Marvel Ultimate Alliance was by no means the first video game outing for The Avengers, yet with the release of the ambitious Marvel’s Avengers from Square Enix, this classic comic-inspired dungeon crawler is still fondly remembered long after its release more than a decade ago.
Developed by Raven Software, Marvel Ultimate Alliance can be viewed as the third instalment of a Marvel roleplaying game series which started with the superb X-Men Legends and X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse.
However, with the X-Men’s popularity waning as we slipped into the late noughties, Activision and Raven broadened their scope for the follow-up. Marvel Ultimate Alliance would not only feature key X-Men characters such as Wolverine, Iceman, and Storm, but Spider-Man too as well as The Avengers and The Fantastic Four with plenty of other favourite cameos.
Although no longer available to purchase due to pesky licensing agreements, Marvel Ultimate Alliance and its direct sequel re-released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Despite some technical issues, the games themselves hold up just fine. The top-down dungeon crawling of the original relies more on persistent button bashing rather than superhero strategies depicted in comics, yet there’s a certain fun to be had from running each gauntlet, battering a cavalcade of villains ripped from the pages of our favourite comics. Especially with a few friends in the same room.
2009’s Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 then saw Vicarious Visions take the helm in a more polished and robust sequel centred around the Civil War storyline. Grittier than its predecessor, the action here was more deliberate and involved. One particularly great touch was the new fusion mechanic allowing two heroes to perform a special attack, unique to each pairing. For example, combining Captain America with Iron Man would trigger a set piece move in which the former uses his shield to reflect a concentrated beam, wiping the screen of all enemies.
Then there was the story, too. You could choose whether to be pro and anti registration which would lock out certain characters during a playthrough. In general, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 crammed in an impressive amount of contextual dialogue that would change depending on which hero you had control of in that particular scene.
While you can’t pick them up on current systems anymore, you can still find second hand physical copies of both of these games on past generation hardware and they’re definitely worth exploring if you don’t mind their repetitive nature and some rough edges.
It would be rude of us not to mention Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, but there’s good reason why we haven’t thus far. It’s a markedly different experience compared to these first two games. It’s technically a sequel, sure, but it’s one developed by Team Ninja and with a different design ethos. Still, the Nintendo Switch exclusive scored a mighty 8/10 in our review. Excelsior!
With Marvel’s Avengers launching on September 4th for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, have you been revisiting any superhero video games to get you in the mood?