are no worries. The computer will take control of that character, keeping the flow of the game going pretty strong.



For those who havenít played any of the X-Men Legends titles, a nice feature within in this title is that if one of your comrades fall during the battle, they arenít gone forever like other titles. They will simply sit on the sidelines until you have access to them again. If you can acquire a Shield pad during your battles, you can use it to bring in a new team member until your fallen soldier is ready for battle once again. You can also use these pads to save your point within the game, thus keeping you from having to replay that particular level all over again.

When it comes to the graphics, the PS2 version canít compete with the likes of the Xbox 360, but it certainly holds its own in comparison to the regular Xbox version. The title utilizes CG cutscenes, which are of high quality. An example of this is the opening cutscene, which is simply engaging and very vivid. For those gamers who are using the Xploder's HDTV Player, they will notice sharpness and fewer framerate issues.

Each character model depicts the highest levels of details possible. Each character boasts smooth and unique animations, giving their movement and physical presence more life. Another nice touch is that various characters have alternate costumes, which are also depicted in high levels of detail.

Within the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance universe, there are 17 vivid and immersive locations. You will notice some areas utilize similar design and objects, but the design team manage to keep each locationís atmospheric presence different and engulfing. With engaging battles and super-powerful attacks, most wonít take the time to notice the details within the landscaping. Various effects from lighting, to smoke and fire, and even energy blast add to the overall look of the title.



The musical score of Ultimate Alliance really gets you into each battle. Unlike other Action RPGís, the musical score is unique to each world, each battle. The music fades in and out, depending on if you are entering a battle, or leaving one, and just roaming the level. As far as the sound effects, are on target with making each battle more engaging. Since the effects are mix within Dolby Pro Logic II, when you perform a super-power move, the sound is projected at you like if you are within the battle yourself.

When it comes to the dialogue, itís a mix bag. The dialogues within the cut-scenes are on target and portray each characterís actual nature. But there are moments within the game where the various characters will give cheesy one-liners, which are used a lot throughout the game. What sucks is the fact that you have no control over the characterís taunts and boasts, which would be fun to use against an enemy who is far away, but running up to you. But where the dialogue shines is during the confrontations between certain characters and various bosses or villains.

Because of the depth within this title, gamers will be playing this title for hours and hours. The solo campaign can last a solid 15 to 20 hours, depending on your skills, but because everyone will be trying to gain access to every fighter and special ability, you could spend more than 40 hours just within the single-player mode. The Co-Op and competitive modes add some added flavor and value to this title. You can battle through the single-player mode with a bunch of friends, or go head-to-head to prove your superiority within this title. The online setup is nice, but they could have added a few elements and tweaks to the overall presence and operations.

Final Thoughts
When you thought you saw everything imaginable within a title, Activision comes out and adds more depth to the formula that started out with X-Men Legends. Intense battles, immersive worlds, vast array of fighters to choose from, all add to the overall experience and makes this title a must have for eager gamers around the world.

For those gamers who are into the Marvel universe, or fighting games with RPG elements, this is certainly for you. Those gamers who are all about gameplay depth vs. content depth, will have a hard time with this title, but still can have an enjoyable experience.

Score
8.3/10


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