There was a time when X-Men video games were not a top priority for gamers. Almost every single game featuring these mutants was shunned because of poor design, poor controls or they just were not enjoyable. That all changed when developer Raven Software, along with publisher Activision, created X-Men Legends. A fun, action-adventure game with RPG elements that gave the mutants a new name in the video game industry. Allowing gamers for the first time to assemble their own team of X-Men, boosting the stats they wished to increase and finally taking on Magneto in the end. Well, with the sales this game made, a sequel was quickly spawned granting players a larger playable cast and more powers. It wasn’t long until Marvel and developers realized this formula would work perfectly with an entire cast of Marvel superheroes and they leaped for the idea. In the year 2006, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance was released. It featured a cast of over twenty superheroes from the franchise, each with their own unique and individual powers. The game received positive reviews around the board. And now, a couple years later, developer Vicarious Visions has taken the reigns releasing Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 for gamers around the world to eat up and enjoy. But is this a sequel that will satisfy our superpower hunger?
Instead of creating an original storyline like the previous entry, Ultimate Alliance 2 follows the widespread Marvel comic event, Civil War. Due to large amounts of catastrophes and deaths caused by powerful men in capes and masks (mostly the young ones who have no idea what they are doing), the government has passed the Superhero Registration Act. This act forces all superheroes to register with the government so their identity and powers can be known, they can be trained to fight crime properly, and their activity can be monitored. Thus, the heroes are split down the middle with the heroes who are for the act following Iron Man and the ones against it following Captain America. This was a major event in the Marvel universe when it was first released yet it doesn’t really stand firm in a video game. Due to the fact that the game has so many characters, the story can never truly focus on one waypoint except for the standoffs between Captain America and Iron Man. There also isn’t much back story given by the game, so players who haven’t read the series may get confused at some points but this won’t shield any players from following the overall story. Even though the game is based upon Marvel’s Civil War, it does branch off the guide rails and takes liberty of the story towards the end of the game.
The gameplay is reminiscent of the first Ultimate Alliance, featuring a team of four heroes who punch, kick, pound, zap, shoot or claw up the countless waves of enemies. Players are able to decide which hero will be a part of that team. Just beware that not every character from the first game will be available this second time around. Nonetheless, combat and choosing your team are easily the greatest parts of the game. Choosing your favorite superhero (as long as he is a playable character) and then going out into the world to beat down some enemies is awesome. Plus, you get to use their unique powers to add to the final licking of your enemies. This isn’t anything new though because it’s all been introduced in the previous game. What is new are the “fusion” moves. During combat, two players or a player and a NPC (non-playable character) can trigger a destructive combination of powers that either wipes out every enemy on screen or deals a large amount of damage to a particular enemy (usually a boss). If you choose to go solo for this adventure, you should have some fun but this game truly excels when you play with some friends. Four player multiplayer is back and is available for local play and online play. This is the way the game was meant to be played. Busting up cyborgs and thugs with some friends can bring a lot of enjoyment.
Similar to the first game, there are numerous heroes to choose from. Like I said earlier, there are a lot of absentees who made appearances in the first game, but they have been replaced with some better and some worse. It’s all up to the player’s preference. As the game progresses, you are given the choice to choose Pro-registration or Anti-Registration. This choice will limit some of the characters you are allowed to play (if you choose Iron Man’s side you won’t be able to play as Captain America or Luke Cage and vice versa) but there are enough to make most gamers happy. Players are also given the ability to choose which stats to increase for each individual hero. This is where the RPG element comes in. Every hero has their own abilities and the more you pound baddies into the ground, the more experience points you receive. You will also level up as progress is made and can increase the damage or effectiveness of a hero’s power.
In between missions, players will be brought to their commanding officer’s (Iron Man or Captain America) headquarters. When in this area, you can run around freely, enjoying the sights or conversing with other heroes. There is also a simulator where you can replay completed missions or try out one of the many challenges to earn medals. Players can also look at dossiers and storyboard art collected throughout the game. Lastly, there is a trivia game that will grant experience points with each correct answer. And for all the comic buffs out there, you know trivia equals fun, fun, fun!
Even with all the entertainment that this game can deliver, it falls flat on its face due to technical problems. First off, the camera is made to ruin you in the heat of battle. There were so many time when I was battling away and the camera would set itself behind an object or wall blocking my vision. This is not a problem when the game gives you slight control of the camera but when it locks itself in place, this can be a real hassle. If the game had allowed the player to zoom in or out this problem could have been easily solved. The other fault this game contains is the bugs. Be ready to have your hero get stuck numerous times whether it is in a wall or in the air. One time I was playing as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and after I jumped to get to an upper platform, he got stuck on the ledge. Another time I was masquerading as Gambit and the next thing I knew he was walking in the air. I couldn’t get back down or jump any higher, I was just stuck walking on enemies foreheads. These problems were solved when I switched the hero out of the team but you shouldn’t have to do that in order to get a video game to work. These are bugs that should have been cleaned out way before release.
The sound is another highpoint in the game. Voice acting works for all of the characters except Thor. In the first Ultimate Alliance, Thor actually sounded like a Norse God which made him seem really cool. In this one he sounds like a whiny Shakespearian actor with raspy voice. The sound effects are great as all the powers all have their unique sounds from Spider-Man’s web attacks to Wolverine’s claw swipes. Each punch and kick is delivered in pure comic book fashion with BAM and POW sounds while characters spew out one-liners. The music does its job as it fits the atmosphere. However, you won’t be hanging out with your friends whistling the tunes. All in all, it is a good but forgettable soundtrack.
From an outside perspective, the graphics look pretty good. This game took a major step up from its cartoonish look in the previous entry. The environments aren’t spectacularly designed but they are far from ugly. Almost all of the character designs are done well but you’ll probably question some alternate costumes. The enemies are monotonous but what can you expect from a genre that forces you to fight wave after wave of them? When you take a closer look at this game however, you will see the rough edges. Graphical problems are a haunting factor in this game. Characters will sometimes run straight through walls or each other. Also, during conversations, half or the characters’ heads will block the screen which isn’t a pretty picture. This begs the question, what made the developers believe they were finished when there were so many errors that needed polishing?
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is a fun game that is just unpolished. It seems like a rushed piece of work that needed to be shipped out in order to make some cash. Sure, there are some good points to the game that make it worth the playing time but in the end, players will become annoyed by technical problems. The story is based on a major comic book event that is sure to pull in some gamers and the action packed gameplay is fun, especially with some friends. Yet the bugs just drag the game farther and farther away from the greatness it’s trying to emulate. They may seem minor at first but the continuous occurrences become a major setback halfway through the game. Play this game only if you were a huge fan of the original and you have been eagerly waiting the arrival of a sequel. Otherwise, just let this super powered adventure fly right over your head.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com