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Review: Ultimate Spider-man (2012)

Written by Brian Michael Bendis (who also happens to write the comic book series Ultimate Spider-man) together with Paul Dini and Man of Action (the guys behind Ben 10), Ultimate Spider-man gives us a fun to watch, often silly, but always very action-packed new take on Spider-man, new in the sense that while Spider-man is still the same insecure teenage Peter Parker we’re all pretty familiar with (and probably sick of by now), but now thrust into a new world of adventure by teaming up with Nick Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D., gaining access to some pretty fancy gadgetry, and finally being put on a team of heroes consisting of White Tiger, Luke Cage, Nova and Iron Fist!

Ultimate Spider-man puts a twist into the origins of many of Spider-man’s more classic villains, but at the same time digs deep into the archives to bring back many of the minor faces as well as tease all the hardcore Marvel fanboys by inserting loads of references to different costumes, events and storylines which only a real fan would catch. A lot of the humor is slapstick based and gets combined with a very frequent breaking of the fourth wall, where the action freezes, you as the viewer gets directly addressed by Peter/Spider-man, before finally returning to the unfolding action.

This does get a little old fairly quickly, but it’s a minor annoyance when you realise just how much this action packed Spider-man and super pals adventure sucks you in, and at the same time makes you giggle more than once.

The animation is extremely slick, detailed and well done, particularly the choreography of the numerous fight scenes. Similarly, the voice actors all fit their respective characters like a glove, which is then wrapped in some fantastic soundtrack music.

Well worth the watch, and contains an extra sense of feel good to all the already hardcore comic book fans who will undoubtedly catch most of the little extras the writers seem so keen on including!

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimate_Spider-Man_%28TV_series%29

Screenshot Saturday: Wolverine and the X-Men (Episode 7)

Apart from the pretty cool Hulk versus Wolverine short that made it straight to DVD in the form of Hulk Vs., Wolverine also managed to find himself going up against the unstoppable rampage that is the Incredible Hulk in Wolverine and the X-Men episode 7, entitled “Wolverine vs. the Hulk”.

Despite Wolverine's true intentions, I'm pretty sure that he kind of enjoyed this particular payback punch. (Besides, it's always safer to punch the Hulk when he's not actually around!)

Episode 7 of Wolverine and the X-Men is another solo Wolverine episode as he finds himself getting blackmailed by Nick Fury to lend a helping hand to S.H.I.E.L.D., this time to quell an apparently rampaging Incredible Hulk that seems to be destroying a great deal of small towns in the remote Canadian wilderness.

Of course, as with everything that involves Nick Fury, not all is as it seems and after a knockdown, fist bloodying fight, Wolverine and a transformed Bruce Banner finally get their heads around what exactly is going on here – not that it’s all that much of a help when it comes to dealing with the mutagenic Wendigo monster of course!

However, despite all the battles that come to pass, there is really only one thing on Wolverine’s mind when he finally comes face to face with good old Nick again – payback.

And this time it’s going to be courtesy of a rampaging Hulk!

(Though he might take a nasty flight through the chilly air to initiate it of course!)

Basically: "Oh shit, WTF have you done you lunatic". Or something like that...

You've gotta admit, the thought of the ever smug Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D. and an angry Hulk should always bring a smile to one's face!

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolverine_and_the_X-Men

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie

Ultimate AvengersTowards the end of World War II, America’s greatest hero in the form of the US super soldier Captain America was lost at sea as he battled to prevent a Nazi nuclear missile launch – but only after he had discovered that the real threat was in fact not the Nazis…

…but rather an alien life form that we now call the Chitauri!

Present day and the body of Captain America has finally been located, seemingly alive and in a cryogenically frozen state. S.H.I.E.L.D director General Nick Fury needs this living legend up and running as soon as possible as the scramble is on to set up a meta human task force (Project Avenger) in order to deal with the rising threat of the Chitauri aliens who are now coming out of their long dormant state and threatening the world as we know it.

Nick Fury is targeting Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp, Thor and the Black Widow to form part of the team under Captain America’s leadership, but assembling this kind of super-powered team is certainly easier said than done. And then of course there is the ever present threat of the dormant savage Hulk lurking within the obsessed scientist Bruce Banner – who happens to be leading the team in charge of resurrecting Captain America’s Super Soldier Serum project!

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie is a 2006 direct-to-DVD animated film based on the Marvel comic book The Ultimates and is directed by Curt Geda, Steven E. Gordon and Bob Richardson. It is produced and distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment and Marvel Studios.

Ultimate Avengers assumes that you at least have a little bit of knowledge when it comes to Marvel characters and pretty much jumps straight into the story without hashing character origins too much. Of course, familiarity with the normal Marvel universe isn’t paramount, as The Ultimates pretty much rebooted the original character origins anyway, and you would be better off being familiar with that comic run so as not to be to annoyed at the ‘different’ way in which some of your favourite characters may be depicted.

The story isn’t too complex and pretty much follows three separate storylines, namely Captain America waking up and finding himself in a completely foreign time, the battle against the powerful Chitauri aliens and Bruce Banner’s losing battle with sanity as the Hulk remains trapped within him. Of course, the Avengers being about a team dynamic means that story attention pretty much has to be spread over everyone, and this does take away any depth that you might liked to have seen with regards to any one particular character – with the exception perhaps of Captain America and Bruce Banner as they admittedly do manage to steal a large chunk of the screen time in the end.

The story is pretty formulaic, straightforward and ends off on a nice action high, so youngsters should get a good bit of enjoyment out of the movie as a whole, though it should be noted that it doesn’t follow the usual norm of cartoon violence – bystanders do actually die for a change and not everyone gets saved at the last minute.

Visually, the animation and backgrounds aren’t quite as nicely detailed as one would have hoped for considering this is Marvel and Lions Gate production, but it is solid and smooth and manages to be pretty easy on the eye in the end. Colouring feels a little dull in places, but this is easily explained away as most sequences tend to take place at night anyway. I guess that one could sum up the visuals on Ultimate Avengers as being pretty much standard American cartoon fare.

This being an direct-to-DVD production means that no big name actors or actresses were brought in for the voice acting duties, but the production staff have made sure to include a lot of established voice actors from the industry with the result that Ultimate Avengers ends up sounding pretty good – even the goofy sounding Thor!

British composer Guy Michelmore is the current favourite for Marvel’s animated releases, and produces a pretty good sounding score for this movie that manages to convey that feel good heroic tone that is so essential for these types of super hero movies in the first place.

In summary, Ultimate Avengers: The Movie is a solid, action-packed and enjoyable movie for fans of the Marvel universe but doesn’t try and do anything special and ends up feeling pretty much ordinary. Your kids may pull a bit of entertainment value from it, but don’t expect it to sit on the top of anyone’s DVD pile just yet.

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Related link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0491703/

Review: Marvel Ultimate Alliance

Marvel Ultimate AllianceDoctor Doom has assembled some of the most evil super-villains of our time together as the Masters of Evil, and has set upon some secretive plan of destruction and possible world domination which looks set to shake up the very planet itself. A direct assault on the S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier forces S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury to call in the help of all available meta-humans – in the hopes that this alliance of superheroes may be enough to stop Doom and his cohorts in their tracks before it is simply too late!

Following up on their superb X-Men Legends and X-Men Lengends II: Rise of Apocalypse releases, Raven Software returns once more to bring us Marvel Ultimate Alliance, perhaps the biggest chunk of Marvel comic ‘fanboydom’ to ever grace any game console before. Expanding on the already hit game mechanics from X-Men Legends and X-Men Legends II (themselves having borrowed heavily from dungeon-crawling RPGs like Diablo and Champions), Marvel Ultimate Alliance ends up being a thoroughly absorbing and exciting game that will easily suck up more than a few hours of your life and leave you all tingly at the end of it all – particularly if you happen to be a comic book fanatic.

What makes Ultimate Alliance such a treat is the sheer variety of characters and locations that have been jam-packed into it, as well as having a complex and intriguing enough storyline that will keep you guessing right until the end. There are more than 20 customisable, playable heroes to mess about with, countless villains and bosses to battle against and locations that vary from the Norse Gods’ fabled Asgard right through to Doom’s Latverian lair. The designers have gone out of their way to keep as many people as happy as possible, including a wide variety of heroes to play with, including the heavy hitters like Wolverine, the Fantastic Four, Captain America and Iron Man, but at the same time tipping the hat to the slightly lesser know characters like Dr. Strange, Luke Cage, Deadpool and Spider-woman. The same idea applies to the villains, where you face off against the major players like Ultron, the Mandarin, Mephisto and Galactus, but also get to go up against the lower-profile villains such as M.O.D.O.K, Grey Gargoyle and even Arcade! This sheer variety of characters and locations does well to touch just about every corner of the vast Marvel Universe and truly ends up being a treat for any true fanboy.

As was mentioned earlier, the gameplay sticks pretty closely to the genre established by heavy hitters like Diablo, Baldur’s Gate and even Raven’s X-Men games of before, basically leaving you with an ‘area exploration from a fairly top-down view while controlling a team of four heroes to contend with’ kind of game. As with their previous games, the environments are all nicely destructible and on that note, be prepared for a lot of barrel smashing should you wish to take advantage of all the collectible items, gear and S.H.I.E.L.D currency lying around.

While the majority of gameplay consists of you walking around, button-mashing and just generally beating up horde after horde of villain, the game does occasionally throw in the little mini-game to complete or puzzle to solve and these are generally quite a fun distraction from the main branch of gameplay that seems to never let up on the action. A nice interactive touch is the inclusion of those button-press interrupted cutscenes ala Resident Evil 4 style, which has you pressing specified buttons displayed during a cutscene in order to advance the cutscene and hopefully avoid an untimely and unexpected death.

The actual combat mechanics itself is fairly simple in that you have an assigned button for light attacks and an assigned button for chargeable heavy attacks, the two of which can be mixed up to provide for simple combos. You also have a button for jumping, the same button which causes your character to fly should they possess the power of flight. The last button is used for grabs and throws, which can be utilized against both opponents and objects. Of course, the basic block and roll buttons are also present, and is the equally more important power modifier button. Each hero has four powers assigned for use at any point in time, all mapped to the same buttons you use for normal combat but triggered by holding down the power modifier button. This is kind of the crux of what makes a superhero game super, because you get to play with all those powers and abilities you have so loved to see in the comics. From freezing things around you to throwing fireballs at your enemies, the wide variety of powers on display is really the thing that makes this game so much fun to play. Each hero also has a super superpower ability that can only be triggered after the usual slow-filling combo meter fills up, usually triggering a visually stunning attack which can be chained together should other characters also possess a full meter.

As I mentioned before, you run around with a team of four heroes at a time, meaning that the AI controls the other three while you get to grips with walloping bad guys with your chosen man. Of course, you can instantaneously switch control to any of the other three characters and this makes for a nice game mechanic should you require a special ability to advance through a particular point or just happen to get bored very quickly. While the AI is fairly competent, it does perform a little sluggish at crucial times and you will often find your team members accidentally plummeting off bridges and getting caught in some of the stupid traps littering some of the stages. Of course, Marvel Ultimate Alliance supports the wonderful drop-in, drop-out mechanic from the previous X-Men games which means that your buddies are welcome to join in anytime they wish, making for some exciting co-op play.

The game follows the usual RPG rules of leveling up characters, stats and abilities and while the AI can be set to handle it all for you, for those of you who like dabbling and customizing your characters, this is an essential must have. The system itself is pretty intuitive to use and you can lose yourself quite easily in doling out the gear, stats and abilities your want your customized team to have. And on that front, Marvel Ultimate Alliance has introduced a ‘My Team’ concept which allows you to hand pick a team for which you are specially rewarded by sticking to them and grabbing as much XP as you can without changing the roster too often.

The game features a host of playable characters for you to control, some playable right from the get go and others you have to unlock as you progress. Each character comes with their own set of special powers which you can assign and switch between as you wish, as well as with a number of alternate costumes, all with their own special abilities. This multiple costume gimmick is a great touch for those of you who want to switch between the various guises that your favourite characters have carried through the years.

Lastly, when selecting your four member team at the plentiful S.H.I.E.L.D Access points littering all of the stages, you will note that picking certain team members results in specific bonuses. There are obviously the painfully obvious teams like the Fantastic Four and New Avengers to go for, but there are other, lesser obvious combinations like Femme Fatale and Forces of Nature to pick up on. These special teams give special bonuses, something that might just prove to be more than a little handy in the numerous boss battles you encounter throughout the lengthy adventure.

In terms of extras, Marvel Ultimate Alliance certainly doesn’t disappoint. The trivia game is a delight to all the comic book fans who get to test out their knowledge and gain some valuable XP points in the process, while the extensive list of training missions does well to extend the life of the game and also provide further incentive in that they release further locked skins for your characters. Then there is the usual gamut of cover art, loading screens and background art to collect, all which adds on to the experience as a whole.

Visually, Marvel Ultimate Alliance is probably not the prettiest of looking games on the PlayStation 2, but it is certainly polished and colourful enough and looks as if it jumped straight off the pages of your favourite comic books. The colourful environments are all lusciously detailed and the nicely detailed heroes with all their powers simply adds to what is one of the better looking ‘dungeon crawlers’ out there. The game also features some beautifully animated CGI cutscenes and these are well worth looking out for just on their own.

The game also features a brilliant score, subtly capturing the feel of each and every varied location you find yourself in, but also matching the relentless tempo of the game perfectly. And while it is great to have so many voice artists on board on one single project, it must be said that some of the voices and dialogue does lean towards the cringe-worthy campy side. The sound effects on the other hand are all beautifully full bodied and you will often find yourself sitting completely immersed in the environment in which you find yourself.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance just doesn’t seem to put a foot wrong and is certainly a further step up from Raven’s previously brilliant X-Men Legends and X-Men Legends II releases. It will satisfy any gamer who loves these top-down dungeon crawler type games, but even more so, it will particularly satisfy all of those who love the Marvel Comicdom. It has just about something for everyone, providing a satisfying button-bashing experience that lasts well over 20 hours and covers a host of different locations and boss battles. It looks good, plays easy and intuitively enough and is not so overly hard that it will leave you frustrated at any point during the game.

Simply put, if you love comic books and you love Diablo type dungeon crawlers, then you should simply not skip this one. Definitely one of the top games on any comic fanboy’s shelf!

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Related Link: http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/rpg/marvelultimatealliance/index.html