I’ve been looking forward to this game for reasons that might not match those for the general public. I found the first Marvel Ultimate Alliance game to be passable, but it didn’t hold my attention the way the X-Men Legends games did. When I heard that the sequel will be following the Secret War and Civil War stories, I couldn’t help but be excited to play through the comic events, getting an interactive view on both sides of the conflict, as well as its aftermath. Unfortunately, some puzzling design choices and rather terrible technical issues hold the game back from being the satisfying Marvel game I’ve been wanting for a long time.
The core mechanics of the series remained untouched. You select a team of four heroes from the marvel universe and brawl your way through different stages, confronting enemies, solving rudimentary puzzles, and taking down bosses, all while progressing the storytelling and letting comic book fans play as major Marvel characters. Picky gamers will be dismissive when it comes to the simple two-button action, but the game remains a strong, arcade-style party game. The changes come in the form of a reduced move set and the ability to swap party members at any time, instead of having to reach a hub. These changes give the game a more streamlined approach, though it ultimately dumbs down the RPG aspects of the game, and makes the game lean strongly towards “brawler” types. The other big addition is fusion powers. On paper, they sound excellent. Any two characters can combine their powers and wreak havoc on their enemies. The problem with this however is that despite the hundreds of possible fusion combinations, there are really only a few unique ones, with just graphic swaps for some of them depending on the characters used. Unfortunately, a wide variety of glitches, from sound glitches to full-on freezes also surfaced in the game.
Unlockables are plentiful, with characters, costumes, bonus missions and more all there to pick up. To top it all off, the quiz machine returns to test players’ knowledge of the Marvel Universe, awarding experience to whomever answers correct the fastest. While it doesn’t have as many collectables comic fans would find interesting, there’s definitely enough incentive to keep players for at least a second play-through.
Graphics have some high points, as well as some lows. Although the number of costumes per character have been cut from four to two, the detail on many of these is very satisfying. From the curves on the different metal plates of Iron Man’s armor to the stitching on Daredevil’s suit, the costumes themselves look fantastic. Character faces on the other hand, are a mixed bag. Some such as Luke Cage and Wolverine look fine, but others, in particular Ms. Marvel and Invisible Woman, look rather creepy. Environments look good, though a lot of the more generic areas are too dark, making it hard to see what’s going on.
Sound in this game is a mixed bag as well. Some voice actors deliver their lines well while others are just plain out of place. It also doesn’t help that they reuse their quips too many times. Music for the most part is ok, with some fitting but highly forgettable tracks in the background.
If the glitches weren’t such a big problem, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 would be a solid sequel to the franchise. Despite some hit or miss audio and inconsistent graphics, the game is quite a lot of fun, especially with multiplayer whether online or in the same area. However, too many technical issues, a sometimes-annoying camera, and unsatisfying twists in the story keep this from being particularly satisfying. As fun as it was to team up Marvel greats and take down evil, the game feels like it wasn't quite up to snuff with its predecessors.