Jumping the Sharkticon: Cancel or Reboot Marvel Ultimate Alliance?
When I was a kid... three weeks ago, I remember playing a little game called Gauntlet. It was fun on so many levels. As a comic book uber geek, I remember also thinking that the only thing better than my axe-throwing warrior would be a web-slinging Spider-Man. In my naiveté I simply assumed that you could replace one with the other and have a kick-ass game.
Fast-forward a few years to Spider-Man Maximum Carnage -- a game where they basically did just that. They replaced Axel from Streets of Rage and inserted Spider-Man… to make one of the most god-awful video games ever conceived. The same thing was done in Death of Superman, where the Man of Steel walked around beating up thugs who could, for some reason, beat him to death. It was then that I learned that you couldn’t just take normal video game conventions and plaster over them with comic book IPs. Sadly, the folks who made the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance games didn’t learn that valuable lesson.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed playing both Alliance games -- on some level they were fun. Like on some level, the X-Men movies were tolerable, but in the end were they really the X-Men? I argue no, just like the heroes in the Alliance games weren’t really the ones I read about avidly as a child.
In the opening scene of the first Alliance game we see some of my all-time favorite characters: Cap, Spidey, Thor, and Wolverine for good measure. They’re doing their hero thing, showcasing their amazing abilities; it’s apparent that they aren’t rookies -- established heroes that have been at this for various amounts of time. Then the game starts, and all the characters start at level 1! Really? Level 1? Thor is a thousand year-old GOD! Cap and Wolverine both fought in WWII, and then there’s Spidey, ok? I could kinda see Spider-Man at level 1, but the other three guys? Already the video game convention destroys any attempt at a believable or coherent story. In the third installment, the levels of the characters should be fixed, to represent the various powers and abilities attained throughout their years of activity.
Now, I know what you’re going to say: “What about character progression?”... which, I will agree, is important; games can get monotonous really quickly, but who said you can’t teach an old superhero new tricks? Especially if the Secret Invasion is the game's backdrop if rumors hold true. I’m not saying the characters can’t learn new moves and learn cooperative combinations, but do it like the totally awesome Wolverine game, where an already formidable Wolverine became even more devastating.
The play of the Alliance games would eventually put me to sleep -- powers were kind of a waste and button-mashing typically solved all the players’ problems. There was little to no strategy, and the game wasn’t fun to watch. After a while, I just couldn’t bring myself to care. I have an idea, what if, instead of making yet another, somewhat mindless beat-'em-up, the developers made the greatest turn-based strategy game on the planet?
Instead of a series of highlighted squares to denote movement range, the game could feature spheres to utilize the three-dimensional space. The farther a character could move, the bigger the sphere or oval shape. A character that could fly would have a massive sphere, while a character who ran around, not so much. Along those lines, players would get attack areas that worked in the same fashion. Spheres would be ideal to represent the fight going all over the place. Spider-Man can climb walls, which is completely unrepresented in the current games' format, but with a fully-realized 3D environment, Spidey could take the fight all over the place.
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|Dante' R. Maddox
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