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Previews

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance

Superheroes assemble in sprawling RPG-tinged beat-'em-up

Building on the success of its first two X-Men Legends games, Raven Software has expanded the scope of the Marvel universe by including members of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and other notable Marvel Heroes, under the Ultimate Alliance banner.

Players will control a team of four characters across 17 levels spanning the Marvel universe, as they try and stop Doctor Doom and the Masters of Evil in an action adventure with RPG elements. Imagine Xbox Live Arcade classic Gauntlet with superheroes and you're pretty much there.

You'll be able to switch between an initial roster of 20 superheroes before missions, and - through combination attacks and collecting items - you'll be able to upgrade their strength and powers, either concentrating on a single individual or allowing the computer to balance out the upgrades across the team, if you want to concentrate on smashing the bad guys.

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The game retains the satisfactory button-mashing technique of its predecessors, with successful combos acknowledged by 'THWACK' and 'BAM' icons appearing at the point of impact, recalling the 1970s Batman TV show. Leave the camp at the door though, as each attack packs a satisfying crunch that does justice to the super-strength proponent. Moves are mapped to kick, punch, throw and block on the pad, with an additional button-press calling up one of four special moves that are character-based.

While the game looks set to be every fanboy's wet dream, the graphics are telling of a multiformat release - they're not pushing the hardware at all. But with six months left in the development cycle, there's still time to work on this promising and relatively early code. We're hoping that come release MUA will do the format, and its subject matter, justice.

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