There’s a lot of wiggle room in this day and age for re-masters and re-releases, unfortunately Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 don’t really fit the measure.
Both games are decent enough and play just as they did a decade or so ago, so why would you bother paying top-dollar for the PS4 versions? The truth is, you shouldn’t. There’s nothing in either game that warrants the asking price. As far as re-releases go, this is the standard Activision affair; low-budget, low effort, low satisfaction.
I’ll start by saying that I’m actually rather fond of these games and remember playing them to death after I’d had my wicked way with X-Men Legends and its sequel, so in that respect, both games work as intended. They’re lite-RPG dungeon crawlers with a superhero coat glossed over the top. Think Diablo for non-Diablo fans, and a lot more basic.
At any one time you’re in control of a team of four meta-humans that you can switch between at will with a tap of the corresponding d-pad buttons. Simple enough. You make your way through the game by smashing enemies through a combination of light and heavy attacks, as well as the super-attacks which are triggered with a pull of R2 and one of the face buttons. There’s room for customisation here, though only a small amount. You can assign different attacks to different face buttons and you can swap out the different attacks for ones that you’ll earn along the way as your characters level up. You can also upgrade the different powers by collecting in-game currency by smashing crates, cars, barrels, etc.
It’s a simple enough concept and it works really, really well with the cream of Marvel’s crop. And that’s about it. If you’ve played the games before, you’ve just read what you already know, and if you haven’t, then I’ve just told you all you need to know. There’s a story providing the reason why you’re running around doing the super stuff you’re doing, but it’s not really the focal point of either game and, in hindsight, they aren’t particularly memorable tales; the original X-Men Legends did it better.
So, now that the formalities are out of the way, how do the games stack up today? In fairness, they both look as you’d expect, and although Marvel and Activision claimed that there’s been some enhancements in the audio and visual presentation of the games, as well as performance tweaks, I can’t really say I noticed any tangible improvements. Put it this way, if you stuck me in front of either game and placed a cover on the PS4 and told me I was playing a PS3 game, I’d believe you. They still look like last-gen releases, and they sound like them, too.
The audio is alright for the most part, but there’s still a certain flatness that rings through the effects. Smashing a crate provides a dull and slightly off-putting sound effect that sounds like it was recorded on an iPod in 2006. The cut-scenes aren’t any better, either, and they’re supposed to be the main story-telling vehicle for the game. Unfortunately they’ve been left pretty much untouched and as a result, they look pretty piss poor with bad compression and a blurry look to them.
I never actually got to review these games when they first released because, well, I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now. I’m sure that back then I’d have lauded them with praise and rewarded a fairly high score, but today, in the here and now with a PS4 running these games alongside other re-releases (The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, etc.) I can’t say they’re value for money.
If you’re desperate to join up with Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the super-squad, I’d recommend waiting for these to drop down to a reasonable price because, despite being solid games in the gameplay department, they just don’t deserve to be bought at the current market price. The re-releases were made with one purpose in mind: capitalise on the popularity of Marvel. Nothing more, nothing less. Fans be damned, Activision just wanted to make a quick buck. I’m sorry to say they’ve got more of mine than I’d have liked.