Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 Review
While it had a lot of promise going for it Ultimate Alliance 2 still manages to crash and burn.
One of the more controversial events to ever occur in Marvel comics is without a doubt the Civil War crossover. While the idea of mutants being brought under the control of the government to serve as super-human law enforcement is simple and had been bandied about a bit in the universe it took a major event to really bring it to the forefront. It initially started as a balanced event where the two sides in the conflict were equally represented and both the Pro-Registration and Anti-Registration proponents had very good points. Unfortunately a lack of good editing and communication between the writers led to a mess of plot points, heroes that were supposed to be sympathetic acting like villains and just a general lot of stupidity.
However the basic idea behind the storyline was a solid one that had a lot of promise behind it. So it was a great idea for the game developers to wrap the Civil War storyline around MUA2. It gave them a good chance to explore things with a slightly different spin to it that could drag in most everyone in the Marvel universe. This promises a whole lot for future downloadable content as well as just having an epic feel to it.
The story starts off during the events of Secret War and leads into the Civil War thanks to the events of irresponsible actions of numerous super-humans. However from here it spirals off into its own direction entirely, telling an entirely different story. It's almost like one of the What If… comics that Marvel publishes but in playable form.
Many things have been updated from the previous game and the one that will be definitely noted first of all is the graphics. The game just looks a whole lot better than the first Ultimate Alliance title pretty much the entire way although it can sometimes be hard to tell with all of the darker settings you deal with early on. But by the time you reach the final levels, notably Greenland, you'll see just how vibrant and colorful the game world is. However you can see a lot of detail in the faces and character models of the heroes and boss enemies that helps bring them to life.
In addition to that many of the voice actors from the previous title have returned, along with a bunch of newer ones, to give damn good performances. The only character who has terrible voice acting is Venom thanks to the really horrible echo… thing they did for his voice. I realize they need to do some sort of creepy, monstrous voice thanks to his symbiote but it just sounds really annoying. Luckily the rest of them cover it up so you can easily move past this. While listening to the voice acting and the rather stirring music that plays from the title screen to the closing credits the player should have little problem getting pulled into the game.
In many ways the game itself is incredibly similar to the previous title. The combat is basically the same general gameplay we've been seeing since the X-Men Legends titles repeated again although it has been simplified in a few ways. Things like character specific grapples and throws have been excised almost entirely for example. Unfortunately this trend doesn't stop here and permeates the rest of the game.
In Ultimate Alliance 1 the RPG elements were pretty simplistic but apparently they decided they needed to be toned down for this title. Whereas in the first game you had four different costumes to unlock and use, each with a number of different traits you could increase as well as having a number of active powers you get about half of that here. Vicarious Visions cut the characters down to two costumes, four powers total and only six total passive traits. To make this trimming down more extreme most characters will only have four passives they can purchase from since a Pro-Reg character gets two abilities and an Anti-Reg character gets two other passives. Characters tied to each side gain all six of their abilities making them very strong.
Another point that the game loses some steam on is actually the very good story. During the first two acts everything is basically running on all cylinders but at the third act it starts to crash and burn. The story isn't interesting and it just… falls in on itself. Making matters worse, the vaunted two sides of the story is totally over exaggerated. The first and third acts play exactly the same no matter which side you choose with the only differences being during act two. Here you play through the exact same stages with the story, bosses and enemy palettes changing and at the very end of the game it changes the ending. Slightly. It's far from the vaunted two storylines that were being talked about and it feels somewhat threadbare in the end.
Also, and this complaint is exclusively for the bigger fans of the first title, what the heck happened to the cliffhanger from MUA1? Remember at the end of that game when Galactus was threatening the Earth as revenge for having opposed him on the Skrull World? Well it took three playthroughs to find any hide or hair of that little dangling plot thread. Did they leave it behind for a later sequel? No. Did they just forget about it? Nope. Apparently the Norse Gods handled it for the humans as thanks for helping out in the last title. Yes, that's right; the cliffhanger from the last game is resolved off the freaking screen.
When a games biggest claim to fame is that it has been prettied up and had the RPG elements dumbed down it doesn't exactly look promising. But it's not as if the whole game is a terrible mess, it's quite the opposite actually. The game is fairly competent and tells a good story. It's just that the game fails to deliver anything overly meaningful especially considering that the groundwork for this title was already laid thanks to Raven Software's excellent work in the past.