mua.PNGIn 2004, developer Raven created the smash hit X-Men Legends. This game took Marvel’s merry mutants and sent them throughout the X-men universe in 4-player action rpg goodness. The game featured customizable stats, upgradable powers, and a huge load of fan service. Raven followed up the following year with X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse which addressed the small amount gameplay issues found in the original XML and featured a story which included even more of the X-Men universe, including elements from the Age of Apocalypse storyline. In 2006, Raven decided to let the whole Marvel universe get in on the act with Marvel Ultimate Alliance. This game allowed fans to experience their favorite (and not so favorite) Marvel super heroes in a way they never imagined possible.

After Dr. Doom and the Masters of Evil attack the SHIELD flying fortress, Nick Fury sends out a desperate call for the best of Marvel’s pantheon, including Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, and the Fantastic Four to come lend a hand. You’ll travel to places such as Asgard, Stark Industries, Arcade’s Murderworld, and even the Skrull planet as you’ll face a plethora of villains such as Ultron, Mephisto, Blackheart, Super Skrull, and even Galactus. This seems like a daunting task, but you’ll be able to pick from some of Marvel’s finest, from most of the big names such as Captain America and Wolverine, to B-listers like Luke Cage and Elektra, and even some surprises (Deadpool, Ghost Rider). There are also plenty of familiar faces that lend their support as well. Hank Pym, Vision, Wong, Professor X, and others will gladly lend their assistance. Even with a cast like this, there are bound to be some glaring omissions to the lineup (*cough*The Punisher, Sentry*hack*) as well as NPCs that should have been playable. Some versions of the game have exclusive characters, although they have seemed to be added in as an afterthought, as the presence of some of them is bound to cause some continuity trouble. In addition the the game’s levels, there are also exclusive unlockable ‘comic book missions’ that star a single character as they relive a battle from their past. These levels tend to leave a bit to be desired, due to the lack of variety in the levels and enemies. It would have been nice to see something like Spider-man taking on the Green Goblin at the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, Tony Stark’s showdown with Obadiah Stane, or Wolverine’s fight with Sabertooth in the midst of the morlock massacre.

Gameplay is similar to the X-men legends games, albeit with a few minor differences. For one, no longer do you have to purchase potions to use your powers and heal. By defeating enemies, red and blue orbs that recover your health and energy will randomly appear. This helps players keep more focused on the action rather than the resource stock. Timed button minigames have been incorporated into the gameplay. There will be situations in the game (many of which are boss battles) which you’ll have to press the buttons in a certain sequence, similar to God of War. There is also a much bigger emphasis on teamwork and co-operation than even XML. Not only can you gain stat bonuses by grouping together certain combinations of characters (Fantastic Four, New Avengers), you’ll also be able to form your own team of super heroes, complete with their own name and insignia. Use this team often, and you’ll gain customizable stat bonuses. Just like in XML, there are several unlockable costumes, and some of which are even alternate versions of certain characters. Fans will go nuts when they discover War Machine, Spidey’s black costume, Beta Ray Bill, and Spider-Girl. This time around, these costumes serve as more than just good looks, as each separate costume has its own set of enhancements and upgrades. Be warned though, the costumes are a bit more tedious to unlock than in XML, but they are worth it.

Each current generation version of the game has its own exclusive features. Xbox 360 and PS3 owners gain access to exclusive heroes Moon Knight and Colossus. Wii owners can use the wiimote to activate each character’s special powers, the PS3 version contains sixaxis motion controls, and for a price, Xbox 360 owners can download 8 exclusive characters (The Hulk, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Hawkeye, Magneto, Sabertooth, Venom, and Dr. Doom). The PSP version contains the exclusive characters Ronin, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell), and Black Widow. It also contains exclusive comic book missions, single player modes, and even a prequel level. You can’t go wrong with any version, and Marvel fans should check this game out if they haven’t done so already. also, be here next week for a special feature on X-men games, past and present.

Note: There is a special Gold Edition available for Xbox 360 which contains the exclusive downloadable characters, although this game is more than $20.