Let's remember Marvel: Ultimate Alliance


In light of the re-releases

It may seem impossible now, but in the mid-2000s (double-ohs? aughts?) superheroes weren’t everywhere. They were on their way, though. X-Men(2000) and Spider-Man(2002) were box office hits as the world collectively thought “Hey, these movies are fun as hell!” Still, your mother probably didn’t know what The Suicide Squadwas back then.

In 2016, there will be six major superhero flicks. Six! And they’re all buzzworthy events. Now, your mother probably does know what The Suicide Squad is, and she might even be able to rattle off the cast. She certainly knows that Jared Leto’s being an unrepentant asshole. Comic books are ingratiated into our culture like that now. They’re impossible to escape. It has been like that for a while.

Just before that but not much before that, Marvel: Ultimate Alliancereleased in 2006 on old and new-gen consoles. For a lot of people, it was novel in the way that it took so many characters from the Marvel universe and just smashed them all together. Anyone who watched The Hulkin 2003 (I’m sorry) knew that we’d one day get an Avengers movie. This was kind of like a precursor to that in video game form except you could play as Ghost Rider or Doctor Strange or The Thing too. (And, funny enough, you couldn’t actually assemble The Avengers unless you bought The Hulk as DLC.)

Activision was ahead of the trend with this one. In a lot of ways,Marvel: Ultimate Alliancecaptured the impending superhero craze in about the most mammoth way it could. Lines blurred as everyone fought alongside everyone else. Captain America wasn’t restricted to sticking to Captain America-centric arcs because those are his stories. He was doing stuff with Thor and Deadpool now. We didn’t necessarily know it at the time, but that sort of freedom is what a lot of people wanted to see.

It helps that — if my decade-old memories serve true — the game was a lot of fun. Sure, it was a four-player cooperative beat-’em-up where you destroy everything on the screen. We’ve seen that before. But, it somehow feels better when it’s Wolverine who’s destroying everything on screen.

Actually, we had seen Wolverine destroying everything on screen before, too.Marvel: Ultimate Alliancedeveloper Raven Software was the studio responsible forX-Men Legendsand its sequel. Those generally excellent titles were a solid framework forUltimate Alliance. Raven had proven itself proficient in making that kind of game, andUltimate Alliancewas mostly more of that but increased in scope. (Since 2011, Raven has been toiling away as part of theCall of Dutymachine.)

It’s no wonder this was a good gamein 2006. It had both a proven formula and an under-served approach on its side.Marvel: Ultimate AllianceandMarvel: Ultimate Alliance 2were both re-released today on modern consoles. But, are they good by 2016’s standards?

That probably depends on your capacity to consume superhero media. The innovation of having so many characters all packed together in one place is certainly not innovative anymore. It’s been done time and time again. However, it’s still sensible for Activision to put them back out now, especially right after San Diego Comic-Con ended. But, if these don’t live up to expectations upon re-release, it’s likely because superheroes are too popular now and this just won’t seem as special by comparison. If that’s the case, well, there will be an unfortunate irony about it.