Before I go into why I love this game I have to drop a disclaimer. This game means a lot to me and some of my friends at different times so there will be a layer of brostalgia in this review. When I first started playing the game on the Playstation 2 I only had my brother to help me finish it one time and it was not until a fair while later when we launched the Guild of Lost Travelers that we sat down and decided to finish as much of the game as possible and would complete its botched sequels but this article is not about them.
At the time Activision announced they would be releasing Marvel Ultimate Alliance, at a time when super heroes had just re-entered the main stream and pop culture mostly thanks to the success of the Spider-Man films that were box office smashes and the Blade movies which too garnered a decent fan base. Daredevil and Punisher introduced newer and younger fans to some of their vast stable of characters and even teens like myself were eager for the game having grown up with the X-Men animated series and other animated series that were still being re-run. Having grown up in the 90s Marvel vs Capcom and the arcade game cemented my love for the franchise in games as even back then I preferred a coop experience having a twin brother who equally enjoyed the characters and comics.
The early 2000s saw unbridled creativity and cutthroat competition as the console wars were still raging on and video games were only continue to grow in sales and publicity. At the time of the games announcement the last good agreed upon game but critics and gamers alike was the Spider-Man linked to the franchise but Ultimate Spider-Man changed that but DC firmly had the better titles coming off the success most of their Batman titles and Activision would be going up against Batman: Begins and Ubisoft’s tried and true formula of popular crime fighting platformers. Only thing was that this time around they had a blockbuster tie in with to really give it that finish especially after the great reception of Nolan’s vision of the caped crusader ushered in its own era for the hero.
Activision and Raven Software would release an action RPG beat-em up to good media reception as reviewers would praise the roster of heroes and arsenal of powers and costumes. The smooth engine paired with the art of Dan Hay (Far Cry)and Ludovic Pinard (Disciples II series)) Marvel Ultimate Alliance looked and played great. With loads of content jammed into the title their was enough replay value through the collecting of simulator discs, character costumes and alternate squads playing different kept players trying each formation to find a favorite. I can recall getting it for PC and playing it with 2 old USB gamepads and had a great time finishing it during college.
Raven Software managed to create a gaming experience that managed to give comic book fans old and new alike a way to feel they were playing through a comic. The writing was fun and felt grabbed off panels especially for Spidey and Deadpool, who actually made his first video game appearance as a playable character in MUA. Fan favorites like Daredevil, Dr. Strange, Luke Cage, Wolverine and the Fantastic Four but some of the playable characters and allowed for more variety in playing.
Level design was done creatively and though they are not challenging they can make for fun and engaging gameplay and I cannot stress enough how much you want to play this with 3 other friends. The couch coop mayhem is ridiculous and addictive especially at the harder levels. Bosses varied and bringing out Doom and other greats such as Mysterio, Loki, Dr. Doom and Mandarin are but some of the villains you face off against. Granted the bosses are not too hard to defeat but that is forgivable considering this game was also targeted at a younger audience at the time. The side missions in the form of the simulator discs gives your bosses and maps making it a truly complete game in that era.
The voice acting was solid and the score is pleasant flowing in and out from scene to scene. This game does a lot of fan service in the form of trivia and when I was younger it helped me learn a lot about the less familiar characters. Quick time events aside the games make for great fun and its arcade mode allowed you to play more players passing the controller around. This is a must for anybody who enjoys Marvel movies and shows and has no gore or profanity meaning it can also work for a family game night. The online was also very popular at the time and I can remember reading about friends playing together from across the globe and duking it out at a time only growing the fans of these heroes further.
With the re-releases on Xbox One and PS4 you have more content and smoother graphics I would recommend it to anyone who does not have any hard copies or legacy consoles ready. Of the older versions I would say stay away from the Playstation 3 version just because of the stupid motion controls. I personally owned it on 4 platforms at one time and completed them all and would say This game is a true gem which will take you back to a pre Disney Marvel and will get glimpses Golden Age and classic comic characters and settings and harkens back to a simpler decade. As a fellow reviewer said it, it was a simpler and more fun time where politics did not find its way into our escapism. Truly a moment in time, a time capsule and I will always remember it fondly and it will always have its place in both gaming and the hearts of comic fans.
I give to this game 8.5 out of 10
The points that were deducted were for lack of more playable characters and some bugs that were frustrating at times. The writing at certain times falls short and not having unlockable endgame content could have been better and no expansion for the PC was disappointing.