* Prices may differ from that shown
I claim this review in the name of Thor! This was the sort of delightful nonsense that my partner had to endure when we played the original 'Marvel Ultimate Alliance' on the Xbox 360 (members.dooyoo.co.uk/xbox-360/marvel-ultimate-alliance-xbox-360/1063334/). She would play the demure Invisible Woman, whilst I would play the bombastic Thor who took credit for everything, even if it had nothing to do with him. The game was an excellent dungeon crawl game that allowed four players to join together as their favourite members of the Marvel world. The settings were varied and the plot had a lightness that made it pacey and enjoyable. When news of the sequel came about I was looking forward to more of the same high quality action, was I going to get it?
'Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2' (MUA2) is an action 3rd person dungeon crawl game seen from over the heads of the various players. It is an underrepresented genre of the current generation of consoles; the type of game that puts collecting loot on the same level as the level design. To begin with you play as a set few members of the Marvel Universe, but as the game progresses you must chose a side to fight on, those mutants willing to sign a government naming register, and those that wish to remain anonymous. Depending on which allegiance you choose will change which characters you can unlock.
No matter what side you join the basic button mashing gameplay remains the same. There are jump and punch buttons as well as a new feature that allows you to join with another superhero in a powerful attack. The first game in the series grew a little tiresome as the gameplay was the same button mash at the start as at the end. The tiresome nature of the controls kicks in a lot earlier in 'MUA2' as it is so similar to what has gone before. There is nothing essentially broken with the gameplay, just that it feels incredibly uninspired at times. (3 out of 5)
The Civil War storyline that shook the entire Marvel Universe in the comics is a revered set of graphic novels. 'MUA2' takes this complex set of comics and distils them into a simple game narrative. On some levels the story works as you can see from the side of the rebels that being forced to kneel to the government is no good thing. However, I found it hard to sympathise with the slightly fascist route that the likes of Ironman took in the game. The issue with the storyline is that it is merely there as a way to link random levels together, none of the nuances that made the comics so good is present. By having a compelling central idea, at least the game has something, but it could have been a lot more. (3 out of 5)
Though not as long as the original game, 'MUA2' is still a good 16+ hours worth of gameplay that covers both sides of the Civil War. The problem lies in the fact that all the levels are essentially the same and the game become repetitive quite quickly. You get some value for your money, but is the game too long? The achievements are present as ever, most can be gained in one run through, but to get all the achievements, and play all the game, you will need to play the game twice, changing sides. Approaching the storyline from a different direction is a good way of extending lifespan, but in real terms the levels are pretty similar no matter who you play as. For completeists there is a lot of game here just that many people will give in before seeing it all. (4 out of 5)
It is perhaps the online elements of the Marvel Alliance games that
make them fun to complete, even if the games themselves are flawed. You can play as any mix of four players; be that two people in one house, alongside two people in separate houses. This easy and convenient online gameplay means that it is fun to rattle through the entire game with friends over the internet. The lag is pretty minimal, but more could have been done to reward players who are not the host. (4 out of 5)
'MUA2' is a game that has a lot going on at the screen at once as four heroes can take on many enemies. For this reason the game has to simplify the graphics slightly to allow a lot to happen without slowdown. Activision has successfully prevented slowdown and the graphics are a step up from the first game. However, the use of dark colours, rather than the bright look of 'MUA1', means that the game looks muggier than it should have done. (3 out of 5)
This is the one area in which the game seriously falls down on. 'MUA2' is a dungeon crawler game disguised with a Marvel skin, with this comes the inherent problem with the genre - repetitive levels. Each level is set in a completely different place, but all of them feel like the same reskinned dungeon. Little is done to shake things up, and when they are shaken the mechanics of the game break e.g. a fight against a giant foe that left us all dead on many occasions. The issue with the darker look of the game also makes the levels duller than they should be. I think that the level design is poor enough that some players will not bother to complete the game. (2 out of 5)
The comic book world has rich potential for sounds. 'MUA2' does its best to recreate the frenzy of the graphic novel, but fails to do so. The individually voiced heroes are excellent, but they repeat the same phrases too often. Sound wise the crashes and explosions are drowned out by all the activity on screen, and the music is forgettable. (3 out of 5)
I enjoyed 'Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2', but I can see that other people would not. The game is a solid dungeon crawler, and fans of this genre or the world of Marvel will get something from the game. However, the game does have some uninspiring level design and gameplay that begins to grate towards the end. Despite this, the ability to play offline or online with three other people is great and you can make your own entertainment as well as play the game. For this co-op experience alone I feel it is worth a cheap buy. (3 out of 5)
Maker: Activision RRP £50
Amazon uk £16.96
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (XBOX360)
All the heroes from the Marvel comics are back again and this time they've learnt some new tricks. Mutant civil war has broken out and amid the mess an unknown force threatens the world with destruction, so it's left up-to you and your team of heroes' to-do what they do best.
The game gives you an action packed ride and is filled with treats for those superhero fanatics among you. The campaign comes with 4 player co-op online and locally, although the ally AI is more than sufficient.
It is easy to join games and there is a complete absence of any lag which is surprising due to the amount of action on screen.
The campaign layout is the same as the first Ultimate Alliance game, you choose 4 heroes for a level, the levels are linear and to win you must simply defeat the waves of enemies that run to you as you enter a room.
There are over 20 playable heroes including all the most well known (Wolverine, Spiderman, The Thing) and some less notorious fan favourites like Gambit and Deadpool. All of which add their own unique ability and powers to the combat pot.
Each hero can be levelled up by gaining points from defeating enemies, collecting medals or answering some marvel trivia questions. These points can then be spent on new abilities.
To unlock all the heroes you will have to complete the stories side quests but unfortunately you may become stuck due to some annoying errors in the game. Each character has a standard set of melee moves along with 4 special powers.
The fusion system allows two heroes to combine their moves for extra damage which gives a little extra longevity to the combat.
This sequel is largely unchanged from the original so if you were a fan of that then this is for you, if not then don't buy.
This game is easy to pick up and play; if mindless action is your thing then you will enjoy this game. But for me personally it was too repetitive and didn't fulfil it full potential.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
Bugs in a game can cripple what could have been something great. Don't get me wrong plenty of games can suffer from glitches and even high quality games like Call of Duty 4 can suffer from glitches like falling through the map during split-screen multiplayer. Sometimes however, highly annoying bugs can cripple a game, for example during Tomb Raider: Legend the game completely glitched out on me as the next objective wouldn't trigger, meaning I had to completely restart the game even though I was on the penultimate level. It was that which crushed the experience for me. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is the sequel to the 2006 action RPG and, sadly, it too has some nasty bugs which ultimately prevent it from being great.
MUA2 takes place during the era where the heroes in the Marvel universe went to Civil War. As Nick Fury leads a team into an unsanctioned mission, other destructive events after that cause the government to sanction the Superhuman Registration Act, where superheroes must reveal their identitiy and become a weapon of war. As Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic lead heroes with the act in fear of an oncoming crisis, Captain America escapes custody and leads the rebels who refuse to register with the government. But while this war is going on, there's a bigger crisis which could destroy the world. Will it be too late to stop this? MUA2 is faithful to the source material and creates an intense, chaotic ride which will definately hook Marvel comic book fans.
MUA2 has a similar structure to its predecesor. You'll have your main missions which you must travel through a mostly linear level where you fight plenty of standard grunts, kick some supervillain butt and even solve some puzzles from time to time. Inbetween levels you will be in a HQ level. Whether it is Stark Tower or White Star, they function mainly the same where you can find some collectibles, look at what you've unlocked, enter the simulator to play some special missions or replay previous levels and, when you want to move on, start the next mission. You can also talk to other heroes in the HQ levels, and using a specific character starts special conversations between heroes i.e. Mr. Fantastic talking to The Thing or other Fantastic 4 members.
Where MUA2 is unique from its predecessor is through its storyline. Rather than having a completely linear story, the game offers you a choice after Chapter 1. When the Superhuman Registration Act is activated, you have the choice to either follow the Government and sign with the act or rebel against the 'man' and join the anit-registration side. It's when you make this choice which will change the game completely. Depending on which side you play as, you'll play out different missions with some varied objectives and other boss fights. Its definate reason to replay the game, as certain characters can only be unlocked by playing one campaign, and if that's not enough there are also achievements and seperate collectables for each level.
This new wrinkle to the series is great, but Marvel 2 mostly plays like its predecessor. The basic combat has your weak and strong attacks as well as defensive blocks and rolls, which work well but that's not all. Like the first Ultimate Alliance, each character also bears super powers which are unique to each character. Deadpool can shoot his enemies with his pistols, Hulk can pound the ground like crazy, Wolverine can impale enemies then stab them and Spiderman can yank enemies with his web then hit them. It's exciting to see these powers in action and their power also makes them worth using, though spamming them runs out the power meter leaving you with only strikes. You also can't levitate with characters like Iron Man and spam projectile powers from above as your power meter won't regenerate. It feels like a classic action-RPG.
The other new feature, this time in combat, is the fusion abilities. Depending on what heroes you pick, you can perform some flashy and screen filling moves which can be devastating depending on what heroes you unite. For example, if you fuse The Thing and The Human Torch, you can perform a precision fusion where you target an enemy with a giant, flaming rock picked up by The Thing. Other fusions include clearing and guided fusions which work greatly at clearing lots of enemies at once. However these fusions are let down because, despite the fact there's over 200 of them, they mostly are the same. Take the fusion I mentioned earlier with The Thing and Human Torch. Switch The Thing with a beefy character like The Hulk or Venom, and the fusion will pretty much be identical. It's disappointing because this happens too frequently. The interesting thing to consider with fusions is that if you get a certain number of kills with the fusion, you gain health tokens to fully heal heroes when used. It does decrease the challenge though.
Despite being an action RPG, some die hard role-players may find Marvel to be too shallow as an RPG to be that engaging. For casual players things are more accesible because despite sticking with four heroes of your choice, every character will carry on levelling up meaning if you switch one hero out it won't affect the action so much. Also the levelling up system isn't very interesting as you mostly just keep assigning points to moves and abilities where ever you want and it won't drastically affect the game if you pick a bad choice. It's also disappointing that the game doesn't take advantage of team bonuses like the first game. There aren't nearly enough combinations to pick from to add a bonus to your team like better fusions or moves. It's also disappointing that MUA2 is made quite easy thanks to its fusions because even if the screen is crowded with enemies, you can just clear them with fusion ability if you have one, and if you die because you don't, you start the next checkpoint with one.
The fusions and difficulty didn't completely stop MUA2 from being worth buying but what will put off many people is its bugs. This game, simply, is unpolished though some people have complained of no glitches at all. For me personally, I played the game twice by myself on single player and only suffered one glitch where I was stuck in mid-air, but I reloaded a checkpoint and everything was fine again. However, as soon as I jumped into co-op with three friends, it became a nightmare. During the first level we had to kill a group of enemies and then collect an audio log to move on. But no audio log spawned after we had killed the enemies, meaning it was impossible to move on. And reloading a checkpoint did not fix this bug. Loading other levels in co-op also caused glitches, ruining co-op completely. Considering the appeal of co-op from the previous game, it's incredibly disappointing that the co-op is, essentially, broken.
Considering how bad Marvel Ultimate Alliance looks since its 2006 release, it's no suprise that MUA2 looks much better, though it's not a top tier visual presentation. Characters are incredibly detailed and their awesome unlockable costumes also look great. However the goons you beat up during the game repeat far too much, with around 5 different character models used for the enemies aside from giant grunt leaders. The sub-bosses also kinda look bland and somewhat similar to the grunts which is disappointing. The levels can be hit or miss too, with some beautiful outside vistas being mixed with bland corridor crawling laboratories. The camera can be bothersome too as it sometimes locks into a certain position completely blocking your character and making you prone to cheap hits. The flashy and explosive fusion moves look great, despite how disappointing they are.
The sound, despite its license, is somewhat disappointing. The voice acting is very hit-or-miss because while characters like Nick Fury, Deadpool and Thor sound spot on, others like Spider-man, Luke Cage and Hulk just sound cheesy and some of the villains and grunts you face during the campaign sound awful. The music is somewhat inconsistent with high octane music turning on when you aren't fighting anyone. The effects are barebones with awful sound for destructible objects with delays between when you destroy objects and when you hear crunching or explosions. It's disappointing considering how good MUA's sound was and most other Marvel games.
Marvel 2 isn't very satisfying for £40. Its campaign will barely scrap over the seven hour margin and the only incentive to gain more hours will come from replaying the game on the other side of the war. You can import your upgraded heroes over to a new playthrough on the hardest difficulty, though it becomes much easier then. There are over 500 collectibles to scout through the levels to earn, but at the end of the day, audio logs and artwork only go so far. The achievements don't help either, with a lot of the score coming from unnecessarily going through all 250 fusions in the game, and let's face it, with them being so repetitive, why would you do that?
Is Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 good, bad or ugly?
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is quite disappointing. Say what you will about the first game's visuals, MUA was a fun and addictive action-RPG with an engaging vibe to it. MUA2 tries to improve on that game with its fusions, branching storyline and more. Unfortunately it's fusions fall flat as they repeat far too often, and while it's engaging multi-choice story will hook Marvel fans, it's crushing bugs in co-op and light RPG elements will disappoint fans of the first game, especially co-op players. If you liked the first one, and didn't play it in co-op, or are a Marvel fan, it might be worth it for it's story and it's mostly similar gameplay, but everyone else will tire of it's glitches and disappointments. It feels like someone dumped your ice cream on your head.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 was released on September 25th, 2009 for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PSP, Wii and DS. It is rated PG for moderate fantasy violence and language, and can be bought for £40 from most stores.