Marvel Ultimate Alliance and its sequel were both good games made during the last console generation, but they haven’t aged too well for their rerelease on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. As a big Marvel Comics fan, I love being able to control more than 100 characters from the comics in one big epic story. The amount of fanfare and nods to popular storylines and characters made me, and just about every other Marvel fan, feel a sense of glee while playing through both Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. But this doesn’t help minimize the many technical flaws and missing elements found in both titles that are part of the new Marvel Ultimate Alliance bundle released by Activision.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance and its sequel are known for their large cast of characters from the Marvel universe. Everyone from the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, The Avengers, and many others appear as playable characters or quick cameos in the stories of both games. Ultimate Alliance tells a story about the Marvel heroes teaming up to battle Doctor Doom and save the universe, while Ultimate Alliance 2 follows a similar plot to the one found in the Civil War comic story arc.
If you’re into Marvel Comics, Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2 have plenty of fanfare for you to enjoy. Both games play like any dungeon-crawler and include large maps to explore and secrets to find. Things do gets repetitive quickly at the start, but fighting against groups of enemies is fast paced and exciting when using the various powers of your favorite Marvel super heroes at will.
Both games are almost identical to their original releases, but they suffer from many bugs and visual hiccups I noticed throughout the time I spend playing each of them. Marvel Ultimate Alliance has a very annoying game bug that holds your character in place after switching control between different heroes. There were many times I would be in a boss fight and take massive damage from attacks because I was stuck in place after switching to a different hero. This happened frequently and became a huge problem in later portions of the game, where enemies were much stronger and faster.
A lot of the glitches from the original release, such as being stuck on platforms and falling endlessly in place after jumping, still haven’t been addressed whatsoever. At one point, my team strangely levitated in the air after a cutscene. My A.I. partners wouldn’t move at all and just levitated stoically in place. Eventually I got around this by switching control to each hero and moving them around to make things normal again, but this happened very often throughout my game.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 has fewer game bugs, but instead suffers from audio issues. It’s already known that the PC version has a terrible buzzing sound that continuously plays all the time, making the game nearly unplayable. The console version has no buzzing noise at all, but the dialogue and sound effect levels are completely unbalanced. I wouldn’t be able to hear a character speak sometimes because of the background sound effects overpowering their dialogue. Adjusting the volume levels in the option menu helps fix this problem a bit, but some cutscenes and gameplay sections would still have the dialogue downed out by other sounds. If you’re like me and want to hear what every character has to say, this can get really annoying.
The online modes for both games are horrendous. You can carry over your saved data from your offline game into online matchmaking in both games, but this only matters if you can get a stable connection online. Matchmaking involves a whole lot of waiting and drop-out issues, rendering the online modes completely useless. Even after I invited some friends into a cooperative room, the game constantly slowed to a crawl and endlessly tried to reconnect everyone in the room, bringing everything to a standstill. Its terrible and really didn’t offer any sliver of fun to my entire experience with both games.
A big issue that has carried over from the original release of both games is pausing during an online game. Anyone can pause the game at any time and force everyone into a stand still. This could have been solved by allowing players to bring up the game’s menu without stopping the entire game completely. It goes completely ignored here and totally breaks the online experience. It’s a very archaic problem that seems lazy to go unaddressed.
Another major issue with this bundle is the missing content from Marvel Ultimate Alliance. In the past, Activision released Marvel Ultimate Alliance Gold Edition on Xbox 360, which contained extra characters and missions that also became downloadable content for PlayStation 3 owners. None of that extra content is available, which is very odd since there was a significant amount of characters made for the game. It begs the question, why didn’t Activision use the Gold Edition of Marvel Ultimate Alliance for this bundle rather than the older incomplete version?
Furthermore, there is an absence of all the exclusive content from the PlayStation Portable version of the game. This means no playable Hawkeye, Black Widow, Ronin, or Captain Marvel, as well as no inclusion of the extra modes (Uber Hero, Hardcore Mode) from the PSP. What’s confusing is how Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 actually has all of its downloadable characters included into the game. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Missing out on all that content makes Marvel Ultimate Alliance for PlayStation 4 feel like a incomplete and vastly inferior to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions released years ago.
I may be a big fan of these games, but the Marvel Ultimate Alliance bundle just isn’t a very good package. A lot of content is missing from the first game, which makes this port look very lazy. There was absolutely no reason to not include all of the previously released downloadable content, especially since the second game in the bundle is more complete than the first. The technical and audio issues in both games are annoying and could have been easily fixed or tweaked. If you’re driven by nostalgia or your love for Marvel Comics, then you might find some solace playing through both Ultimate Alliance games again. If not, stay way until this bundle is available on a good sale.
This review was based on a digital review code for the Marvel Ultimate Alliance bundle on the PlayStation 4 provided by Activision.