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Two years after X-Men: Legends 2-Rise of Apocalypse, Activision and Raven Software created the most ambitious Marvel video game yet.
After two successful games with the X-Men and the inclusion of both Deadpool and Iron Man in the X-Men: Legends sequel, the video game creators released Marvel: Ultimate Alliance on October 24, 2006, for several platforms including three different PlayStations, two different Xboxes, the Nintendo Wii, and Microsoft Windows.
Just like both X-Men: Legends games, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance allowed players to create their teams out of 16 playable and seven unlockable characters. Each of these characters could be used by four separate players or by one lone gamer alternating between each hero. There were pre-set teams that followed the comic book storylines such as the Fantastic Four, New Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, and Wolverine), and the X-Men (Colossus, Cyclops, Iceman, and Storm). Also, there were unique combination groups such as Air Force (Human Torch, Ms. Marvel, Storm, and Thor), Dark Past (Blade, Elektra, Ghost Rider, and Spider-Woman) and Weapon Specialists (Captain America, Deadpool, Elektra, and Iron Man). If players worked with any of the unique combination groups, they would receive a team benefit which would help them survive the experience.
One factor that made Marvel: Ultimate Alliance so successful was that the game did not just limit the players to Earth. Throughout the game’s five acts, the player would be able to reach every major arena in the Marvel Universe. They could travel to Namor’s Atlantis in Act One, speak to Wong in Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Santorum in Act Two, face off against Loki and the Enchantress in Asgard during Act Three, and defend both Sh’Iar Empress Lilandra and the Skrulls’ home planet in Act Four.
The main story of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance follows our favorite heroes and anti-heroes from stopping Doctor Doom and his cabal (Baron Mordo, Enchantress, Loki, and Ultron) from stealing Odin’s powers and conquering the world. Along the way, Doom and the Masters of Evil throw every possible Marvel villains at our heroes from Spider-Man’s classic foes (Lizard, Mysterio, and Rhino) and Arcade to arcane adversaries such as Fin Fang Foom and Mephisto.
What made Marvel: Ultimate Alliance unique from the X-Men: Legends franchise was that players’ actions had consequences. For instance, players rescued Senator Robert Kelly from Arcade in Act Two; then he would successfully sponsor a bill which would allow funds for schools like the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning to teach mutants how to use their powers efficiently. If players failed to save the Skrull planet in Act Four, their failure would cause another war between the Skrulls and the Kree alien races.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance received high praise from fans and video game publications. IGN gave it an 8.1 out of 10 and stated that it was the “Best Story on PlayStation 3 in 2006.” Wizard Magazine called it the Video Game of the Year and GameSpot awarded the game its 2006 Best Use of a Creative License Award.
A Troubled Second Chapter
While fans were promised a sequel to the video game, several things happened that might have changed the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance universe… for the worse.
Raven Software, who was the backbone of both X-Men: Legends games and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, did not participate in the creation process. Also, multiple developers created this game. Vicarious Visions focused on both PlayStations 3 and Xbox 360), while n-Space only focused Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, and Nintendo Wii. Without a uniform platform, the graphics varied, and it severely limited the experience.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 brought elements of fan-favorite storylines including Secret War and Civil War. Nick Fury asked Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Wolverine to sneak into Latveria after discovering that Doom’s replacement, Lucia von Bardas, is supplying weapons to supervillains. While the raid was successful, von Bardas vowed revenge and followed the heroes back to the USA and created mass destruction.
This incident along with the superhuman Nitro’s brutal slaughter of 600 citizens at Stamford, Connecticut forced the US Government to create the Superhuman Registration Act. The Congressional Act divided the superhero groups into the two warring factions. Iron Man lead the Pro-Registration side, while Captain America and his allies became the Secret Avengers who protested the act. The situation gets complicated when the Pro-Registration decides to recruit supervillains such as Venom and the Green Goblin into their fold. To keep them in check, Iron Man had the villains injected with nanites to control their homicidal urges.
Sadly, the nanites became sentient and infected almost every hero and villain including Nick Fury. Now known as the Fold, both sides paused their feud and chased Nick Fury and the Fold to Black Panther’s kingdom of Wakanda. After saving Wakanda, the heroes discover that the Thinker was behind the Fold’s creation and had to stop an overpowered Nick Fury from destroying the world.
One of the downfalls of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is that the player chooses a side. Because of selecting a team, players lost the opportunity to play as certain characters. The Pro-Registration would have missed playing as Captain America and Gambit, while the Anti-Registration would miss out playing as Iron Man and Ms. Marvel. By limiting players to either side’s toy box, it dwindles the player’s interest in the game. Another downfall was the developer’s ability to bring the game to life. While Vivacious Visions’ version of the game for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 received solid reviews, both n-Space and Savage Entertainment got harsh ratings from video game reviewers.
If Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is re-visited for a third installment, both Activision and Marvel should invite Raven Software back into the fold and also follow up the first game by following Galactus’s revenge against Earth’s heroes.