Review: Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2

Comic book heroes, RPG-lite mechanics, and a whole lot of silliness go a long way when it comes to gaming. Even if you’re not on the up-and-up with Tony Stark’s background or Deadpool’s merc-with-a-mouth ‘tude, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 can still quench your thirst for a powerful, entertaining adventure that grips you with all its might and seldom lets go. It resonates with the dulcet tones of the original game, providing that feel-good jolt that you sometimes need in this day and age, what with all the underwhelming games being released for no good reason (Ju-On, anyone?). While it may not have technically improved over its predecessor in too many discernible ways, it’s just plain fun. 

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 allows gamers to take control of squads of some of their favorite heroes and villains in order to solve puzzles, beat the living daylights out of enemies, and venture forth into the unknown throughout a storyline based out of the Registration Act saga. While you can play as a myriad of different characters, this storyline that explores the government’s pitiable attempt at forcing heroes into legally registering themselves allows for multiple playthroughs to experience the story from both sides of the fence. Through some shifty story sequences that manage to wholly captivate and engage players, the division of opinion (the heroes for and against the Registration Act) provides some compelling storytelling, something that seemed to be missing from the original game.

While you might be expecting some sort of dynamic changes from the original game, the exact same RPG elements are still intact. Via an isometric camera view, it’s your job to guide a ragtag bunch of heroes throughout several different areas, performing regular RPG-esque tasks. Yes, you’ll be leveling up, collecting money, items, and exploring to your heart’s content. Though you head a group of four, you will only control one hero at a time. The AI (or human players you have selected to play alongside you in a rousing game of co-op) take care of the rest of your squad, and they generally do a good job of backing off when they’re hurting and charging forth when damage is needing to be done. Still, there is a fair amount of wandering around away from battle, wasting time away from the action, and buggy actions such as getting stuck on boxes, but this doesn’t happen often enough to be considered a real flaw. Regardless of which hero or villain you choose out of an exhaustive roster (including Spider-Man, Deadpool, Wolverine, Venom, Storm, and tons of others), you needn’t worry about missing out on specific combos or moves. Each character can perform different combos and perform the same types of melee attacks, as well as four superpowers.

marvel2While many of the superpowers work just as well as others, some do prove to be much more visually appealing than others, which ultimately end up being the reason you choose them over others. For instance, the relentless slashing of Wolverine’s beastly claws trumps the boring melee from other members of the Marvel universe in terms of aesthetically pleasing attacks. You’ll often base your choices on those silly aspects, such as the one-liners spouted in battle or simply who you like the best, and that’s okay. There’s no real reason to gravitate toward a “strategic” team since most of the contenders work just about the same. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, wait until you get a load of Fusions.

Fusions are brand new to the sequel, and allow you to pair up two different team members for an explosive attack. As you toss bad guys into wheelchairs and send them home crying to Momma, your fusion meters will charge, eventually allowing you to unleash several different attacks according to which two heroes you’ve chosen. For instance, Iron Man and Captain America provide a particularly useful enemy-clearing attack, and heroes of different elemental backgrounds join together to attack with barrages of dual-element damage such an ice and fire beam. That’s hot and cool at the same time! I know, I’m terrible. Still, even with all of these options, the excitement of having these Fusions at your fingertips does tend to fizzle out, especially since, like most of the hero choices available, they are all basically variations of the same attack — some just look a bit different. And the way they look is the bulk of the excitement they provide. They’re just fun to use in battle. They don’t require sophisticated button presses, pricey attack cost, or anything difficult, and, in fact, their existence enhances the gameplay.

And there are plenty of places to put Fusions and different combo strings to use. You’ll be strolling through locations such as the Negative Zone, Latveria, and various others (some very familiar ones) throughout a campaign that should take every bit of 8 hours to complete depending on how much exploration and customization you want to put in. Branching story paths present good reasons to play it over and over — just to see what all there is to offer. Failing that, there are plenty of unlockables to discover: new costumes, dossiers, and even trivia questions to answer. There’s plenty of content and bang for your buck.

The graphics haven’t received too much notable polish, but there is a certain bit of finesse the previous game lacked that this one promotes in full force. You can still expect the very same boisterous musical backdrops as well as cheesy one-liners (Deadpool is a prime suspect for this) to swirl together in a mixture of aural and visual pleasure that should please fans of the original game.


Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 isn’t an improvement in every way over its predecessor, but it’s more of the same campy action fans have come to expect. Since fans will demand change from a great formula and complain about subsequent changes, sequels are always iffy endeavors. Why mess with what works? In this, MUA2 should serve up some exhilarating RPG action (great with friends) as well as time spent with some of your favorite Marvel characters. It’s not redefining the genre, and it’s not breaking new ground. It’s just fun. That’s more than we can say for some other titles right about now.

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