Activision seems to have this habit of re-releasing games from a previous generation onto new systems, mainly fueled by general interest in franchises. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of companies are doing re-issues these days. But the company’s proven that they don’t always work for the best, with FunLabs putting less-than-impressive work into its translations of the Prototype games and Deadpool. (Not that they were bad games – they can still be fun with the right frame of mind.)
The publisher’s latest effort (the just-released Transformers: Fall of Cybertron aside – we’ll look at that soon) is the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Combo Pack, which consists of both Ultimate Alliance games in one convenient package. (They can be purchased separately as well, if you prefer one over the other.)
If you missed out on these games before, here’s the lowdown. Remember that team-switching action dynamic that made the X-Men Legends games work so well years ago? The Ultimate Alliance games utilize that, but with a much larger cast of characters, and, thanks to UA2, the ability to combine talents to create some truly beautiful attacks. And yes, that includes Iron Man firing a laser at Captain America’s shield and sending beams bouncing all over the place.
The original Ultimate Alliance wasn’t too bad for its time, but it’s a game that’s clearly showing its age with this new collection. The frame rate slows a bit below 30 frames per second from time to time, and you can just tell that the beat-em-up system is a bit uninspired compared to the X-Men Legends game. That said, the game has merit in its team dynamic, especially once you get some fellow friends in the fray for local multiplayer.
However, be warned – the game does advertise online multiplayer, but it can really take some time to connect. Once you do, some lag does set in from time to time – Activision didn’t set aside major servers for a game such as this – so be prepared to struggle every now and then. This is obviously the weaker game of the bunch, but completists may feel the need to go after it anyway, just to have the whole comic book story.
The treat, though, is Ultimate Alliance 2. It’s like FunLabs struggled to make Ultimate Alliance work on consoles, but found everything working in its favor with UA2. The frame rate stays high and consistent, around 60 FPS most of the time (even during the more frantic action sequences), and the online play works much better – even though there’s still a hint of lag.
Perhaps the real treat, though, is the expanded storyline (think Civil War, with plenty of weight behind it), along with the roster adding more great heroes, including good ol’ Deadpool. And the combo attacks go a long way too, even if they tend to get slightly repetitive over time. Hey, it’s great seeing what new characters add to the overall picture anyway – where else can you see the likes of Venom and Wolverine team up?
So I have mixed feelings about the Ultimate Alliance Combo Pack. On the one hand, Ultimate Alliance 1 still feels a bit weak compared to other games in the Marvel lexicon, and FunLabs didn’t really go out of its way to provide it with any justice. On the other, though, Ultimate Alliance 2 has been given a rather strong treatment, and will make Marvel fans feel right at home. So I suppose the final recommendation is this – save yourself $20 and go right after Ultimate Alliance 2 on its own (for $40). You’ll pocket some cash in the process and still have more than enough beat-em-up fun to go around.
With that, I hope FunLabs continues to explore what needs to be done with these redesigns, and follows the Ultimate Alliance 2 standard – and not so much the Ultimate Alliance 1 one.