In 2006, Raven Software released a game that had comic book enthusiasts drooling. Marvel Ultimate Alliance took the formula that Raven had worked with so successfully in two X-Men Legends games, and added a plethora of characters from the Marvel universe. The game’s popularity and success almost guaranteed a sequel. But the sequel didn’t come from Raven. Instead, Activison chose another one of its many studios, Vicarious Visions, to take on the project. With a new development studio at the helm, does Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 live up to its predecessor?
The answer is a resounding yes. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 takes the success of the first game and expands upon it with a new story, new characters, and most importantly of all, new ways to break stuff!
For fans of the first Ultimate Alliance, the first noticeable difference in Ultimate Alliance 2 is the significant upgrade in graphics. Character animation and movement are incredibly fluid, and the overall character design is excellent. Iron Man’s armor literally shines in the light.
But it’s not just the graphics that make the game easy on the eyes. Something that really adds to the game is the way characters interact with the environment. For example, when Gambit (who can kinetically charge objects) picks up a crate to throw at someone, the crate explodes because of the added energy. Likewise, if the Human Torch walks through a fire, he won’t get burned. These subtle nuances make the game easy to get into and create an element of detail that immerses the player.
Nice graphics and intuitive environment interaction are only two pieces of the puzzle though. The most important part of any game is gameplay, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 makes getting into the game easier than ever. Just like the first game, the control scheme isn’t hard to master. Vicarious Visions did add a new gameplay element to Ultimate Alliance 2 that really separates it from its predecessor. Fusion powers are techniques in which two heroes combine their powers to form a devastatingly powerful attack.
Fusion techniques can take on one of three forms. Clearing fusions take out large groups of enemies in a given radius. Guided fusions allow the player to take control of the direction the two heroes run as they dish out pain and destruction. Finally, targeted fusions take out one target and anything in its immediate vicinity, usually dealing massive damage. Different characters have different types of fusions, so getting the right people in the party is crucial.
The fusions are made more interesting by the number of characters that Ultimate Alliance 2 features. There are 25 characters in total, drawn from the seemingly infinite depths of the Marvel universe. That amount of characters may seem overwhelming, but the game features a fairly simple system to keep things in line.
One of the steps that Vicarious Visions took to keep things streamlined was to limit each character to four powers. While this does take some of the freedom of choice from the game, it also keeps things focused on the action. There’s no worrying about assigning this power to that button, or accidentally allocating a skill point into a useless power. Another nice feature that was added is the ability to reallocate skill points at any time without a penalty.
The game also sports a quick upgrade menu, so instead of having to wait for the character upgrade screen to load, players can upgrade without ever hitting the pause button. The game still freezes the action to keep things simple though.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 has some fantastic features, but it’s not flawless. The game does have issues with voice acting at times. Thor’s lines are almost always inadvertently hilarious, and the lines characters repeat after defeating enemies gets old after the first five minutes. That said, some of the voice acting is great, especially with characters like Deadpool, who should have you laughing out loud within seconds of his first appearance.
In all, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is a terrific game that is an absolute must-play for any comic fan. Even if you just want a good action-RPG, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is a real treat. With high replay value and non-stop action, the game delivers the experience that it set out to achieve.
It gets 4 GiN Gems out of 5 for being a more than adequate successor to the first game.