Peaks and Troughs
The single-player campaign, which stretches over five acts, will give you a generous 15-20 hours worth of gameplay with a whole raft of unlockable comic book missions, artwork and action figures that you can collect along the way. The comic book missions are a particularly neat addition, and real fans will certainly appreciate the chance to relive moments from their favourite comics in video game form. From a value perspective its one licensed title that actually delivers and Marvel comic fans should find little reason not to buy this game.
There is, however, one significant caveat to all this. Content-laden it may be, but Ultimate Alliance doesn't quite have enough gameplay to justify all that content. Beyond 10 hours, the simple bish-bash-bosh button hammering that serves it well does begin to become a little tired and the story can't carry the game alone. Though some effort is made to freshen things up with some fun mini-games and sub-plots, only the most dedicated fan or Achievement whore will feel a real need to carry on to the finish.
It's a situation compounded by some frustrating design decisions and general annoyances. The checkpoint system, for example, often takes delight in forcing you to replay sections before boss battles should you be defeated by them. Being defeated by a boss is bad enough, but having to go through the tedium of ploughing through low-level enemies to reach it again is a needless trial. Other annoyances include some awkward camera placement, buggy clipping and inconsistent ally AI and though individually these are minor complaints, collectively they do sour the experience somewhat.
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Visually, Ultimate Alliance is best described as current-gen with Botox. Everything is far smoother and much shiner but the lack of variety in textures is certainly noticeable and it lacks the higher-end lighting effects we've all come to enjoy with the Xbox 360. That said, it really doesn't look as bad as this description might sound and looks suitably sharp when in 720p with some decent animation to boot.
This department is a real mixed bag, with the soundtrack varying from some excellent pieces to some uninspired and frankly annoying accompaniments. The voice acting is a highlight, however, with the sort of cheesy delivery that seems fitting for a game based on comic books. They've also managed to get a few of the actual cartoon series voice actors to reprise their roles. The real let-down comes with some audio glitches, with music cutting out at least twice during boss battles and often being played over voices during in-game cut-scenes. Thankfully these are fairly rare occurrences and shouldn't detract too much from the gameplay.
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The decision to buy Ultimate Alliance is truly dependant on what you're looking for. If you're fan of the Marvel comics then this is nothing less than a must buy. There are loads of characters, lots of good bonus features and it is perfectly worthy of the Marvel name. If, however, your interest is rather more casual then things aren't quite so clear cut. For a time you'll find Ultimate Alliance both fun and strangely addictive, but this feeling won't last for long and the basic gameplay will grow tired quickly. Co-op and online play does add a little more longevity and if you're likely to play this with friends, it certainly is another good reason to consider it.
You can pick Marvel Ultimate Alliance up for £39.99