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Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2

 

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: 3rd Person: Action, RPG
 
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Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions

Features

1-4 Players
2-4 Players Co-op
2-4 Online Multiplayer
HDTV 720p/1080p/1080i
Game Content Download

It has been a good year for superhero video games. Both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Wolverine are two recent examples of how games in this genre are not always rushed ‘flash in the pan’ titles. So when Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 for the Xbox 360 arrived at my home office my expectations was high especially considering the demo we watched at E3 in Los Angeles earlier this year was something I found quite impressive. Well after some extended playtime with the game I have to say I am left with some mixed emotions. On one hand the game can be a riot as smashing villains with your favourite hero has never been so much fun. On the other hand, Ultimate Alliance 2 lacks some depth and pulling off the same combos over and over tends to get repetitious after awhile.

Graphics

The visuals in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 are very strong and certainly an upgrade over its predecessor. For starters, our heroes are all nicely detailed and easily recognizable. In the game the character models, albeit small, look good and move very smoothly. You will notice some clipping issues every now and then but it is nothing too distracting. Pulling off fusion moves (which I explain below) with most characters is impressive and even when things get crazy on screen I never noticed any major slowdown. As far as the game’s cut-scenes are concerned I was a little disappointed. Considering we are this far along into the life of the Xbox 360 they looked dated and a tad blurry. I just expected a little more polish and a little more detail in this area. It almost appears as if cut-scenes were used across all the console platforms. Needless to say, I was not that impressed.

Another area of concern was the game’s lighting effects which at times appeared too dark. Even after I adjusted the brightness some levels were simply too dark making it difficult to differentiate between an enemy and another member of the alliance. The game’s level design on the other hand is solid and also much better than the original Marvel: Ultimate Alliance which came out a few years ago. Some of the shadow effects from trees and buildings are simply stellar. Also, the amount of destructible objects in the game is awesome making it a great game to play with a friend as you demolish everything in sight. All in all, Ultimate Alliance 2 is decent looking game but nothing which will blow your socks off. When you consider the 3-year wait for this sequel I have to admit I expected a more visually stunning game.

Sound

Unfortunately the sound left very little lasting impressions with me. That being said, Ultimate Alliance 2 is not a bad sounding game, it is just that it could have been a bit better. On a positive note, the game’s soundtrack is well done. The music really gives you the feeling you are immersed in the Marvel comic book world. As we typically see with games in this genre, the music amps-up as the action becomes more intense and settles down after you have shredded up all the enemies in sight. In some instances the music seemed ill-timed; however for the most part it went quite well with the game. The voice work is not the best we have seen in recent years but it adequately does the job. Some of the voices did grate me however. Most notably Spider-Mans whiney voice was awful and a few other heroes sounded a little over-the-top. That being said others characters, such as Wolverine, were quite strong and believable. Finally, the in-game sound effects were as good as they should be but they were nothing spectacular. On the whole I had no concerns with the sound effects and battle noises; I just didn’t find myself awestruck.

Gameplay

Following a Civil War story arc, a fight between heroes and villains causes an explosion in Stamford, Connecticut. The explosion kills 612 civilians, including a number of school children. The government and public turn on the heroes and demand a Superhuman Registration Act. If the government passes the act, all heroes, including our Marvel Comic Book heroes, will have to register and reveal their secret identities. In the game, players are able to choose between the Pro-Registration or the Anti-Registration side. Some heroes are locked into a specific side; however others are playable on either side of the conflict. Either way, you will have the option of supporting Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D to defend national security or fight for freedom alongside Captain America and his band of rebels.

Overall it’s not a bad storyline as some of the RPG elements really keep you immersed in the game. The story is seemingly much more interactive and intense this time around as well. Getting the opportunity to play the game from both sides is clever and adds some replay value. I am not much of an RPG guy but as far as the storyline is concerned, Ultimate Alliance 2 hits the mark.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is an action role-playing video and is the sequel to the 2006 Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. The game features various characters from the Marvel Comics universe. Like the previous instalment, Ultimate Alliance 2 allows you to choose four characters to play through the game. Team members are interchangeable and may be swapped during play. The mechanics are very similar to those of the X-Men Legends series and is played from a top down or dungeon crawl perspective. The game supports up to four players simultaneously battling together online or offline. As you play you have the ability to level up characters and earn new abilities and powers.

As I just mentioned, Ultimate Alliance 2 plays very similar to the original but the gameplay has received some upgrades. For starters basic combat remains the same as 3-hit combos are the name of the game once again. Frantic button mashing is a big part of playing this title but there is a little more strategy this time around. Granted you can get through the main areas mashing but learning some basic combos is critical. The controls are easy to pick up and within a matter of minutes you are pulling off “fusion” moves; which add that element of strategy I was talking about. Fusion moves are accomplished when two characters combine powers, yielding a new attack. Each playable character in the game has a unique fusion that they can combine with every other playable character in the game. An example is Captain America using his shield to reflect Storm's lightning bolts. The result is extremely satisfying and it is certainly a nice little addition to the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance gameplay. The amount of fusion moves in the game is impressive when you consider the total amount of heroes in the game. Some are obviously much more impressive than others but at the end of the day fusion is a welcomed addition.

The heart of the game remains the combat, but I have to admit something, it got old fairly quickly for me. Many veterans gamers will plug along and likely say to themselves that they have been here before, meaning Ultimate Alliance 2 has a “been there done that” feel to it. On a positive note all the heroes seem nicely balanced this time around. The enemy AI is still a walk in the park but playing online with up to three friends is truly a blast no matter how easy it is to clear out an army of spawning drones. It was nice to see that using one hero over another did not give the player any advantage. Heroes seem to have less powers this time around which makes the gameplay a little more balanced. This aspect alone makes the online play extremely satisfying as gone are the days of one hero dominating the game.

I was a little disappointed with the boss fights in Ultimate Alliance 2 as they appear a little underwhelming this time around. It was really a matter of finding which two heroes had the magical mix of fusion powers to take out the boss. Once you figure that out and figure out the boss’s pattern of attack, they were relatively easy to take down. Another area of disappointment was the lack of costumes per character too. Ultimate Alliance 2 only features two per hero. I would have liked to have seen a little more variety here.

Ultimate Alliance 2 features an abundance of collectibles while the ability to upgrade your heroes makes the game extremely addictive. As you progress through the game your heroes will gain XP in a variety of ways. Defeating enemies, completing missions, defeating bosses, and absorbing health orbs are just a few ways you can level up your hero. When one of your heroes has accumulated enough XP they will gain level increases to their attributes and the ability to upgrade their powers. It is a system we have seen in so many games yet it remains one of the major redeeming qualities of this title. I should also mention that when playing the game co-operatively, Ultimate Alliance 2 uses a co-op XP system among all the heroes from your roster. In other words, when one team member levels up, all of the heroes in your roster level up too. This was a nice little touch by the developers in my view.

I haven’t spent much time discussion the online play but this is ultimately where I had my most enjoyment out of the game. Ultimate Alliance 2 features a drop-in/drop-out feature so anyone can join at any time. Again, it is another nice little touch by the development team. Another slick feature to the online play is the quick upgrade system which is easily accessed by the back button. To upgrade your character(s) while playing online you no longer have to press pause and stop the game. Instead, you simply press the back button and a quick upgrade menu appears. Clearly the development team wanted to make the online experience seamless with no hiccups. In that respect, mission accomplished.


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