Title: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
Publisher/Developer: Activision / Vicarious Visions
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox
Release Date: 09/15/2009
Number of players: Single Player, 1-4 online and local multiplayer
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 follows the same design as its predecessor, while of course tweaking a few things here and there. You still control four heroes from the Marvel universe, powering them up as you go through a new story that harks to the Civil War comic series. If you like the Marvel line-up, then there is plenty to enjoy, but if not, then you won’t see more than a button masher here.
The story starts with Nick Fury calling four heroes to his side to help out on a special mission to stop the Latverian prime minister, Lucia von Bardas from supplying weapons to super villains. Their mission is successful, but it brings trouble a year later when Lucia returns for revenge and destroys a major US city. Awkwardly though, the story quickly shifts to the super heroes themselves, as a registration act is put in place by the US government. Some heroes decide to register, while others believe it an outrage. This pits the two groups against each other, and the previous storyline is all but forgotten.
From that point though, you can choose which side to take; anti- or pro-registration, which will slightly change the storyline and missions, until later in the game where it comes together again. While this does allow for multiple play-throughs, each path actually plays almost identically, which I found to be very disappointing. However, there are some super heroes that are distinct to each side of the conflict, so you have to be on their side to use them in battle, which could sway your initial decision one way or the other, but the heroes I ended up going with; Wolverine, Gambit, Spider-Man, and Deadpool; could be on either side.
You can choose from a list of 24 heroes to play as, although many have to be unlocked as you progress. Most of them are simply unlocked as you advance, but some of the stronger characters, like Thor and Jean Grey, are unlocked by collecting various items. You can swap out characters at any time you like via the pause menu, as well as amp up your characters’ stats or assign boosts.
One of the collectibles you’ll find hidden away in levels or earn after defeating bosses are boosts. You can assign three boosts at a time to your entire team, and they do a variety of things. Some boosts up your defense against things like fire or lighting, while others increase the percentage of damage you do, or give you special abilities, like restore health for melee attacks. There are tons of these to find and experiment with to make them the most beneficial and complimentary to your style and characters.
Another option at your disposal is upgrading each character. You earn XP by fighting and gain power orbs by breaking objects or defeating foes, and these can be used to power-up a character, making him or her stronger or use new abilities. By default, this is all done automatically, but you can change it so you can upgrade the abilities you want.
The actual gameplay is fairly simple to grasp. For starters, you run around with four characters at once, with direct control over one at a time, with the other three keeping up with you fairly well. You can switch between the four on the fly via the d-pad, while the left thumbstick controls movement and right controls the camera. Quick attacks, for the PS3, are performed via the X button, while strong attacks are done by the O, holding it for a charged attack. You can jump and double jump with Triangle, and grab with Square. The shoulder buttons are used to toggle special attacks and options. Hold R2 and press X, O, Triangle, or Square to perform a power, or R1 and a button to use a health pack on a character. A power would consist of the super hero’s power, for instance, with Spider-Man, you can shoot out webbing projectiles with X, do a spin move with O, and other such things. In fact, these type of attacks correspond with almost every character, with projectiles assigned to the X and a wide radial attack with O. The other two must be unlocked via leveling up and do a number of different things. There is a meter that depletes when you use power moves, so you can’t constantly use these special abilities, but the meter refills automatically and fairly quickly, so don’t be scared off by it.
Holding L1 will allow you to block, while tapping it will give you the ability to dodge incoming attacks. L2 works like the R’s and requires you to hold it and press another button, this time allowing your current character and the other one you select to perform a fusion attack. These are massive attacks that come in three varieties; guided, clearing, and targeted. Each hero pairing is assigned one of these types, and they appear with the button needed to press to perform it, so you know what will happen. While each pair does generate a unique visual effect, each type is relatively the same. Clearing dispatching 10 or so nearby enemies, while guided allows you to run around the map and take out as many enemies as you can for 10 or so seconds. Targeted is particularly useful during boss battles, as you can only target one enemy, and then do massive damage to him or her.
These fusion attacks can only be performed when you fill a special meter, which is done by attacking enemies. Once the meter is full, you earn a star, which allows you to do a fusion attack, and you can hold two stars at a time, or three if you have a special boost equipped. Each fusion attack has a special requirement, which if met, will earn you a health pack, two of which can be held at once.
The two health packs are fairly limited, and you’ll find yourself leaving a lot more behind, as you simply don’t have to use them very often, at least not on normal difficulty during the first 2/3 of the game. While it is easy to see which hero is badly injured, by their icon flashing red, you’ll be required to cycle through all of them to see which one needs a health pack otherwise, which is annoying. Heroes can also faint if their health meter gets depleted, but they can just as easily be revived with a health pack. And if you have young kids or you’re just not good at video games, you can play on easy, where your heroes can’t faint at all.
The game is split up into a variety of missions, which will have you beating down a ton of enemies and a couple of bosses until you get to the end. You just follow the path they put in front of you, destroy a few objectives, and continue forward. If you aren’t sure where to go, you can click on the R3 button to flash a directional arrow in the way you need to go. There are a few types of enemies, but aside from that, they are all the same. You’ll have to fight wave after wave of the exact same enemies, and then take on a couple cool super villains, or other heroes later on. Some areas will require a bit of strategy, and some enemies have shields and the like which must be taken away before you can damage them, but there is no real skill required. This game is a button masher, and while you can choose your fusion attacks and powers, you’re going to be doing the same attacking again and again, so it gets a bit repetitive.
Outside of the missions, you can explore your base, which will change throughout the game. Here, you can talk to other super heroes, pick up art bundles, and replay old missions. The demo center, aside from allowing you to replay the old missions, also lets you play through challenges. The challenges are pretty cool in that you can earn medals depending on how well you do, which net you XP or special boosts and other such goodies. There is also a trivia game you can play, which isn’t too difficult, but another nice distraction for those wanting to brush up on their Marvel knowledge.
The game doesn’t offer too much else. It’s fun while it lasts, if you like the characters. I beat the game in about 6 hours, but it could take you considerably longer if you choose to talk with every character you can, do all the challenges, collect everything there is, and answer all of the trivia questions. Each character also has an alternate costume, which is pretty cool. However, there aren’t any amazing puzzles or anything and you just beat up on the same few enemies again and again, so it gets a bit stale, although playing with all of the famous heroes is fun.
The game starts with some key heroes going with Nick Fury to Latveria to put down a weapons dealer. This sets off a long chain of events which leads to the government implementing a super hero registration act which divides the heroes into two factions, leading to a civil war. Eventually, this leads to an even greater threat that is out to take over the world.
The gameplay is fair, with cool powers for each super hero and impressive fusion attacks, but the core is fairly basic and a hack-n-slash which can get repetitive. There are only a few enemy types and it isn’t too difficult overall.
Didn’t notice the music too much, but the audio was pretty decent. Each character has his or her own personality, and you even get new dialogue depending on the character you’re currently using, which I thought was impressive.
The graphics were pretty decent and there were nice effects with the super heroes’ powers and fusion attacks.
If you like the characters, then there is a lot to enjoy here, with the trivia and tons of character information presented in bios and during loading screens. The powers are cool and the fusion attacks are unique per pair, so there is some neat stuff to see.
The fact that both routes you can take in the game, with choosing a side, are essentially the same. Very uncool.
The ability to use Spider-Man’s web to swing around levels, skipping entire hordes of enemies.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 does a fairly good job at pleasing fans, with presenting a ton of characters, some of which are some what obscure, and letting gamers play as their favorite heroes. Each characters’ powers are really cool and there are a ton of collectibles and art to pick up to expand the gameplay, but at its core, this title is a button masher which can get repetitive for gamers.
Final Vote: 3/5