Sequels are flooding the game market nowadays. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but how much of the core game needs to change to justify the purchase? The first Marvel Ultimate Alliance was a great Action beat-em-up, with some RPG elements thrown in for good measure. The sequel, three years in the making, gameplay-wise is almost exactly the same game. You would expect that from a sequel, but when it’s so similar is it really worth playing through it all again?
First up I do have to admit the story is great, and one of the highlights of MUA2. It begins with Marvel’s fairly recent Secret War scenario. Without informing the US government SHEILD’s Nick Fury takes Captain America, Wolverine, Spiderman, and Iron Man into Latveria to take down the badass prime minister, Lucia von Bardas, who has been funding the league of super villains. Unfortunately, it backfires and the villains retaliate on New York City.
Here we cross over into the entertaining Civil War saga. The superhero registration act is passed through parliament, forcing heroes to register with the government and work under their command. The game gives you a choice to sign-up, or to rebel. Naturally, we chose to tear up the contract and go underground as fugitives. Stick it to the man!
The side you chose will affect the missions and the outcome of the story. The superhero world is divided into two; Captain America leads the rebels, while Iron Man takes charge of those who comply with the law. A handful of characters will be unavailable, depending on which side you take, but most will conveniently decide to join you, even if a good beating is required first.
Each level presents you with some basic objectives (normally smash something) and a horde of bad guys to take down. You and three mates (or the AI) take control of 4 superheroes on a button-mashing rampage. A nice touch is the ability to switch characters in and out of your team on the fly, not only at save points. The paths you take are all predetermined. Sometimes they are presented as a top down battleground, while at other times it looks like a side scrolling beat-em-up. The camera does its own thing when it becomes fixed, and moves around as it pleases. Most of the time you can see what’s happening, but it does tend to zoom in or out too far too often. It goes from being a struggle to pick out your character to trying to see what’s directly in front of them. It’s not responsible for your untimely death or anything, but it’s still really annoying.
Each character has a similar basic and heavy attack, along with a grab/throw move. Things start to get more interesting when you introduce a shoulder button, which activates the characters’ special abilities. Spiderman, for example, will rapid fire his web, while Wolverine will charge in claws blazing. Each character has two power moves to begin with, and more become available throughout the game. Besides being super effective these look really cool. You’ll be tempted to change character just to see what their power moves look like. Of course, powerful moves don’t come for anything. You’ll have to keep an eye on your stamina meter, as once it runs out you’ll have to wait a few seconds to use it again. It may not sound like long, but when you’re surrounded by a screen of enemies you’ll be wishing you hadn’t wasted it all cracking open that health creates.
MUA2 introduces new fusion attacks, which makes choosing the right team even more important. Here you can combine two characters to execute an awesome clearing, targeted, or guided attack. Clearing moves are great for a room of villains while targeting attacks can dish out a great deal of damage too a big bad boss. To be able to pull one of these off you must first fill your fusion meter by defeating enemies the old fashion way. Fusion attacks add an element of strategy to an otherwise simple button masher. Figuring out who works best together, and when to use a fusion attack, becomes critical during the later stages of the adventure.
Characters will earn XP during their violent missions. You can choose to decide where each character will improve, or set it to auto spend and let the game handle it all for you. For completing major tasks you’ll be rewarded with a boost. Up to three of these can be activated at once, and will instantly improve the stats of all members of your team. One will decrease the time stamina takes to replenish; others add more health and some increase the damage of certain types of attacks. It’s fairly basic stuff as far as RPGs go these days, but it’s nice to know you have a little more control than just mashing the face buttons endlessly.
Unfortunately, after a while, the levels start to become a little repetitive, especially if you played the first game. The claim of over 200 fusions sounds awesome but starts to become old when you realise it’s more like 30 used over and over again. It also becomes hard to distinguish your team from the enemy when the camera zooms out. There’s no friendly fire, but it becomes obvious how much you’re just running in all guns blazing when you try to attack anything and everything that moves, just to be on the safe side. In similar fashion, the rewards just aren’t as cool as they used to be. There’s only 1 alternative costume per character, down from 3 in the first game. They also used to improve certain abilities, but now they’re only for show.
The main adventure will take you around 8 hours to complete on the normal difficulty, but as the missions vary for rebelling or registering there’s plenty of reasons to go back and do it all again. If you get tired of all the bashing and crashing the trivia mode has returned to test out your Marvel knowledge (or how much you’ve been reading the loading screens). Best of all you’ll earn XP for every correct and fast answer.
We suffered some minor frame rate issues when the screen was absolutely jammed pact with characters. It wasn’t too bad, and didn’t last long, but it was still there occasionally. Some of the graphics look like they’ve been carried over from the original 2006 title, which looks dated by today’s standards. The main characters look good, and the fusions look smashing, but you’ll come across backgrounds that aren’t too flash, such as tires that look more like stop signs. The audio is much the same. The background music does the job, it sounds like a Marvel game, but you won’t hesitate to chuck on your own tracks. The voice acting, however, is absolutely horrendous. They’re at their worst in game, as each character only has about 3 different catch phrases which, for whatever reason, they feel the need to say every 2 minutes. I love you Wolvy, but if you say “chicks dig scars” one more time you’re benched.
Despite its shortcomings, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is a fun button mashing beat-em-up. Your favourite Marvel heroes fighting along side one another will be enough for many diehard fans, and the new fusion attacks leave you with an enjoyable adventure. The secret and civil war story cross over is great, and really the main reason to upgrade if you own the original. That’s where MUA2 is held back. Despite being fun to play it’s almost exactly the same as the game we got 3 years ago. One can’t help but ask, is this what we now consider to be a true sequel?
Fun & simple beat-em-up with all your favourite Marvel heroes. The fusion attacks are also great.
The characters look nice, but some of the backgrounds are terrible. The camera is also extremely annoying.
In-game voice acting at its worst. Everything is passable, but not great.
It’s a decent co-op title, and one you’ll play through at least twice to get the best of both worlds.