"What's all that cool stuff going on in the background?"
The main menu of Ultimate Alliance is superimposed over some of the most cinematic pre-rendered cut-scenes ever seen, this side of the latest Final Fantasy, There are flashes of Nightcrawler, Captain America, and a collection of other superheroes busting up robots with all inhuman powers that make them super. It seems Dr. Doom has reopened his Masters of Evil lodge, and challenged S.H.I.E.L.D. to a game of "watch us wreck everything in sight and bring civilization to its knees." Nick Fury didn't have enough players on his team, so he called in some ringers from the superhero community to fight the good fight, four at a time.
The story is really just a thin excuse to assemble a wide cast of mutants, freaks, and other outcasts to smash and pummel their way through the finest tourist spots in the Marvel universe. They'll descend deep under the sea in drowned Atlantis, or march high above the Earth through the halls of Asgard. The playable roster reads like a who's who of superhero-dom, from the legendary web slinger Spider-man to the old flaming skull head Ghost Rider. They have all the powers and abilities they're known for in the comics, but more importantly they kick ass.
Anyone familiar with the X-Men Legends series is going to be no stranger to the gameplay here, with punch and kick combos that can stun enemies or pop them in the air. You can still toss them around like big sacks of evil, but now a grab can lead to a rapid fist to the gut, a slam to the ground, or a disarm if they have any weapons you would like to give a whirl. There are a number of super attacks that can be charged up by holding down the button, or a rapid tap to score additional hits. One problem though with the ranged and charged attacks is they're much more difficult to aim this time around, which meant they didn't get a whole lot of use. You can also block and evade, but where's the fun in a brawler if you're not brawling?
The amount of detail poured into every level is something never seen in the previous generation, from the displays on the computer monitors, to the crackling fire, to the distortion caused by walking deep in the belly of the ocean.
Marvel: UA is made for multiplayer. Whether sitting with three other friends all crammed on one couch, or having them yelling in your ear via a headset online, that's where this game really shines. There's even an additional mode besides your standard co-op that keeps track of your stats and declares at the end who the others should all bow down to as top dog. More likely you'll have popcorn hurled at you. Even the single hero simulator missions allow the other players to take control of the enemies to dish out some friendly revenge. In fact, the only real downside to playing in a group is the difficulty just isn't that difficult, especially when they made the poor choice of locking Hard mode from the start. Believe me, the game is long enough to get your money's worth from a single run, not including spending time hunting down action figures and such to unlock all of the characters. There isn't any real need for tactics, just grab, smash, and unleash your best abilities against the bosses until they finally keel over and release a rain of colored orbs like an overstuffed piñata. These orbs heal and restore energy, which are a lot more valuable with the removal of potions from the series.