The Weekend Hangover: Marvel Ultimate Alliance

The Weekend Hangover is our Monday rumination of the games or game we played over the weekend. Sometimes there is alcohol involved in the hangover we’re nursing, but most other times there’s just too much gaming.

In 2016, Activision remastered Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and its sequel, the Civil War inspired yet unimaginatively named Ultimate Alliance 2, a welcome move for those of us too lazy to fiddle with old discs. I picked both up for about $15 some time ago, and after expiring licenses took them off the digital stores everywhere, this weekend felt as good a time as any to fire them up again.

Ultimate Alliance is an interesting curio, developed years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe firmly ensconced The Avengers, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange into the popular culture. Here, Captain America lacks the winsome charisma of Chris Evans and Iron Man bears none of the roguish demeanor that Robert Downey, Jr. would cement into the character.

Across twenty levels of third person beat em up combat, the writing is given over to exposition, working incredibly hard to represent “everybody’s favorites” at the expense of any deep characterization. That’s understandable, when the game is trying to be an exhaustively completionist roster of famous heroes to smack bad guys with and not a showcase for any one in particular.

No attempt is made to reconcile Deadpool’s utter facetiousness with the unironic earnestness of Mr. Fantastic, and each villain barely acknowledges the difference of being greeted by Iceman instead of Invisible Woman. But at the very least, Ultimate Alliance does have a trivia minigame to remind you it knows its comic book minutiae.

Maybe the best thing about Ultimate Alliance is the couch co-op option, which despite being a rather popular feature back in the day, is increasingly rare now in a triple or double A video game. Given its low difficulty, it’s the perfect game to snark through with a friend.