Comic book heroes have made various forays into the gaming arena with various levels of success. The idea of bringing a whole stable of super heroes together and allowing players to fight against an equally large stable of villians has a lot of potential, however Marvel: Ultimate Force never quite makes it past being just a platform/dungeon romp game in super heroes' clothing.
Touted as an epic action RPG, it immediately become obvious it owes a lot of it roots to a standard dungeon fantasy game. The opening video sequence has you being called to arms as the flying super hero base ship comes under attack from the forces of evil. There is great super hero action video showing off each of your initial super hero's special abilities. Once complete, you are taken to a an isometric platform playing area where you must fight through the opposing enemy grunts and heroes to complete various tasks.
You can control one super hero at a time, with the balance of your four-man team being under AI control. Combat consists of you madly sweeping, pushing and and bashing with your controller to beat down the health bar of your opponent. You can activate special special moves and abilities while at the same time maneuvering your hero using the nunchuck controller.
Movement is very smooth and responsive. Moving your controller up and down allows you to access ladders and/or jump to new areas. The camera angle smoothly follows you around the play area and we did not find any of the angles awkward or inappropriate for the situation. Once again we were impressed with the Wii as a game console and how intuitive the control system is.
Combat can be quite confusing. The controls are fine and relatively intuitive, however with three computer controlled units also charging about it is sometimes hard to determine your facing or exactly where you are and what target you are beating on. This is largely a product of the amount of other units and some of the effects.
As you progress through the various levels you can pick up opportune weapons such as pipes and drums while collecting coins from defeated enemies and destroyed items can be expended on additional equipment.
The RPG element also comes into play when you level up from killing enemies. Various new abilities can be unlocked that are specific to your particular hero. Progression also unlocks more hero choices with ultimately 20 being available. They are all there, Captain America (may he rest in peace), the Hulk, Spider Man and all the favourites form the Marvel stable.
Heroes can be changed out at various control points through the game and at the same time you can do your upgrading of your existing team. If you happen to lose a hero (what!) you will eventually get a message that they are now rested and again available for duty.
The play area is very linear with very few options to take another course to complete a mission. The game really plays much like a typical D&D dungeon adventure (particularly with the level-up and attribute elements).
There are some minor puzzles to complete that involve finding the right button to push or the correct electronic control gadget that needs to be destroyed. The storyline feels like it is from a comic book, however not a particularly good one at that. The dialogue and some of the plot lines have you cringing at times and we are not sure if this is intentional satire or not.
The opponents, particularly the grunts you face, are not that intelligent (and quite sparse in places) and ultimately the boss encounters are very much scripted events. The boss at the end of the first level will have you stunned, not by its brilliance, but how at odds it feels to the lead up to the point of meeting it.
You are fighting grunts with lasers and going hand to hand with anti heroes in a space craft like setting only to be greeted at the end by a dragon. Not just any dragon, this is a rather poorly executed one that appears to be completely out of place graphically with the rest of the game.
The graphics do not live up to the promise of the opening video sequence, however they do pay homage to its comic book heritage with lots primary colours and effects.
There is a lot of reuse of graphic tiles and objects that makes a lot of the areas feel repetitive and in some areas it's easy to get confused as to where you are. The in game map system is a godsend at these times.
The sounds effects are good, however the inclusion of the traditional comic sound effect bubbles of "thwack", "pow", "sploort" etc. would have been more in keeping with the feel of the game.
All round, this game is a bit of fun and does bring the Marvel universe to life, but its linear play, poor storyline and some less than convincing boss fights let the game down. It has high appeal to Marvel fans but from a pure gaming perspective it does come up short in places.