On the flipside, playing M:UA alone isn't nearly as fun. At first, there's the rush of all the different characters and powers to try while getting a grip on the new gameplay additions, but too early on you'll be settled in with a few choice characters with a few special powers that you never seem able to use quite as often as you might like. Fighting random thugs becomes killing time before the more interesting sub-boss and final boss encounters, where the difficulty jumps and clever gimmicks appear to spice up what otherwise becomes a button mash fest. Part of the difficulty comes from an uncooperative AI that rarely seems to use its powers, even set in full on aggressive mode. It's baffling that they removed the ability to set which power the AI would use when called for, which helped overcome this problem in the past. Yet the AI still will occasionally wander off cliffs and stand in hot lava for the heck of it.
Powering up your heroes is a bit more streamlined than Legends II, but it still has a way to go. Attributes are assigned automatically (as everything else can be if you want), with the pips to be put on what powers you favor, but this time you won't have to lay out a bankroll to shuffle those around later on. You can assign what powers of the six to use in battle, but there's an annoying restriction where you can only equip one boost related power at once, and the xtreme ability is locked into the top slot, which I ended up using once an area, if that. You can change this powers on the fly, but it's pretty tedious to pull off in the middle of a firefight. Passive abilities have been moved to various unlockable costumes, though you need to choose where to spend your money with care, since if you choose another suit it won't be refunded. The series is now down to a single piece of equipment to provide a wide range of boosts, but when most are restricted to a specific character, they're better dropping the system altogether. I never want to see the message "inventory full" in this series ever again.
If you're going to play it at all, you better play it in high definition, or at least a really good TV. 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. The light from super powers are real lighting sources, casting shadows and adding flashes of color to the room. Though at the same time it's all a bit static and lacking in interactivity, with only a few chosen items that can be hurled or smashed into pieces for coins or energy orbs. The level layout tends to be strings of corridors linked to small rooms, never resulting in some of the confusion that was a problem with Legends II, but it does create a feeling of being a bit confined. The occasional nonlinear approach helps to liven things up, and keep the game from feeling like a seemingly endless hallway.
My time with Marvel: Ultimate Alliance was a pretty polarizing experience. Smashing through it with a friend or two, the levels all seemed about the right length, with the various bosses all well placed, and only dragged in spots where challenges forced us to drag around blocks to proceed. Slugging through it alone, and the game seemed to drag, with more time was spent micromanaging my team to punch through the mediocre ally AI. There's a lot of levels, characters, and optional goodies to collect up and covet, including enough story on the mythos of the Marvel universe to convert new fans. Diehard Marvel fans will like it either way, but for others it's a solid brawler that will last through many gaming sessions, especially if you bring a friend along.