In the grim darkness of 2016, there are only ports of old games. Well, “remasters” of older games. If you’re a publisher and want to scrape up a couple more pennies here and there you could do worse than re-releasing some of your back catalogue on modern systems. It was only a matter of time before we saw the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games again, given their immense popularity, and now here they are, ready to gobble up your cash yet again in one tidy package called, appropriately enough, the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Bundle.
The bundle actually contains both Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (2006) and its sequel, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009), and can be purchased separately. But you definitely want the bundle as both games are essentially a sort of Diablo-lite; you control four iconic superheroes and beat the crap out of tons of baddies, collecting loot and power-ups along the way. Victory yields experience points which eventually become levels and skill points to invest, but this is by no means a hardcore RPG and you can generally win by using your favorite heroes and investing your skill points in your favorite powers. The most important aspect of the gameplay is the presence of cooperative play; while these are decent games alone, they shine when you’re playing with a friend.
Of the two games, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is definitely the superior title, both technically and in terms of gameplay. The most significant addition to the formula is the presence of Fusion attacks, which allow you to combine the powers of two heroes to unleash powerful damaging attacks. MUA2’s focus on the Civil War storyline in the comics is also incorporated into the gameplay. If you aren’t familiar with Marvel lore, Civil War is based around an inter-hero conflict over whether or not superheroes should be required to register with the government; you’re able to choose a side on this conflict, which affects both the heroes that you can use and their available powers. There was even a movie version of it this year – you should check it out!
These are older games, and despite the remaster you shouldn’t come in expecting a high-quality graphical masterpiece. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1, in particular, was probably a real looker when it launched back in 2006, but it certainly hasn’t aged well and looks kind of muddy and gross. Both games do run well enough, at least on the PlayStation 4; some investigation suggests that the PC versions are in much worse shape and probably shouldn’t be recommended, but I can’t speak to this either way.
For older games, though, the price on these titles is kind of high. You can buy each title individually at $40 or both at $60, which is a bit nuts for games that are nearly a decade old. Still, something could be said for being able to pick up MUA2 at all, since it’s well known that this is one of the more rare games from recent years and it could be difficult to find. One irritating quirk is that while MUA2 includes that game’s DLC, MUA1 does not, and while there are promises that it will be patched in, it’s baffling as to why this content wasn’t available to begin with.
Still, despite the high price and dated looks, these are both excellent games that are well-suited for cooperative play. If you’ve got a friend to pick these up with, then the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Bundle really shouldn’t be missed, especially if it’s your first time playing through some of the better Marvel games of the past decade. That goes double if your friend is wiling to split the price with you!