Review by The Purple Pantywaist
In a few points better than X Men Legends (I &II), in a bunch worse. All discussed here
X Men Legends I & II were 2 cross platform titles, in which you could take any team of 4 characters out of the X Men franchise (and gueststars) and brawl your way through a typical storyline. I felt, those were great games and Marvel Ultimate Alliance is basically their successor. So I will compare this one with the others:
Better: For starters, the graphics are slightly better, because we are Next Gen now (would be otherwise shocking). You can create your own team and give it a fancy (or dumb) name and give it team- specific powers. Many second row heroes (Moonknight (Wii exclusive, btw), Ms Marvel, Ghostrider, Spider- Woman, Elektra, Black panther). More and better cut scenes. Lots of side quests which affect part of the ending. If one hero executes their extreme power, the other do so automatically.
Just different: You have a different storyline which takes you through a lot of parallel dimensions, magic somewheres, far off planets and so on. For me Marvel was always about guys/gals with super powers and the questions they have to face while coping with them. I never liked the whole Magic, parallel dimension, time travel, Gods and Demigods and Satan and so on stuff. Nevertheless, the game is (partly, only) about that. Following this, you have a bunch of Marvel heroes from everywhere, especially more or less anyone about which a movie has been made or will be done recently (besides the above mentioned, the whole FF, Wolverine, Cap America etc). Some of the superpowers are now assigned by investing money in costumes rather than assigning experience.
Worse: Much less character development, as you can not invest points in strength. Besides the costumes, you can only improve superpowers. And those superpowers are pretty similar. With nearly no exception, everyone will learn a melee move, a radial move, a shot, a boost and an extreme power. And as there is no character development, they will be all more or less ineffective. Yes, you read that right. Powers take less energy, but the are much less efficient, in many cases to a point where they stay useless, even if powered up, extreme powers are weak and can not be powered up. Comboing works much worse than in XML 2, but is completely unnecessary. Calling for help does not work. You can not set your teammembers' settings individually, only for all of them, and I did not see much difference between "agressive" and "defensive". You can accidentally sell valuable equipment by the press of a button, no way to reverse. You can accidentally spend all of your money in a (useless) point for a (useless) power, no way to reverse. The game feels shorter (maybe it is just the same length and feels that way because the last 2 acts are much shorter than the first). The training missions are all the same and boring (I can not count the times how often I have been in this damned room with the 6 teleporters). No more simple multiplayer bashing in the training room (it was not fun anyway). No more Patrick Stewart voicing Xavier, overall the quality of voice acting is ok, but nothing to write home about.
Wii- specific: In XML you had to different attack buttons, by combos you could trip your enemy, stun them, and so on. In MUA you have only one attack button, but by waving the Wiimote, you can execute the others. This works more or less fine. Nevertheless I absolutely resent it, if Wiimote- moving is used totally uncalled for, and in a 4 player hack'n'slash RPG it is uncalled. Turning the camera by tilting the Nunchuk works well. If you bother, you can make your character attack and block by waving various controllers around, but I strongly advise to use the buttons instead. One of the worst things is the execution of superpowers. In XML 2 you had 3 buttons to which you could assign your desired powers and execute them by pressing that button and "R" simultaneous. Now some of the superpowers have a certain Wiimote motion combined with them. You can not choose this motion, you just have to memorize the given one. And what about the others? While fighting (!) you have to circle through the list of them and assign the 'A' button for them. This is the only way to execute the extreme powers, the boosts and some others. In my case I just experimented until I found some characters who had one power which would fit my style of play and only used them and their one power (and in a boss fight, I run in circles until I could pick the extreme power). Over are the days of XML2 were you could pick up to 3 powers by yourself and easily combined them. They obviously never heard Wolverine say "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."
To summarize this extensive review, MUA is worse than XML2. It is still a decent game, but fails to achieve the quality of its predecessor. If you loved XML, you will like that game, at least enough to play once through it. Just subtract 1.5 points from the ranking, you would have given XML 2. As I would have given XML2 an 8, MUA barely manages to get an 7, maybe only because I found so few good Wii titles so far.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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