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Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (PlayStation 3) artwork

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (PlayStation 3) review

"More of the same. That’s my summary for those of you with short attention spans. If more of the same is what you’re looking for in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, then you won’t be disappointed. For the rest of you, you can still have fun with the formula, if you have the right group of people."

More of the same. That’s my summary for those of you with short attention spans. If more of the same is what you’re looking for in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, then you won’t be disappointed. For the rest of you, you can still have fun with the formula, if you have the right group of people.

Ostensibly Ultimate Alliance 2 concerns the huge Civil War that strikes the Super Hero community when Nick’s Fury’s vigilantism encourages America to pass the Registration Act, requiring crime fighters to reveal their identities and work for the government. While possibly one of Marvel’s greatest storylines, it loses a lot in translation. The game plays like a “best moments of” recap of the Civil War, never going into much detail about what’s going on or the emotional turmoil that the characters are thrown into by the Registration Act. Newcomers to the Marvel world will most likely be lost while purists will be annoyed by the glossing over of major events and the fact that they changed the ending of the storyline.

It doesn’t really matter, though. The thin veil of a plot cannot disguise the true purpose of the game, which is to beat the snot out of all obstacles that cross your path. Super Villains and their lackeys make up a good percentage of these obstacles, but it doesn’t stop there. You can (and will) also destroy cars, tanks, helicopters, cardboard boxes, shelfing units, explosive barrels, missiles someone left laying around, computer terminals, teddy bears... the list goes on. If humans built it, it can be destroyed by your merry band of mutants and masked men. One of my friends delighted in ripping trees out of the ground and throwing them across the stage proving that not even nature is safe from Marvel. Usually after clearing an area, it looks appropriately like a warzone; a wasteland filled with sparking wires, small fires, and debris. The level of destruction is much more satisfying than in the previous game.

In fact, everything is more satisfying than in the previous game, which is Ultimate Alliance 2’s big selling point. Apparently developers listened to the feedback from Ultimate Alliance 1 and whitewashed and streamlined everything for this release. The controls are smoother, the level design is much more varied, the boss fights are actually entertaining, and the abilities are much easier to understand and use. Fusion attacks, in particular, have been revamped and not only are extremely helpful and easy to pull off, but are some of the coolest looking moves I’ve seen this fiscal year. It’s also impressive that no two characters have the exact same fusions. Captain America and the Invisible Woman may tear through enemies the same way Wolverine and Deadpool do, but Captain America does it encased in one of Invisible Woman’s telepathic barriers, while Deadpool and Wolverine go back to back, combining their bladed weapons for devastating effect... the same effect, ultimately, as the other combo, but it looks different enough to be entertaining.

This “separate but equal” gameplay carries on into character selection to lesser praise. For instance, Marvel fans will rejoice to know that Gambit has regained his rightful place as a playable character, but they will be disheartened to find he doesn’t play all that different from Deadpool. Again, the moves all look different, but the effect tends to be the same. I’m personally not against this. After all, how many different methods of attack can you have in Gauntlet? But it does cut down the replay value a bit, as once you unlock your favorite character, there’s no need to ever play as anyone else unless you’re obsessive about trophies.

You don’t even have to worry about leveling up the right moves, as EXP spending is no longer permanent. I can already sense the collective eyebrows of the gaming world rising at that one. I have to admit, it’s a strange addition to the format. It did come in handy when the computer automatically spent all my hard won points after I accidentally hit the wrong button but overall the change is not one I think most players will appreciate. It cheapens the RPG aspect of the game and makes me wonder why they didn’t just do away with EXP altogether, or maybe replace it with linear leveling. After all, the real fun of leveling is unlocking new abilities. Boosting them up is fluff and here even that has been downsized.

Another thing that’s fluff is the A.I. If you’re playing by yourself you’re going to be cursing the computer a lot as it stands around or spams its most ineffectual attacks while you’re getting gang raped in a corner. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 does not lend itself well to the single player experience. Not that there aren’t hiccups in the multiplayer arena, as well. Remember those times in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 1 where you would run into a crowd of enemies and immediately lose track of your character? Yeah, that still happens. Not as often, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.

Still, with good friends and a prodigious amount of button mashing you’ll be able to pull yourself out of even the most desperate situation. Occasionally, you’ll even get that classic adrenaline rush as you beat down your last enemy and turn away from the screen to give your buddies a congratulatory nod.

But never the high-five slap of X-Men: Legends.

“It just isn’t Legends,” my friend Dave said with a sad shake of his head. He’s right. X-Men: Legends marked an inspirational remix of the Gauntlet routine. Three or four games later, that remix has become formula. This iteration is completely passable, but all the touch ups in the world can’t disguise the fact that it’s time to try something new. Now that Disney has bought Marvel, maybe we should bust out “Marvel Hearts.”

Rating: 7/10

zippdementia's avatar
Freelance review by Jonathan Stark (October 11, 2009)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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