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In recent years, it's become a truism that Marvel doesn't make great console games. But that wasn't always the case; back in 2006, we saw Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, a classic action role-playing game that saw players band together superheroes from across the Marvel Universe! 2009's lacklustre sequel, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, was based on the "Civil War" plot; since then, with only a few Spiderific exceptions, Marvel just hasn't performed well on the gaming side of things.
It looks as though Marvel - and the gaming company Activision - are planning to bring this franchise back. So far, we know that both Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 are being released for the PS4 and the Xbox One. That will immediately bring at least one of Marvel's best games straight to these next-gen consoles. (I'm not holding my breath for the games' predecessors, the two superb X-Men Legends games; the X-Men don't have much of a presence in Marvel games right now, possibly due to awkward merchandising issues with Fox.)
But could this be a first step in the right direction? We know it won't mean more Activision Spider-Man games - the future of Spider-Man is with Sony and Insomniac - but could Marvel and Activision relaunch the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance franchise?
Why the Time is Right to the Return of Ultimate Alliance
Activision and Marvel had worked closely together since 1986's Howard the Duck (don't ask), but only got round to a full-on publishing deal in 1998. Together, Marvel and Activision released more than 30 games, ranging from X-Men Legends to Deadpool. But in January 2014, the deal expired, and Marvel chose not to renew it.
The was probably connected to decisions by their parent company, Disney, who was focused on in-house development - such as Disney Infinity, which featured countless Marvel superheroes. Earlier this year, though, Disney once again changed their approach to games. The company chose to shut down Disney Infinity, closing Avalanche Studios, and shift their focus back to working with partners in order to release games.
For Activision, that likely means a new opportunity to work with Marvel. When the contract expired, all Marvel / Activision games were removed from Xbox Live, Steam, and PXN. The fact that two of these games are being re-released for next-gen consoles indicates that something's changed; the two companies have come to some sort of agreement.
That means new opportunities may well be available for Activision - and that might just include a relaunch for Ultimate Alliance.
So what could happen in 'Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 3'?
The first Ultimate Alliance had an original story, but the second was strongly based on the "Civil War" event. Given recent years have seen Marvel focus in on an annual 'event' (the latest is "Civil War II"), there's no shortage of material for Activision to base a game on!
That said, my money would be on "Secret Wars" (last year's event, and Marvel's biggest ever). It has everything you could possibly want from an Ultimate Alliance title - in "Secret Wars", the entire Marvel Multiverse was compressed into a single Battleworld, ruled by Doctor Doom. That gives you a massive range of locations, from sci-fi dystopias to the Westchester of the classic X-Men Animated Series! With countless alternate-dimension versions of Marvel's superheroes, you'd have an unlimited roll-call, and a phenomenal range of skins for your characters.
What's more, since 2009 Marvel has focused in on developing a whole new range of superheroes - characters like Kamala Khan's Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, Silk, Miles Morales's Spider-Man, and the unbeatable Squirrel Girl (yes, you read that right). Where previous games only featured some legendary superheroes and a handful of other characters, there's now potential to bring a massive cast into play. Perhaps a good few of them could be available as downloadable content, adding revenue to the game.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 was something of a disappointment, but I doubt there are any Marvel fans who wouldn't be excited to see Marvel and Activision working together once again. Re-releasing the first two games on next-gen consoles is all well and good, but what the fans are really wanting to see is something fresh, something new - something truly next-gen. Let's hope we see Marvel and Activision relaunch this ever-popular franchise!