Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 1 & 2 (Xbox One) Review

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance joins a long and growing list of games being tweaked to release on current generation platforms.  With each offering being a hit or miss, where does Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2 fall?

Before we look at how the games have translated to the newer systems, let's look at how they play as games.  Both games are action RPGs that play from an isometric point of view.  You play as a team of four heroes (or villains!), attacking and using your super powers to fight off various enemies.  You control one character at a time while the AI handles the rest.  You can jump (some characters can fly), pick up and throw objects, and in general, cause a lot of mayhem in your quest to save the day.  The games are fairly linear, moving you from one location to the next as the story dictates.

Both games play largely the same, but Ultimate Alliance 2 adds team up special moves and healing items.  The healing items are self-explanatory, although it can be tough to know who to heal since it only shows your current character's HP.  The team up moves are pretty cool, coming in several flavors (aimed, AoE, etc.) and differing depending on which characters you team up for the attack.

Combat is pretty fun, but there are a few minor quibbles I have with the game.  In the first Ultimate Alliance, it can be hard to keep track of your character.  There are times when there are swarms of enemies, explosion effects, and even parts of the environment clogging your view.  Even with the colored ring at your character's feet, it can be very easy to lose yourself.  Plus, with no healing items it is a huge pain to resurrect fallen allies, as you have to wait out a timer and retrieve them from a save point, or reach a save point and swap them out.  It's kind of a bummer when you have characters you want to use, but can't since they are still injured.

The second game's problem is more the interface.  Switching character is still on the d-pad, but their position shifts on-screen when you switch.  It doesn't actually change which direction you press, but there is a disconnect with the direction their portrait is displayed versus the direction you select them with.  I don't have this problem in the first game.  To heal or use a team-up move, you hold a button and then press another to choose who to use it on/team up with.  The problem is the button is displayed over the character, not their portrait, so it is really hard to make out which button to press when it is displayed as a tiny picture over the head of a moving character.  These aren't game-breaking, but they can be really annoying.

The Xbox One and PS4 versions are smoother than their last-gen counterparts.  Beyond that, there isn't much extra flair added to the visuals.  The pre-rendered cutscenes look the same as they were before.  Character models, areas and visual effects don't appear to be beefed up in any way besides looking smoother.  Both games ran really well with no hangups, even after playing several hours in a row.  So while they haven't been changed in any significant way, at least they run really well.

Both games each offer 12-15 hours of content, with multiple characters to use and unlock.  You can play them with others online and off.  Couch co-op players will all need to sign in, which can be a pain.  That's mostly a symptom of current gaming rather than the game, though.  Also, since the game is several years old, keeping all characters on the same screen feels a bit more restrictive than something like Diablo 3.  Strangely, the Ultimate Alliance 1 DLC is not included, but it is for Ultimate Alliance 2.  Activision has confirmed that a patch will be en route fix this, which I am hoping comes soon.  I really want to use Venom and Doom in the first game!

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 & 2 are still fun games, whether you play by yourself or with friends.  Gameplay and content hold up well to current games.  Visually, they aren't much different from their previous gen counterparts, which is a bit of a shame, considering the price tag.  If you have played them before and would like to go through them again, or are now interested in trying them out, both games hold up well and are worth playing, but maybe not at the current price.  Digital copies of the games for the previous generation of systems have been much cheaper in the past, making the pricing on this release a bit on the high side.

The Good:
The games are still really fun and have some good character choices.

The Bad:
The games look slightly better, but that's about it.  No other real changes.

The SaHD:
I'd really like to know how they missed the first game's DLC coming with it.  The version on the 360 marketplace has it in.  Did they not use that file?

(Review code for Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Bundle was provided by the publisher)

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