Superheroes have come a long way recently. Gone are the days when the only people who liked superheroes were the geeks who lived in their mums basement reading comic books and being socially inept. Nowadays everybody wants a piece of the action, be it in movies, TV shows, cartoons or video games – superheroes are on a winning streak. But does Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 earn your money?
Being a sequel, the original games fans will know what to expect here, not much has changed in terms of gameplay, or even graphics – everything here is very safe. Everything that made the original game fun is present and accounted for, but the things that made it unbearable at times have made a spectacular return, too.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 takes place in a time where superheroes are recognised by the general public for what they are – unofficial law men / women. At the beginning, four of our group of 24 selectable heroes – Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man and Captain America – are on a mission with Colonel Nick Fury, of the organisation S.H.I.E.L.D in the fictitious nation of Latveria. The rest of the story revolves around this mission, and the consequences it brings.
The mission leads to a split between our heroes, after a new Government Act comes into place requiring all superheroes to register themselves with the government. There are heroes who agree to this – the Pro-Registration, and those who don't – the Anti-Registration. The latter go on to form a sort of resistance group, and if you chose Pro-Registration, it'll be your quest to bring them to justice. Likewise if you chose Anti-Registration, you are required to cause havoc in a way only superheroes can – break stuff.
Once you are into the game and start unlocking characters to play as (you start with 4, and unlock more progressively), you can pick and choose your four man team any time you wish – altering their powers and boosts, as well as choosing some team boosts which will help all four members. While you can manually level up, I left it as auto, as the computer did a more than adequate job of keeping things even. I only found myself changing the computers choices twice in the 7 hour campaign.
Combat is handled via the face buttons, with a button assigned to light, heavy and power attacks. Holding a shoulder button and pressing a face button uses the heroes powers, for example, with Spider-Man, holding the shoulder button and pressing the X button unleashes shots of web as a projectile attack on foes. These powers use up your 'Focus Metre' which regenerates itself rather quickly, so you never really have to worry about not using your powers should you need them.
One of the problems the combat brings, is the simplicity. There are combos, but everyone's is basically the same in button combinations and animation. You may also find yourself unleashing your heroes might on a very deserving bit of fresh air. The targeting system is alright, but when it falters, you'll be swinging fists all over the place. This leads to another one of the games problem, and perhaps its biggest – upon viciously punching a threatening looking wall, on numerous occasions I simply went straight into it. No matter what I done I was stuck, this could only be remedied by loading the previous checkpoint. Definitely a pain when certain achievements / trophies / in-game rewards, ask you complete a level without dying or loading from checkpoints.
Of course the combat isn't all bad. One of the abilities our merry group of spandex-wearing do-gooders have now, is the Fusion ability. With this, you can combine the might of two different heroes to unleash a powerful attack on large groups of enemies, or focus on a single enemy (usually a boss) with an even more powerful attack. These are flashy and powerful, but unfortunately, they all look too similar. The game claims uniqueness for any two heroes, but they are basically the exact same simply with a different movement or object. For example Spider-Man teaming with Wolverine, results in Spidey swinging Wolverine around gaining momentum, then hurling Wolverine into the enemy causing a large amount of damage. Team Spidey with The Thing, and Thing will tear up a bit of the ground, and Spidey will swing that around then toss it. Despite the similarities between them all though, they are fun to use – especially when you're up against a group of about 20 or so grunts and you unleash Holy Hell on them with a Fusion attack.
Of course no Marvel product would be complete without some witty writing. M:UA2 has some great writing on its side, the voice acting by the cast is generally good, including a rather amusing cameo from one Mr Stan Lee. Again though, problems arise. Just like the original game, your heroes will remain largely mute, with your dialogue limited to text options in either an aggressive, diplomatic, or defensive tone. Answering in a particular tone a set amount of times will net you a reward of boost, such as extra strength or focus. These bits of dialogue are, for the most part written well. It's just a shame they couldn't be voiced too as it breaks some of the games stride when well known wise-cracking heroes like Deadpool are mute, responding to questions in text-form.
By nature, this game is classed as an action-RPG, but heavy emphasis is on action here. You'll spend the entire game dismantling thugs as your chosen heroes, with minimal RPG-ing required. As mentioned earlier, if you so choose you can allow the computer to auto-level everyone, leaving you to just use your super-powers to make the bad guys fall over until you finish the game. However if you decide you want to be more hands on, you can personally level up your team as you go, crafting them exactly as you want – a nice choice to be given. I fully intend to customise my team personally on my next play through.
Graphically, the game is only mildly better than its predecessor, with better lighting and some smoother animation on heroes attacks. Things can get a bit hectic when there's a lot of action on screen, but the game holds up with no slow downs – surprisingly the one slow down moment I had, was when there was no enemies on-screen at all!
If you are a fan of the previous game, you basically know what to expect here and if you are a fan, you'll enjoy it. For the pure RPG fans, they may want to look elsewhere, as there's not enough stat grinding here to justify the RPG part of an 'A-RPG'. Fans of Marvel characters will eat up the story and fans of hitting things will love the shallow but fun combat. In this game, it's always clobberin' time, and fans will love it.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Superheroes have come a long way recently. Gone are the days when the only people who liked superheroes were the geeks who lived in their mums basement reading comic books and being socially inept. Nowadays everybody wants a piece of the action, be it in movies, TV shows, cartoons or video games – superheroes are on a winning streak. But does Marvel: