Not quite so ultimate.
Ports and remasters are nothing new in this console generation. The new technology that the Xbox One and PS4 provided have been taken advantage of by developers as a way to not only get a good handle on the systems, as was the case with the PS4 port of The Last of Us, but to also reignite interest in a game or series that may have been drowned out previously or came too late into a console’s life cycle to hit the way developers originally intended. While most of these ports have been pretty good to great in terms of quality, others have proven to be nothing but unfortunate messes that shouldn’t have even been ported to begin with, or at least not in the state they originally came out in. That’s what we’ve gotten with the ports of the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games that were announced last week at San Diego Comic-Con.
If you never played the game before, basically just imagine a dungeon crawler with superheroes. With a lineup of nearly two dozen heroes (or more, depending on your platform), both games gave players the thrill of teaming up characters of varying relevance and importance within the Marvel universe in various locations that covered the whole gamut of stuff they had as their best work at the time. The series boasts one great game and one satisfactory game, and a third entry has been in demand for years.
While we still haven’t gotten anything on that front, a remaster of the first two games is a sign, however small, that something could be coming down the line. One would reasonably think that a remaster of the two games, especially since they were coming out just mere days after being revealed, would be nothing short of a worthy port, right? Well someone at Activision didn’t get the memo, because the ports aren’t good. In fact, going off of the various fan reactions, they’re pretty terrible across the board.
The big sticking point for some folks may be the price point. Both games are very close to being a decade old–in three months the first Ultimate Alliance will have reached this milestone, while the second will reach it in 2019. Why anyone at Activision thought that they should be sold at $40 a piece is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard, but it somehow manages to be just the least offensive thing about these re-releases. Even the prospect of buying both games for $60 as a bundle may not be full comfort for some.
All versions of the game suffer from bugs, but it’s the PC ports that suffer from this the worst. Players have reported issues with controller inputs that straight up don’t work, and it’s even worse trying to map them to mouse and keyboard. Reviews for the game range from hesitant positivity to outright hostility, and it’s not like it goes undeserved. Visual options from previous versions of the games are also missing, somehow. Xbox One versions of the first game lacked several achievements (they’ve since been repaired), along with characters that were exclusive to the 360 version are nowhere to be found.
It’s disappointing just how much of a mess both Ultimate Alliance ports are, even though it shouldn’t be all that surprising. Activision doesn’t have a great track record of re-releasing their games, and it’s easy to see exactly why. They previously remastered the short lived Prototype series to current consoles last year, along with the 2013 Deadpool game, and none of those were looked upon favorably for fans. The Protoype bundle in particular was noted for having stuttering issues during cutscenes and multiple framerate issues for both titles. If anything, they provide ample ammo for people worried that remasters are just developers and publishers cashing in for a quick buck.
Even though Marvel and Activision are working on a solution for the rest of the game’s problems, that doesn’t excuse the state the two games came out in. This is, at least until the release of the new Spider-Man game, essentially the first sign that Marvel wants to take gaming seriously on the latest generation of consoles. People are now going to be thinking, “if they can’t handle a remaster of pair of decade-old games, how are they going to handle brand new ones?” Activision doesn’t own the rights to Marvel games anymore, so it would be in Marvel’s best interests to find a developer and publisher who would treat this franchise with care, should another Ultimate Alliance be in the works. Fans of the series, and the heroes of the Marvel universe, deserve better.