Marvel Ultimate Alliance, released back in 2007, was the first game that successfully combined a large number of Marvel superheroes into one co-op adventure. Although it was far from perfect, it had a surprising amount of depth, and the combinations of different superheroes generally led to fun times. Two years later, we have Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, a sequel that attempts to both re-capture the same audience of the original and bring a new audience in, but somehow fails to do both entirely.
The story revolves around the Marvel superheroes, specifically two different sides of heroes. There is an act that is passed which mandates all superheroes must register themselves as “weapons of mass destruction” and become government agents. This splits the alliance apart, with Iron Man becoming the leader of the Pro-Registration side, and Captain America leading the Anti-Registration side. The story is not the main focus here, but both sides generally are identical and the story never leads to any kind of satisfying conclusion. There are dialogue choices, but their impact on the game’s story are minimal at best.
Visually, the game looks nice. All of the character models are fleshed out, and you can tell there was a lot of work that went into the making of each character, their animations, and their flashy special moves and fusion attacks. The villains, which play just as big of a role in this game as in the first, are also impressive and have the same kind of visual flair you would expect from a game like this. And there is a wide variety of both them and the many enemies scattered around the game world. The environments can get repetitive and pretty dull though, and the voice acting is mediocre at best. Not to mention we get several of the same lines repeated, which can only lead to people muting their TVs.
The core gameplay is basic, even more so than the original. You have your main attacks, your special attacks, and your fusion attacks. You also have a jump and double jump (or flying ability for certain characters) to help bypass of the trickier areas in the game. The special attacks are easily performed, and the fusion attacks are a perfect way to get out of a tough situation. All and all, these moves blend together nicely and lead to plenty of cool looking combinations.
You also have the ability to level up your party and eventually you’ll be able to switch out characters from your four hero team on the fly. And, as always, you’ll be able to switch between your four main heroes at any point during battle, which brings me to the co-op. This is a game that is definitely best experienced with a friend, or even three friends, just like in the original. There are no real improvements to the co-op, but it worked fine in the first place, so there’s not much that needs to be changed.
My main gripe with the game is, even with a friend or friends playing alongside you, you will still find yourself getting bored of it rather quickly. The main combat is not nearly as satisfying as it should be, and all of the heroes, despite their special attacks, all practically feel the same. There is no benefit for going with one hero or another in any specific situation, and there is also no real strategy involved in combat. All and all, it tends to be not only a bore, but there is practically no challenged involved.
Another major problem is a lot of the major components from the first game, mainly the RPG elements, have been stripped down. It feels like they are trying to attract a larger crowd with the sequel. Although you can still auto-level up your characters, if you enjoy micromanaging their stats, you’ll be very disappointed to find out that a lot of the same options that may have made the original addictive have been removed, and the amount of things to level up for each character has been trimmed down significantly. It takes what made the original unique and ruins it completely.
Overall, with a good group of friends you may have some fun with this title. However, the game is just too repetitive to make it a strong single player title. It has a lot of things going for it, but at the end of the day most fans of the original will be very disappointed with this sequel.
ESRB: Rated T for teen; rated for mild language and violence
Pros: Cool character interactions; nice variety of enemies and bosses to fight; has the same basic formula from the original; the co-op is still fun
Cons: It gets very old very fast; while there is a nice variety of enemies, they all are practically the same; the RPG elements and leveling up have been toned down, taking away a lot of the depth of the original; the story is lackluster; the voice acting is bad, and plenty of the same lines are repeated