Posted on Blogcritics.org
With the success of Marvel-based games like X-Men Legends and X-Men Legends 2, Activision decided to continue with the comic book intellectual property and brought about the popular game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. It did more than feature our favorite mutants, bringing in characters from all around the Marvel Universe including big names like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. Released in 2006, Activision began working on the sequel right away and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 was just officially released on all of the major gaming devices, except for PC. The sequel takes all of the best parts of the first and expands, although there are a few telltale problems that still exist. You should be having so much fun flying around as Iron Man, though, that the little mistakes are easily shrugged off.
The plot is taken partly from the pages of Marvel Comics and their controversial storylines “Civil War” and “Secret War.” Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D, persuades the heroes to attack Dr. Doom’s homeland of Latveria because the Prime Minister Lucia von Bardas is up to no good. However, von Bardas returns this attack some time later and kills many innocent Americans in the process. This sets the superhuman world on edge, and the citizens start to resent the presence of heroes since it often leads to destruction and death for them. When the superhuman team the New Warriors film themselves taking on a villain group, it backfires horribly and Nitro destroys several city blocks. This also kills an elementary school full of children, so it is unsurprising when the voters demand the Superhuman Registration Act be passed.
This means that all super powered people must register their name and abilities with the U.S. government so they can be properly trained and maintained a.k.a. controlled. While many heroes believe this is the right thing to do, the Pro-Registration side led by Iron Man, there are many who claim it a violation of their human rights, the Anti-Registration side led by Captain America. This causes former friends and companions to hunt and fight one another, a civil war splitting apart the hero community and giving way to a much more nefarious villain on the horizon. It is up to your band of four chosen heroes to solve the crisis at hand and try to save the world again … while bringing peace within your own community. Good luck!
Like the first game, you get to chose among a group of popular Marvel heroes and make a team of four. Three of those four will be A.I., unless you play co-op at home or online with friends. Let’s say you choose Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain America, and Ms. Marvel as your team. Each have their own combination of special abilities that you can strengthen as your character levels up. Beyond their powers, they also have statistical bonuses like Wolverine’s healing factor or Spider-Man’s spidey-sense, and you can level up those as well. As your team fights together, the Fusion ability builds and then when you want to do devastating damage to a villain you can choose two heroes and have them do a combination special attack. This varies from Captain America reflecting Storm’s lightning into enemies, all the way to Juggernaut and Luke Cage slamming over and over into the ground, sending enemies flying helplessly into the air.
Once you get to a certain point of the game, you have to choose which side to be on in the war, Anti-Reg or Pro-Reg. Once you decide, the two stories split away from one another, which means it has plenty of replay value when you can play the game all over again from the other point of view. As Anti-Reg you cannot play as certain heroes who are Pro, like Iron Man, Songbird and Mr. Fantastic, and as Pro-Reg you cannot play Captain America, Iron Fist, or Luke Cage. This also means that you will be fighting those very heroes that you cannot play as, and this makes for some pretty epic boss battles. After a few levels the two sides come together again, but it is still worth playing both points of view in order to get different cut-scenes and chat options.
Other than the mission options you can train in a Danger Room-like setting and learn special moves. If you gather special items during the game you can get extra costumes for the characters, special artwork from the comics, and hear unique voice clips. There is also a pretty entertaining Trivia Game that gets you experience points, and it is super fun to play with other people as you all try to prove who knows the most about Marvel.
The only real issue with the game is the occasional camera problems, especially when you’re playing co-op with your friends. This can be fixed with some good communication between you, but there will always be that one person who wants to go hang out in the corner and drags the rest of the team with them. I was killed several times by villains I couldn’t even fight against because my team wanted to destroy soda machines on the other side of the map. Not cool. There are little things like Autospend (if you don’t want to level up your characters every time) and Team Bonuses that can make your life easier in this game. The action can get a little old after the billionth time you throw Gambit’s kinetically charged cards, and sometimes button mashing is better than trying to think out all of your moves. The cut-scenes are nicely done but not quite as graphically advanced as you’d expect.
Overall, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is a well done sequel, but it doesn’t seem very ‘new.’ It is very similar to the original in tone and execution, and while the things they did add to the game are fun, it really should be able to outshine its predecessor. They spent three years on the game trying to make it bigger and better, but it’s more of the same. That being said, the story aspect is far superior, and the new playable characters are a welcome addition. You especially need to play as Deadpool because his quips are consistently hilarious, and all his chat options with other characters are equally funny. Plus there’s this scene after the credits … aw, wouldn’t want to spoil you! It’s a good game, not a great one; very entertaining with excellent replay value, but it won’t keep you up at night itching for another go.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Violence. It is also available on: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and PlayStation Portable.