Before I even begin to get into my review for Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, I feel the need to say that I don’t read comics, nor do I follow anything that happens in the Marvel universe. A lot of the hijinks that the superheroes get themselves into are unknown to me, so please forgive me for not going into much depth with the characters in this review. With that out of the way, let’s get on with the review!
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (MUA2) is the latest superhero action RPG churned out by Activision and various developer studios (different studios made different ports). In MUA2, players assume control over several Marvel heroes and anti-heroes in their quest to combat an issue that forces all mutant superheroes to register with the government.
About 60-90 minutes into MUA2, a sequence of events occurs that brings about this whole registration act that forces all mutant heroes to register with the government or be deemed criminals. Two iconic characters are at odds with one another over the issue, however. Captain America is against the mutant registration act, refusing to adhere to it due to several reasons that he deems immoral. Taking the side of the government is Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man. Up until the point in the game where these two are at odds, everything is just dandy in hero land. However, after it becomes evident that these two iconic heroes do not see eye to eye on the issue, the player has to pick which side they want to be one, Anti-Registration or Pro-Registration. Which side you choose determines what your headquarters are, what missions you will temporarily be assigned to, and what characters will be available to you.
In terms of characters, it is worth noting that there is a lot of variety in MUA2. While certain characters will only join you if you’re for or against the registration act, you will still always have tons of heroes to choose from. Captain America, Deadpool, Gambit, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, Venom, Wolverine, and a dozen other characters will be able to travel with you. Since you must always have a team of four heroes, there are a lot of cool possibilities and I imagine that comic fans will be able to make some great dream teams.
For those who aren’t familiar with the gameplay, even though I’m reviewing this game several months after it’s release, I’ll go over how MUA2 works. As I mentioned above, you have a squad of four heroes at all times. The game is divided into several mission arcs in which you guide your heroes through fairly linear levels obliterating foes, defeating bosses, and performing tasks that progress the story.
The gameplay is deemed action RPG. I get the action part pretty well, but this game is too linear to be considered an RPG, with the whole RPG element being nothing more than dialogue options in conversations and where you want to allocate skill points that your heroes earn when they level up. I will admit that yes, it’s fair to label the game an RPG, but the action part of the game takes center stage.
Attacks are mapped to the X and circle buttons, while square serves as a pick-up/throw button. Trademark superhero moves can be performed by holding a shoulder button (I played on the PS3, so it was R2) and then pressing either X, circle, square, or triangle. The player can switch to any character in their squad whenever they want by pressing any button on the d-pad.
Missions are insanely action packed, and I found gameplay to be kind of like Diablo only with four Marvel superheroes instead of one fantasy inspired character class. There are many waves of enemies in each mission, and they’ll often come at you in very large waves that initially look a little overwhelming. Fortunately, special attacks easily dispatch most foes, and fusion attacks (which is when two characters join their powers together for an attack) will prove to be absolutely devastating to almost any enemy that will challenge the player aside from boss characters. Some fusion attacks are very cool, like when you pair Ms. Marvel and Wolverine together. The pair will use their respective powers to unleash a devastating AoE attack that will decimate any enemy within range. Some characters do not really “match” with others however, and you will just get a sort of generic fusion attack when pairing incompatible heroes together. The gameplay is fast and hectic, so if that’s your cup of tea then this is definitely a game you’ll enjoy.
The graphics are surprisingly nice for a console action RPG title. While environments are fairly detailed and nice to look at, it’s the character models that really seal the deal for me. Each and every hero is packed full of detail, which is really impressive since the camera is usually zoomed out fairly far from them. Deadpool, Iron Man and Spider-Man in particular look really outstanding. Unfortunately a lot of NPCs aren’t crafted quite as well, with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Maria Hill being a prime example of this.
In terms of sound, MUA2 does a fairly good job. Most of the music tracks are very fitting of the locales you will visit, and it’s worth noting that while some tracks aren’t very exceptional, there really isn’t any bad music in this game at all. Sound effects are pretty good as well, though it can be a little difficult to distinguish one sound from another in the heat of battle, due to the insane amount of sound effects being generated by your four man team as well as from the enemy forces that can number over one dozen most of the time. Voices are very good in this game, with heroes such as Captain America or Wolverine really stealing the show. A few characters could have probably done with better voices though, because I felt a little underwhelmed by Deadpool and Ms. Marvel. Deadpool’s humour seemed too forced and Ms. Marvel’s voice actress just didn’t have enough “oomph” for such a powerful and prominent female figure in the Marvel universe.
With all the good out of the way, I’ll comment on the few bad points I have with this game. First is the camera. Despite being able to control it and rotate it around, it can still find itself in odd locations and won’t always provide you with the best view of the action. Second nitpick is the ingame menu that allows you to swap heroes and distribute skill points. It’s a pretty clunky menu, and I find that it’s slow to navigate and just overall feels fairly sluggish. MUA2’s menu is one of the very rare ones that feels like a console menu that was meant for the PC.
As a whole, MUA2 is remarkably solid. The story is interesting and the gameplay is a blast. Considering that you can play cooperatively with a friend or online, it adds even more to MUA2’s already outstanding gameplay. The entire package is well above average and, while not great, really is a lot of fun to play. Anyone who enjoys action RPGs or even just Marvel comic books will most likely find a lot to enjoy in MUA2.