The Winter Soldier made his video game debut shortly after his first comic appearance, but this version of Bucky was almost unrecognizable.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance followed the mutant-focused X-Men Legends games, and begins with Doctor Doom and his Masters of Evil attacking a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. Playing as a group of heroes comprised of Captain America, Wolverine, Thor, and Spider-Man, the player fights through the besieged helicarrier and confronts a series of villains like Scorpion, Radioactive Man, and the Winter Soldier. While Marvel fans now know the Winter Soldier as either an unwilling brainwashed villain or a repentant hero, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance portrays the character as boastful and outright evil. The cyborg assassin does hint at his history with Captain America, but no explicit mention is made of Bucky’s true identity and Cap doesn’t seem reluctant to face the villain in combat.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Makes Winter Soldier A Full-Blown Villain
The unusual portrayal of the Winter Soldier in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance‘s story – which sees Doctor Doom topple the throne of Marvel’s Asgard – is due to the fact that the game released shortly after the conclusion of the character’s revival storyline. The iconic Winter Soldier in Captain America Volume 5, written by Ed Brubaker and with art by Steve Epting, began in September 2005 and finished in April 2006. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance launched in October 2006, and it was likely too soon to reveal the Winter Soldier’s identity in a video game. This means that the game’s version of Bucky acts like a generic supervillain rather than a brainwashed assassin, and his history with Captain America is only vaguely alluded to rather than used as a source of drama.
It’s now been years since the reveal of Bucky Barnes’ alter ego, letting games like Marvel’s Avengers use Winter Soldier as a hero to his full potential. Crystal Dynamics’ multiplayer superhero game recently added Bucky as a playable character, with the cyborg soldier specializing in both close-range combat and ranged warfare. Bucky’s introduction to Marvel’s Avengers also highlights his past relationships with Captain America and Black Widow through character-centric missions and pieces of lore. Marvel’s Avengers embraces the modern heroic portrayal of the Winter Soldier to full effect, but Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is a fascinating look into his villainous past.
Most Marvel fans now know Bucky Barnes as a noble and repentant figure, but Marvel: Ultimate Alliance portrayed the Winter Soldier as a sinister and entirely villainous boss to fight. The game never dwells on the true identity of the Winter Soldier like Marvel’s Avengers does with Bucky, since that would’ve spoiled the end of the character’s introductory storyline shortly after its conclusion. While the game does give Captain America some personal dialogue with the smarmy Winter Soldier, it feels awkward to see Bucky as an enemy in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance given what audiences now know about Steve Rogers’ closest Marvel friend.
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