Let’s face it, we have all dealt with subpar comic book games for years now, such as the Batman (excluding Arkham Asylum) and Superman games. But there is still hope so long as the Ultimate Alliance franchise holds up. However, can the sequel to what is arguable the best comic book game in history stand by itself? Can it rise to the occasion and be the very best at what it does!?
The story is based on the Marvel comics and takes place during the Secret War where Nick Fury, head of SHIELD, takes the world’s best heroes and invades Latveria, trying to stop a full blown war for erupting. Sadly, he fails as they retaliate, causing him to lose his position. Shortly afterwards, Congress decides they want to pass the Registration act, forcing our beloved protagonists into surrendering their identities and work for the government, or automatically be arrested should they disagree. And that leads into the Civil War storyline, where you must choose to be with Ironman and the Government, or side with Captain America and his Rebellion Army. Gee, I wonder what franchise this reminds me of? Eventually, it will stray off into a different path from the comics.
For those who do not know the history of the game series, Marvel Ultimate Alliance originated from the first X-men Legends series, continuing with a sequel, then the original Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and finally into here. The game gives you a set number of heroes, and sometimes even villains, with the roster growing as you progress. The last game featured 28 playable characters, and expands to 36 should you decide to purchase the Downloadable Content. Now while that may seem like a lot, it is, but you can have up to four heroes at once. Each character had quite a number of powers and abilities, making all of them nearly unique. I say nearly because some characters act almost in the same way, just with different animations and costumes. And you could equip each character with special items, such as HP draining or increased defense against fire. But customization didn’t end their as each character had four different unlockable costumes (such as the Spider-Man Black Suit and the WW2 Captain America), each with three different traits that could be upgraded to help ease your heroic burden. Finally, you could assemble a unique team of 11 heroes/villains with further upgrades like more XP or power. This game however cuts nearly ALL of that away.
No longer can you form your personal Ultimate Alliance with unique features. Sure, you can get bonuses by combining different teams like the Avengers or the Fantastic Four, but odds are you might not do it if you want to play with your personal favorites. Multiple costumes have also vanished, replaced with only a single costume, and most of them aren’t really that fantastic. They were all replaced with Heroic Deeds, which are goals set for each hero, such as beating up ?? amount of enemies, score top fusions with a certain hero, etc. By completing these, you gain boosts that help improve your characters, thus making the game slightly easier. Plus this is the only way to get the costumes. However, you can’t get all of them in one playthrough due to the Civil War storyline, so this increases replay-ability. Overall, it’s not a bad idea, but they definitely should have added more costumes with more unique effects to make things more customizable.
Equipment is gone and replaced with team boosts. You gain these by completing objectives or finding them throughout the levels, and can equip up to three. These boosts range from offense, support, defense, etc. Use these wisely as they are one of the key differences between victory and defeat, and can give reasons for multiple playthroughs to make decisions. However, this can also just as easily be exploited when revisiting chapters to make different decisions.
The number of powers available have been reduced greatly, and that is actually a good thing. No longer do you have to worry about wasting skill points on powers you are never going to use. Rather, you get four powers per hero, two of them already unlocked when you first begin playing. While the quantity has been lowered, the quality has indeed gone up as all the powers look great and work perfectly for each character. Plus the developers have heard the cries of many fans who were disappointed when their favorite heroes were rather weak and horrible to play as, and improved them wonderfully. Really, my only complaint is for the Green Goblin, whose only good side is his glider, and that thing is annoying. That said though, some like Songbird and Iron Man are probably the strongest thanks to a glitch, in which if you fly and shoot a rapid fire blast, it will constantly reflect into an enemy and kill them in seconds.
But perhaps the most glorious of all powers are the fusions. You see, fusions replace the X-treme attacks (which are like super special moves) from the previous titles, and they allow you to combine powers. For example: if you combine Spider-Man and Ironman, Spidey will get all grunts into one location, allowing Ironman to blast them all away with a powerful charge shot. They animations are great and are possible with most heroes (unable to see a real Storm + Spidey fusion going with a web tornado), but all of the moves are essentially identical. Soon, you will eventually tire of seeing the same fusion again and again. However, they are essential for tackling down your enemies.
Speaking of which, the gameplay is very satisfying, much better than its predecessor by having more feel to it, but it’s still pretty much the same thing, just with added stuff like rag-doll physics. And at least the characters can do their own usual thing (Spidey and Venom can web-swing, Ironman and Songbird, along with others, can fly, etc.) With four heroes, you face pretty much waves of enemies (ranging from 1-???). On higher difficulties, this becomes more of a challenge, but on normal and easy, you can pretty much go through a level blindfolded and still come out on top. And if you somehow lose on easy, characters automatically revive after some time anyway. At least that’s what the in-game directions tell you.
Now as I stated earlier, you have to choose a side in this game. Should you go with Ironman, you will have him, Mr. Fantastic, and Songbird on your team, as well as heroic deeds that can be finished. However, you will temporarily loose Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Captain America. Same thing goes if you choose Cap’s side, only reversed. These paths will net you one of the two endings (which aren’t really satisfying by the way) and let you fight different enemies. But that’s the problem: level design. You have different objectives for each, but the level is basically the same, with nearly the same type of boss fights, with nearly the same types of enemies. So really, just choose who you like and take it from there. And don’t expect a chance to betray/leave your team like Spidey did in the Civil War. Even adding those types of story elements would have helped greatly, but the developers just had to be cheap. There’s not even satisfying moments like in the first game either.
Also, the conversations have been upgraded to choose an answer that fits your hero, but there will be no voice dialogue for that character, which kind of brings the question: Why bother? But you will gain more boosts that help the team out, so that’s something. And it’s better than simply reading from a small text box. Still, that’s the thing: the lack of character that really irks me about this game. And this lack of character focus means no personal missions. Sorry Spider-man fans, you can’t punch Mephisto in the face.
If you were expecting the same great voice actors from the previous title, prepare to be disappointed. That’s right, nearly all the voices have been changed/mixed-up for EVERY character. It’s sad really since I preferred the first game’s Thor voice. Now, it kind of irritates me. Still, voices are good, but not great. Changing Ironman’s voice was actually a wise decision though. And Wolverine fans can relax as they didn’t change him (Thank God!). Also, all the heroes you could control in the first one are also taken, such as Blade and Ghostrider. While the replacements are fun, it does make you miss them terribly. Good news is that the Downloadable Content will feature new characters, including Spidey’s enemy, Carnage. Sadly, you will have to pay.
Online mode runs well, other than the fact of the occasional slowdowns of the frame-rate. Plus you gotta be careful who you play with as they will be a douche and cancel the level halfway. This makes it very frustrating if you are trying to get the online achievements, so stick to playing with a buddy, just like in swimming.
But perhaps the biggest offender is the story. It’s not that it’s bad, but there was so much more that could have been done with it, and not even dealing with personal character stories that could have made for excellent quests or even danger room missions. Plus the game is short, really short. I mean you can beat this within a week for 1 playthrough, and I had to do a crapload of college work too! Really, the only LONG part is the whole story before the Civil War.
All in all, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 isn’t a bad game and it’s very fun, but the length is too short when compared to its predecessors. Worth it if you find it in a bargain bin, but all in all, you can find better games for cheaper or the same price. I even recommend the original game.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 gets a 3 out of 5.
Also, while there was DLC for the game, for reasons I can’t recall, it was taken down for both games. I managed to get the characters and missions, but you aren’t really missing all that much, especially since they don’t add much if any story to the game.