Just about ten years back, right when Neversoft made their first “Spider-Man” game for the PS1, superhero games started getting good. There were some decent ones before that, games like “Batman” on the NES, but they were generally generic platformers and beat ‘em ups. These days, we’re flush with great superhero games that really get what superheroics are all about. “Spider-Man 2” gave us the freedom of swinging through New York, “X-Men Legends” gave us team dynamics and a great story, and most recently “Batman: Arkham Asylum” gave us an adventure that made use of every tool in the Dark Knight franchise’s chest.
Few superhero games have managed what “Marvel Ultimate Alliance” did in terms of fan service though, and Vicarious Vision’s “Ultimate Alliance 2” has just upped the ante. Both games are solid action-RPGs, improvements on the fundamentals Raven Software established in “X-Men Legends”, but what their wealth of characters, Marvel Comics lore, and flat out nerdier is second to none. It makes you wonder just what they’ll be able to accomplish in “Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3”. If that game has these five characters in it when it’s made, it will be the nerdiest game ever made, and it will be all the better for it.
Comedy in superhero comics usually falls into one of two categories: satire or sarcasm. Pithy one-liners or spit-takes are usually all you get. Flat out, Tex Avery-style cartoon yucks just don’t usually jive with the angst and bravado that typifies the field. Marvel’s all but forgotten character Slapstick is one of the few exceptions to the rule. His power is that he is literally a living cartoon, able to fall off cliffs, survive explosions, and pull funny faces just like Wile E. Coyote. How awesome would it be to spend an Xbox Live session pounding bad guys with a giant cartoon mallet?
The problem with X-Men characters is that, even when there’s a ton of X-Men characters in a big Marvel game, there are just too many to include all of them. Bad asses like Chamber tend to get the short shrift in favor of more recognizable characters like Cyclops. His powers don’t distinguish themselves particularly from the wealth on display in “Ultimate Alliance 2”. He’s overflowing with psionic energy, which in game terms equates to being able to blast people. But he looks totally rad. He only has half a face! He looks like Raziel from “Soul Reaver” but with fire instead of moldy scarf! That alone warrants his inclusion.
Now that “Ultimate Alliance 2” has put playable villains into the mix, it’s time to get Parker Robbins into the mix. See, most super baddies are grand standing psychos and sociopaths. Few are plain old-fashioned thugs. Robbins is a thug. When he breaks into a warehouse to steal goods to fence and runs into a demon instead, what does he do? Bargain for powers? Become the demon’s powered-up minion? Nope. Robbins shoots that demon in the face and takes his stuff, namely his hood which gives Robbins his powers. Cloaking, twin-pistols, and a mean streak make for a kick ass controllable game character.
The original Marvel Boy was a typical blonde goody two-shoes hero from the 1940s. He was a pansy. The most recent Marvel Boy is named Noh-Varr. He’s a twenty-something alien stranded on Earth and angry that some rich human murdered his entire family. His DNA is spliced with that of an insect. The first thing he did on the planet was shoot the words “FU** YOU” into New York City so they could be read from space. You telling me you don’t want to play as that guy in a game?
Rescue really couldn’t have been included in “Ultimate Alliance 3” considering she only came into existence about six months ago. Rescue is actually Pepper Potts, assistant and would-be girlfriend of Iron Man. Her suit of armor, besides looking totally rad, distinguishes itself from Iron Man’s in that it has no offensive capabilities whatsoever. It can only create magnetic fields to exert force. Which would mean you would essentially have access to gravity gun and force powers while running around fighting bad guys in “Ultimate Alliance 3”. Hell yes.
Images courtesy of Marvel Comics and Marvel.com