Review: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (PS3, 360)

ultimatealliance2artGame: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
Developer:
Vicarious Visions
Genre:
Hack ‘n’ Slash
Verdict: More of the same with an HD veneer.
Pros: Cool team combo moves. Now you can team up with you favorite villains as well.
Cons:
Bland graphics and no real update to the gameplay other than the combos.

Acquired:
Developer Provided

On the bare face of it, putting this many of Marvel’s best-known characters in to one game is a comic fan’s dream come true. Further sweetening the pot, this time around you can also mix and match your favorite heroes and villains into one ass-kicking team.

Fortunately for fans of the franchise, there is more to the game than this. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 follows the plot of one of Marvel’s most successful storyline to date, the Civil War, penned by a fellow Scotsman and Wanted author, Mark Millar. Civil War revolves around a great split in the superhero community caused by the introduction of the Superhuman Registration Act. This new law forces those with superhuman abilities to either register their talents with the government or face imprisonment.

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The Act is brought into being after a disaster that centers around a group of young vigilantes, featured on a reality TV show. One of the vigilantes, known as Speedball, overcooks his powers, loses control and devastates the town of Stamford, Connecticut. The public outcry is enormous and the government swings into action with the Act. Believing that this is wrong, Captain America, Luke Cage, and a good few other heroes go underground, vowing to fight the Act and those who support it until it is repealed.

On the other side of the coin, Mr Fantastic has done some advanced calculations and believes that the Act is the only way to save the planet. Feeling vindicated with the findings, he and Iron Man join up with those that support the government, in order to hunt down Captain America and his allies. So begins another complicated comic book storyline involving a good few plot twists, before its inevitable resolution. Conversely to what you would think, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is really far from complicated. For all its pretension to some kind of morality, this game is actually fairly simplistic and the moral choice really only comes down to choosing between which characters you want to have available for the whole game. Essentially this results in slight narrative variations, but the gameplay itself has changed very little since X-Men Legends surfaced on the previous generation of consoles.

You are given charge of a team of four superheroes and you have to use them to hack, slash, burn and smash your way through hordes of anonymous enemies, to gang up on some evil that threatens mankind. What has changed this time around is that you can combine two heroes’ powers together in various special moves, which does prove to be particularly devastating.There is also a point in the game where you must choose which team to side with. Depending on your choice of Captain America or Iron Man, this affects which heroes you can choose and even how many of your caped wonders will level up. Of course this is all given a next-gen graphical makeover, which means you can now see the scales of Captain America’s armor in the finest detail.

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Being a huge Marvel fan, I wanted very much to love this game. Civil War proved to be a great read and provided great fodder for a video game. The developer, Vicarious Visions just have not done enough with the rich subject matter. Before I tell you why this game is such a disappointment, just let me say that there is still plenty to be excited about with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. The combination moves are really cool addition and the ability to play as villains as well as heroes is a nice addition to the series. Even Marvel supremo Stan Lee even makes a very welcome cameo! These are all just window-dressing though.

It seems like they have tried to hide the fact that the game’s core mechanics have not evolved, in any significant way, since X-Men Legends. Yes, there ar high-res graphics, but they lack the polish and true attention to detail that we expect from today’s top titles. Levels are quite sparsely laid out and there is some truly odd collision detection, with some piles of crates requiring a significant detour to circum-navigate. As good as the ‘innovations’ are, they feel like they’ve been pulled out of a hat, rather than carefully chosen and designed as important updates. The new combo moves and the addition of villains as playable characters are just tweaks, rather than bold new alterations to the series.

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With the current crop of consoles having been around for a good while now, it would be reasonable to expect that the games would be more than just ports of good titles from the previous generation, with improved graphics. Sadly, this game proves otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy playing with my favourite Marvel superheroes and the Civil War storyline is a cracker, but if you’re going to lay out your hard earned cash, you need something more. Simply put, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 doesn’t always go far enough to justify the outlay. Sorry Marvel, but this year the sane option, as far as comic book games go, is to join Batman in the asylum.

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