Gaming in the early to mid 2000’s was rough, especially for PC players.
Early adopters of PC gaming had to deal with quite a few issues, such as poorly optimized ports and physical-only releases. It’s quite clear that the PC version of many titles was an afterthought, and that not a lot of work was put into them.
Activision was one of the companies pumping out PC ports of varying quality, as they had a deal with Marvel and wanted to make their titles available on every single platform. Their practices were not great, to say the least, and licensing issues over the years have led these games to be forgotten.
Below you can take a look at some of the PC ports of Marvel games that are unfortunately not available anymore:
Set in the ruthless Ultimate universe, which would eventually introduce readers to Miles Morales, we have Ultimate Spider-Man, developed by Treyarch and published by Activision in 2005.
Ultimate Spider-Man has held up fantastically over the years, thanks to its cel-shaded graphics. The game really leans into the comic-book art style of the Ultimate series, and features one of my favorite Spider-Man designs.
The suit with the massive lenses has become an iconic part of the game’s visual identity, and looks in-game exactly as it did in Mark Bagley’s covers for the comic books.
Ultimate Spider-Man was definitely ahead of its time, featuring one of the best video-game portrayals of Venom, and even including him as a playable character. Venom’s sections of the game are by far the best, and start off with him devouring a child and then having a bar fight with Wolverine.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance (2006)
Marvel Ultimate Alliance was seen as the natural evolution of Raven Software’s X-Men Legends series, serving as a massive crossover between heroes and villains from all around the Marvel universe, in a surprisingly deep ARPG experience.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance is one of the few games in this list that actually managed to escape licensing hell, receiving a remaster in 2016. Unfortunately, the game was pulled from shelves again in 2018, either due to licensing issues or the poor reception it was met with.
The 2016 releases of both Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2 are not great, and even though they served to get the second game on PC, they still are considered less than subpar ports. The first game’s 2006 release has been thankfully kept alive by a very dedicated community of modders, who keep injecting life into it more than 15 years after its original release.
Developed by Artifical Mind & Movement, who would later become Behaviour Interactive (Dead by Daylight), and published by Sega, we have Iron Man, a very earnest movie adaptation.
The game does its best to be a rough adaptation of the first Iron Man movie, featuring Robert Downey Jr’s likeness and voice-acting as Tony Stark, even though he looks like a melting wax figure in the game’s cutscenes.
It’s clear that the game’s budget wasn’t massive, but it’s still charming to see AM&M attempt small scale setpieces. The most impressive thing is that, as of right now, this is still the best video-game adaptation we have seen of the Iron Man character.
No other game has managed to capture the experience of flying around in an Iron Man suit, with Marvel’s Avengers being the one that comes closest to it, but somehow still loses to a game that came out in 2008.
If Iron Man gets the Marvel’s Spider-Man treatment someday, it’s quite clear that the developers will be studying this game to see what works and what doesn’t.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a weird one, the movie wasn’t received very well, but fans absolutely loved the game, as it’s considered one of the best hack ‘n’ slash titles released for the 6th and 7th generation of consoles.
The game wears its God of War and Devil May Cry influences proudly, making Wolverine an unstoppable speeding bullet of rage. The game’s uncaged edition, released only for 7th generation consoles and PC is an incredibly fun time, filled with gore, violence, and fast-paced combat.
If Insomniac isn’t taking notes from X-Men Origins: Wolverine for their upcoming game then they are doing something wrong. This is the best video-game depiction of Wolverine yet, giving him a ruthless combat style, where he pounces from enemy to enemy chopping their limbs off.
The game’s introduction in the uncaged edition still remains a classic, where Wolverine pulls a man out from a helicopter and decapitates him with the spinning blades. You just love to see it.
The developers of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Raven Software, have been unfortunately taken hostage by Activision, and since 2010 only developed Call of Duty games (14 Call of Duty games from 2010 to 2020, to be exact), a fate that they definitely did not deserve.
In fact, multiple of the development studios responsible for the games in this feature have been taken to the CoD mines, with the exception of Behaviour Interactive. It’s extremely disappointing to see Activision put such talented studios to work on such soulless yearly releases, but I can’t blame them, after all, they clearly have an audience.
Thankfully, most of these games can still be played on PC, thanks to the archival efforts of abandonware sites, as they sit in a grey area of legality due to being products that aren’t sold anymore. Their performance and optimization are a whole other can of worms, though.