Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2

Posted by Alex Jordan on

My girlfriend was over on Tuesday night. She indulges my nerdy side, and I think we were talking about the X-Men/Wolverine movie series when she asked, "How come someone doesn't just make a game starring all of Marvel's characters?"

This caused me to make a "SQUEEE!" noise, after which I hastily slapped Marvel: Ultimate Alliance into the Xbox 360. I let my better half pick my roster for me and then demonstrated about five minutes of gameplay for her.

Before that moment, I had no intention of picking up the sequel, which had just come out that day to decent if not stellar reviews. But she had reawakened my Marvel hunger, causing me to dash to Gamestop yesterday after work and secure my copy. (I should have preordered and gotten the Juggernaut unlockable. Does John DiMaggio still voice him?)

So far I'm only one act in. The combat is much the same as it always was and persists in being mindless even on the second hardest difficulty. I'm okay with most of the roster changes, but, for fuck's sake, why are you making me work to unlock characters that I could play from the get go in the first game? The graphics have received a nice upgrade, but don't look anywhere near as nice as pre-release screenshots would lead you to believe. And why do the cutscenes seem to be of inferior quality to those in MUA1? At least there's more of 'em.

The big hook is the Fusion Powers, which is kind of an admission that the game isn't exactly breaking new ground. X-Men Legends I and II had them, and I think MUA1 had them too, when they were simply called "Combos" that did extra damage. Now, characters can combine powers to create one of three basic mega-attacks: a dashing attack between two melee characters; a guided attack that causes massive damage to one particular target; and an area-of-effect, room-clearing attack. They certainly look pretty (especially whenever a character combines an energy attack with Storm's tornado) and they're certainly effective. But it's nearly impossible to pick which character you wish to combine powers with, as each character is designated by the type of attack they do and not who they are. Which, of course, is more convenient for gameplay mechanics but not very convenient for recreating your most favorite combos. I understand the tradeoff, though, even if I'm not a fan of it.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the plot appears sort of... I dunno... sophisticated. Now, granted, I'm grading on a curve. Although MUA2 has an early cutscene showing Nick Fury discussing Latveria's foreign state-sponsored terrorism with the President and the ramifications of responding with a covert strike... hello? Doctor Doom attacked the entire goddamn world, not to mention a Norse God, during the last game! I appreciate subtlety in story-telling, but it's not especially reasonable given the juxtaposition of MUA1 with MUA2. That said, the developers get an A for effort, and I look forward to seeing how the plot in this game develops.

I'll have more as I get further into the game.