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E3 06: Marvel Ultimate Alliance steps up

The spiritual successor to X-Men Legends, Marvel Ultimate Alliance will be bolstering PS3 and Wii's launch day line-up this autumn, and we've had a chance to see what it's like on the go.

But despite being touted as a next-gen title, this action RPG looks like being little more than a prettied-up version of what X-Men Legends has already brought to current-gen systems.

Ultimate Alliance has the looks - we were able to see a PS3 version running, and it's as crisp as a dewy spring morning. But the gameplay doesn't benefit from the same next-gen boost. While you'll be able to gather together a force of over 140 different characters from the Marvel universe, it's still the same path-led goon bashing as X-Men Legends, albeit with some new features - you can tear out metal beams to use as weapons, for instance.

At the same time, we saw a level where Galactus - a towering, gigantic supervillain - stomped around in the scenery, smashing the futuristic city that surrounded the fighting area. Later, he chased the team of superheroes through a level, swiping them up and triggering some frenzied button-bashing escapes. It looks great, although Galactus' wooden movements are hardly terrifying. And he looks a bit stupid too.

We were hoping for some free-roaming superhero action - the game restricts your adventuring to a strict, linear area - especially after the game's superbly executed intro movie. It might not be launching until the end of the year, but it's obvious that being hamstrung by the limited power of old consoles has held back Ultimate Alliance's next-gen ambition. And, unfortunately, it'll no doubt take more than a few months to put that right.

May 10, 2006