Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
|Marvel: Ultimate Alliance|
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance box art
|Developer(s)||Raven Software (PS2, Xbox, PS3, Xbox 360), Vicarious Visions (PSP, Wii), Beenox (Windows), Barking Lizards Technologies (Game Boy Advance)|
|Engine||Vicarious Visions Alchemy|
|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer|
|Distribution||DVD (PS2, Xbox 360), UMD (PSP), Blu-Ray (PS3), Wii Optical Disc (Wii), Cartridge (GBA)|
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (also known as MUA) is an action role-playing game developed for PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox and Xbox 360 by Raven Software and published by Activision. The game was simultaneously ported to the PlayStation Portable and Wii by Vicarious Visions, and to Microsoft Windows by Beenox. A significantly different Game Boy Advance version was also created, developed by Barking Lizards Technologies. The game was initially released on October 24, 2006 in North America for most platforms, with PlayStation 3 and Wii ports following shortly thereafter, as well as international releases. Japan was only able to see a Wii and PS3 release.
MUA is set within the fictional Marvel Universe and features many of the superheroes, supervillains, and supporting characters that appear in publications by Marvel Comics. Ultimate Alliance is the third Marvel title to be developed by Raven Software, and features similar gameplay to their previous Marvel titles, X-Men Legends and X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse. A sequel, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, was developed for multiple platforms by Vicarious Visions, n-Space and Savage Entertainment and released in 2009.
Players can select teams of four from a range of more than twenty-two playable characters (although some characters are not initially available and need to be unlocked), allowing them to create their own superhero teams or recreate famous teams from the publications. Bonuses are also available if forming certain groups (e.g. the Avengers, Defenders, Fantastic Four, Marvel Knights, X-Men). The game also has alternative endings, dictated by the number of optional missions the player completes. Also included are trivia, artwork, and "simulator discs", which unlock non-story related missions for characters. Each character also has a variety of costumes that offer different advantages.
Consoles, PC and PSP
The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions are virtually identical, with no major differences. Both platforms include Colossus, Moon Knight, and five additional comic book missions. The standard edition of Ultimate Alliance was also released as a companion with Forza Motorsport 2 in specially marked Xbox 360 consoles in 2007.
Activision released eight additional downloadable characters on the Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live Marketplace on April 26, 2007 in a set of packs: a Hero Pack, consisting of Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Hawkeye, and the Hulk, and a Villain Pack, which includes Magneto, Sabretooth, Venom, and a playable Doctor Doom. Both packs are also available in a bundle pack for 800 MSP, which also adds 12 new achievements to the game. The Gold Edition was released for the Xbox 360 in May 2007 which includes the standard game bundled with all downloadable content. The Platinum Hits version was released for the Xbox 360 in September 2007. The set includes all the Gold Edition of the game and a bonus DVD. As of December 2009, the DLC was removed from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace by Activision, meaning the only way to play as the downloadable characters is to purchase the Gold Edition or the Platinum Hits version.
The Wii version has a few features unique to its version including specific motion-sensitive controls for normal moves, motion-sensitive controlled special attacks (the attacks are unique for each character, but not the motions), and access to any special move at any time. This version contains no online play but has a local multiplayer mode in which up to four players may play at once. It also features the characters Colossus and Moon Knight, as well as five additional comic book missions.
The PC version is customizable, and many characters (including those exclusive to all other versions) and their modifications can be obtained from community sites for play within the game. The PC version's graphics vary depending on the customization of a user's settings. The PC version also features "intuitive mouse controls"  and works with a gamepad. A number of custom characters (including Jean Grey, Emma Frost, War Machine, and Punisher) are available.
The PSP version features simplified graphics, different characters, and extra features including the four exclusive playable Marvel characters Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, and Ronin. Other things unique to this version are 6 exclusive comic book missions including one which contains Swordsman, an exclusive prequel mission, and three exclusive single-player gameplay modes. Added features include online play, microphone support (voice chat), and online-recordable player statistics. The PlayStation 2 version of the game has the same features as the next-gen versions of the game, albeit without Colossus, Moon Knight and the five bonus simulator missions. In August 2007, a Greatest Hits version was released which included a bonus DVD containing a making-of featurette. The Xbox version of the game has no changes from the standard PlayStation 2 edition, however, a community-based modification has been released which adds Gambit, Hulk, Iron Fist, Moon Knight, and War Machine (Iron Man's third outfit being replaced by another costume) to the game. However it is possible to play as Colossus and Moon Knight via a glitch which can be accessed through a series of steps.
Game Boy Advance
The Game Boy Advance version of Ultimate Alliance features significant differences from the other console versions. Most notably, the basic gameplay takes the form of a side-scrolling fighting game with minor RPG elements, such as the ability to alter the player characters' stats. The graphics are simplified for this system and the selection of characters has also been reduced. Some additional gameplay modes were added into this version of the game including a S.H.I.E.L.D. Simulator, Time Challenges, Scavenger Hunts, and a Survival mode. Teams for this port consist of three characters and a striker, a non-playable fourth character who can be summoned to perform a powerful attack directed toward on-screen enemies.
The game begins with Dr. Doom and the Masters of Evil launching an attack on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier U.N.N. Alpha. Nick Fury sends out a distress call to all available super heroes for assistance. Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man and Wolverine respond to the call. Along with the other heroes, they save the Helicarrier from the forces led by Scorpion, Bullseye, Winter Soldier, Radioactive Man, and Fin Fang Foom. In the wake of the attack, Nick Fury is given permission to start a task force to confront the Masters of Evil and Iron Man allows them to use Stark Tower as their headquarters. Fury asks the heroes to investigate an odd message received from Dum Dum Dugan on the Omega Base, a S.H.I.E.L.D. mobile research facility. The team defeats supervillains MODOK, Crimson Dynamo, and Mysterio to prevent the Omega Base from crashing in to a dam and launching several gamma bombs. With their mission successful, the heroes travel to Atlantis, where the inhabitants are being mind-controlled by Attuma, who has usurped Namor from his throne. With the help of nano-technology that enables them to breathe and move freely underwater, the heroes are able to save Namor and defeat Attuma and Tiger Shark. After defeating Attuma, the heroes encounter Mandarin, who unleashes the Kraken, which the team defeats by toppling pillars on it.
They then travel to the Valley of Spirits to confront Mandarin in his palace. After his defeat, he reveals that he attempted to take command of the Masters of Evil and, upon failing, left the group. He suggests that the Mandarin they saw in the catacombs was actually Loki, god of mischief. Upon returning to base, the team learns that Nightcrawler and Jean Grey have been kidnapped. Due to the involvement of mystical forces, Nick Fury has the team relocated to the Sanctum Sanctorum. Professor X tracks Nightcrawler to Castle Doom, but upon trying to transport the heroes there they are sent to Murderworld by a spell from Baron Mordo. After defeating a mind-controlled Jean Grey, Rhino, and Shocker, the heroes battle a large mech, piloted by Arcade. Victorious, the heroes learn that Dr. Doom has used Nightcrawler to access Mephisto's Realm, and the team is sent in pursuit.
Upon arriving, minions of Mephisto kidnap Jean Grey and Nightcrawler. Blackheart, Mephisto's son, puts them in separate cages above the Infinity Vortex, stating one must be saved and the other sacrificed before the team can defeat Mephisto. During their battle with Mephisto the sacrificed hero returns, resurrected by Mephisto, but now under his control. As a final effort, the resurrected hero sacrifices their life to defeat Mephisto and allow the team to escape. Meanwhile in Asgard, a massive army of Super Soldiers attacks and imprisons the Asgardian gods. The heroes travel to Valhalla to liberate it from its invading force and free Heimdall (who is guarded by Rhino and Shocker), Tyr (who is guarded by Scorpion and Lizard), and Balder (who is guarded by Enchantress and Executioner). Then they fight the Wrecking Crew to open Bifrost Bridge in order for reinforcements to arrive. Looking for Odin in Niffleheim following a fight with Kurse and Ulik, they find his shattered Twilight Sword and learn from Ymir that Doctor Doom and Loki have taken Odin to Raven's Spire. After Loki is seemingly defeated at Raven's Spire, the team frees the Destroyer Armor to use against Doctor Doom. Loki, disguised as Fury, reveals himself and his plot to have the heroes free the armor for nefarious purposes. As heroes defeat Loki and the armor, Doctor Doom appears and reveals that he has stolen Odin's power. He uses it to attempt to eliminate the heroes, but Uatu the Watcher saves them and transports them to the Inhumans' base on the moon.
Uatu reveals the only way to defeat Doom is to find the M'Kraan Crystal and steal the Muonic Inducer from Galactus (who is currently attacking the Skrull homeworld). The team is sent to the Shi'ar Empire where they fight Deathbird and the Imperial Guard in order to restore Lilandra Neramani to the throne and gain a portion of the M'Kraan Crystal. After retrieving the crystal, the heroes travel to the Skrull homeworld and with the help of the Silver Surfer, the heroes disable Galactus and steal the Muonic Inducer. Meanwhile Doctor Doom conquers Earth, corrupting and creating clones of many of the heroes. In a final effort, the team travels to Latveria to confront Dr. Doom. The heroes use the M'Kraan Crystal and Muonic Inducer to weaken Doom. As the heroes weaken Doom, he is blasted by a bolt of lightning sent by a rejuvenated Odin, leaving nothing but his mask behind. As the heroes meet on the repaired Helicarrier, Nick Fury informs the heroes that the team must disband and asks if S.H.I.E.L.D. can count on them when another threat happens. Captain America assures Nick that the world can count on them." Meanwhile, Galactus vows revenge on the heroes who stole from him and plans to destroy Earth.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance features over 140 characters, and in addition the heroes battle evil versions of both themselves and other heroes throughout the game. Some heroes also appear as a villain under mind control, such as Jean Grey. In game each character has a set of four alternate costumes however three of these costumes must be unlocked. However, some of the characters costumes are also other superheroes in the marvel universe. This includes Iron Man as War Machine, Thor as Beta Ray Bill, Spider-Woman as Spider-Girl and Julia Carpenter from the Secret Wars, Ghost Rider as Phantom Rider and Ms. Marvel as Sharon Ventura. Also, there are various upgrades that can be attached to characters for boosts in power, speed, defense, etc.
|PSP||Xbox 360 exclusivef||GBA|
^a Playable on the Game Boy Advance version.
^b As a Special Striker for the Game Boy Advance version.
^c Exclusive to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii versions.
^d Also a villain in the Game Boy Advance version.
^e Appears as a villain on the PSP version.
^f Previously available as downloadable content, also part of the Gold Edition of the game.
Most versions of Ultimate Alliance were developed using Vicarious Visions' Alchemy engine, which was purchased from the now defunct Intrinsic Graphics in May 2003. Raven Software developed the primary version of the game on the PS2, PS3, Xbox and Xbox 360. Vicarious Visions simultaneously ported the game to the PSP and Wii, and Beenox ported the game to the PC. During early development Ultimate Alliance used cel-shading technology, similar to Raven's previous Marvel Comics games, X-Men Legends and X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, however, this was dropped at some point during development. Barking Lizards Technologies used their Whiptail engine to develop the GBA version independently. The game was originally known by Marvel Legends, and had an internal working title of Marvel Comics RPG. At one point both Link from The Legend of Zelda series and Samus Aran from the Metroid series were planned to be playable characters for the Wii version however they didn't make the release.
Reception and awards
Reviews for Raven and Vicarious Visions' version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance received generally favorable reviews from critics. The PS3 and 360 versions received 78% and 82% at GameRankings and 78%  and 82% at Metacritic, respectively. The PC version received an 83% at GameRankings and 82% at Metacritic. GameRankings' scores for the PS2, PSP, Wii and Xbox versions were 81%, 82%, 74%, and 83%, while Metacritic scored those same consoles 81%, 81%, 73% and 83% respectively.
Several reviewers praised the character cast, with 1UP.com's Scott Sharkey stating "Even if your favorite character isn't playable, there's a good chance they'll show up at some point through the course of the story as an NPC." GameSpot's Ryan Davis applauded the Xbox 360's graphics, saying that it "features a lot of great lighting, particle, and bump-mapping effects absent from the other versions". He went on to comment "Even without those advanced graphical effects, the PC and Xbox versions still look pretty sharp." Game Informer thought the game improved upon the "excellent X-Men Legends games from which it was born", giving the game a 9.25/10.
The Game Boy Advance version received the poorest scores, with only GameRankings registering a 42%. GameSpot thought poorly of the game, calling "uninteresting and sloppy", and rating the game a 2.5/10 "terrible". IGN also disliked the game, giving it a 2.0/10. Reviewer Chris Adams stated "Everything is awful. From sprites to backgrounds to effects, it shames the Marvel license.". Gamer 2.0 gave the game an 8.1/10, however, citing a large number of bonus missions and unlockables as incentive to play.
A sequel to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance was announced by Activision on February 8, 2008. It was released in North America on September 15, 2009, and follows closely the events of the Civil War storyline: an explosion in Stamford, Connecticut caused by a supervillain prompts a Superhuman Registration Act. In the game, players are able to choose between the Pro-Registration side, headed by Iron Man, or the Anti-Registration side, headed by Captain America. MUA2 ends with the aftermath of the Civil War, with the heroes uniting against a new common enemy (unrelated to the Secret Invasion).
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