Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (Xbox 360)

I am a comic book geek. And Activision's Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is a fantastic game for me.

This is just a first impressions kind of thing, as I'm pretty early into it. But having a stable of more than two dozen characters, each with different costumes and skins that changes their stats (and in many cases, their characters altogether) is awesome. The gameplay machanics are solid, and Raven has brought what worked in their X-Men Legends I/II forward into Ultimate Alliance.

That said, even with me being a comic book geek, this game is probably an 8 out of 10. Again, just first impressions, but a lot of what makes the game work for me is the content. The following is going to sound like an ungracious laundry list, but there are a number of missed steps and mistakes.

Missed steps? Oversimplification of some of the mechanics from X-Men Legends I/II. Things like if one of your party dies, s/he "rests" for a while, and you can't pay to bring them back. This can kind of suck.

Also, there are some usability issues in the interface, like not being able to change skins on the fly, like you could in the X-Men games. Granted, this is probably partly because it's not just about changing costumes -- your stats and character change, too.

I am bummed that items aren't shareable. I have special gear for Deadpool, but I need to drop it and have him pick it up to get it to him. Nice.

Oh, and unlocking the build-your-team functionality, but you lose cred if you change it up? And not all characteres/skins are unlocked? Weak.

Probably my biggest peeve is what Dead Rising got me used to (and MUA doesn't have): Cut scenes that show what's happening in the game. If I'm playing with the Fantastic Four, and the cut scene is Nick Fury talking to Captain America, Wolverine, Elektra, Spider-Man, etc. -- that's pretty poor. Or, as I'm playing throughout the game as Captain America, and I keep having these conversations over and over with NPCs (Hank Pym, Bruce Banner, etc.) about the Super Soldier Serum, and Captain America, in the third person? Yikes.

And voiceover for all NPCs? Nope. If BioWare can do this for Mass Effect, Activision should have done it for MUA. Worse, it's sporadic. Sometimes an NPC talks, sometimes not.

And the game's not next-gen. Sure, the 360 version looks good. The cutscenes look great, but the gameplay isn't doing everything I would expect a next-gen game to do. And I'm playing the game on a 108" high-def projector, so it rocks. I think this may be a more painful game on a standard size/def TV. Especially in Co-op. Honestly, I think the Dungeons & Dragons Heroes exclusive on the original Xbox was a prettier (and under-rated) game, with waaaaay better water.

And this game is buggy. Seriously, I've seen more bugs, stickings, and the like in the first 10th of the game than I saw in X-Men Legends I and II combined. In Atlantis, Iron Man wigged out, and looked like that bug in old 2D games where all frames of the sprite showed at once.

OK, so it sounds pretty bitchy, so it's a good thing the content is so good, as is the overall treatment of the license. And it's a solid RPG -- if a bit of a grind.

But it's a comic book grind. And I get to be Cap.

"When Captain America slings his mighty shield! ..."

No comments: