Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 Review (PS3)

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance was a cooperative beat-em-up, using Marvel heroes and villains as the ultimate protagonists and antagonists. Of course, the alliance makes the heroes overwhelmingly powerful, and something I was confused about is how so many heroes couldnít defeat a single supervillian mastermind. Itís bad enough the Fantastic Four quadruple-teams Doctor Doom, the whole alliance canít take on just a few bad guys?

Marvel listened, and Ultimate Alliance 2 throws out the notion of the unstoppable force against a puddle of enemies (with unlimited funds, of course), and splits the alliance in half with the Marvel Civil War. For those unfamiliar, a few years back Marvel got political in their comics with a series about the alliance of heroes being split on new legislation on superheroes: to register with the government, or not and be renegades.

With the most heroes to choose from of any game, you'll get to take your sweet time to see who's your favorite.
The team you choose, however, might not be yours forever. It just depends on who you side with, Captain America or Iron Man.

Those heroes who would register give up their secret identities and essentially become super postmen, working for the US government. Those who refuse are fugitives; there are no freelance heroes here. After two preliminary missions, the civil war breaks out and players are given a choice: register and fight alongside Tony Stark and the US government, or refuse and fight with Captain America to sway the popular vote.

Which side players choose doesnít greatly influence gameplay. Levels where there is a difference are changed only by objectives (usually reversed. For example, one may be to disarm bombs, while the opposite is to destroy what those bombs were meant to blow up) and dialog. It is blatantly obvious when playing that Captain America and his ďfugitiveĒ band are indeed the good guys, while Iron Manís group of government puppets are in the wrong. Besides their unethical and egotistical tactics, dialog between geniuses Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) make it horrifically clear whoís really good, and who isnít.

That said, players are once again given a team of four heroes to fight with, but the available heroes are limited. Once the civil war starts, half of the choices become unavailable, thanks to each hero picking a side. This means playing as each of the heroes (and even some villains) requires a second play through.

Gameplay is almost identical to the original, with some slight improvements and a few great features. Double teaming enemies allows two heroes to work together to achieve one of three super attacks, which can easily wipe out twenty or more enemies, or inflict massive damage on a single boss. Quick healing means no teammate, AI or a cooperative buddy, needs to pause the game.

Combat is simple hack-and-slash. There are a ton of combinations for all playable characters, as well as special attacks. Every character has them, and players can spend literally hours going through and trying them all out. Surprisingly, while repetitive, it remained entertaining throughout the 12 hours or so of gameplay. This is in part due to tons of enemies on screen, many times with over 30 enemies on the screen at once.

What is odd is that whenever a ton of enemies were attacking, there was no slowdown. However, the game did slow down during transition periods, perhaps between checkpoints or between level areas, for a good 3-5 seconds each time.

Cooperative play is drop-in, meaning a friend can literally turn on their controller and push a button, and voila. No need to sign in or waste time.

Voice acting is very good, and while not everything is done with voice acting (much of the dialog is selectable and read by the playerís selected character), it is more than presentable. Especially the voicework of Deadpool, who besides being the hero of choice for many thanks to his maniacal tendencies, covers all the training and tutorials. He constantly breaks the fourth wall, laughing with the players at the Marvel and making fun of the obviously ridiculous situations. Once heís part of the team, besides being one of the most powerful (and few who regenerates health) characters, heís an excellent team member.

Even a few famous villains not only make an appearance, but will fight for you.
There are certainly enough guys to beat the crap out of, so its best to take whatever help you can get!

That said, characters like Deadpool and Wolverine, thanks to their regenerative abilities, become almost overpowered. When I played, I never went anywhere without either of these two, because I knew they would just heal themselves with enough time.
Additional gameplay material, such as playing through training simulations, harder difficulties and the ton of unlockables promise lots of replay time for the Marvel fan. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is a fun game that doesnít push the boundaries, but does what itís supposed to just fine.

Top game moment: Taking out 23 enemies with one double team attack. Glorious.

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