Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 Review
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance was a fun button-mashing action-RPG, at least for superhero fans. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is a fun button-mashing action-RPG, at least for superhero fans. The same synopsis applies because there's not much that's different between the two games outside of their storylines. That's not necessarily a bad thing if you really enjoyed the first game, but others may find Ultimate Alliance 2 to be too big a case of "been there, done that".
First let's take a look at the gameplay for those of you who missed the game the first time around or forgot what it was all about in the intervening three years. Ultimate Alliance 2 puts you in charge of a squad of four superheroes that you select from a large roster of heroes drawn from the Marvel universe. You can choose to play as the Fantastic Four or a team of X-Men, or put together your own dream team of heroes. While the game does give team bonuses for certain combinations of heroes such as all X-Men or all female teams, you're pretty much free to mix and match heroes on your team as you wish as you make your way through the game. While your team is in action you take control of a single superhero, leaving the others to the AI or co-op players to control, although when playing alone you can instantly switch control to another hero. Each superhero has his or her own unique powers, but control of each one is pretty similar. They all have a light and heavy attack, as well as up to four super-powered attacks. A jump button will allow superheroes with the power of flight to hover around the level but others will return to Earth with each bound.
The super powers are what make the game fun to play - you can toss exploding cards as Gambit, fling webs as Spider-man, and leap into action claws first as Wolverine. Tired of busting heads as Luke Cage? Switch to Storm and use the power of wind and lightning to vanquish your foes. You can also combine the powers of two heroes to create a special attack known as a fusion power. Each pair of heroes in the game has their own unique fusion attack, but they fall into one of three different categories and beyond that only really differ in their animations. The first is a clearing attack that is an area of effect attack on nearby enemies. For example, Storm and Gambit create one of these attacks by generating a tornado that flings Gambit's cards around the room. There is some interaction in this attack as pressing on the A button will push the radius of the attack out further. The next fusion power category is the guided attack in which you loosely control the direction of a pair of fused heroes such as Captain America and Wolverine as they bulldoze their way around the room bowling over enemies. The last category is the targeted attack, which lets you aim a single blast or attack of some kind at a single target - useful for boss enemies, overkill on the rest. At first the fusion attacks add a little variety to the game but since there are essentially only three types of attacks they soon lose that luster and become just another way of bashing heads.
Like Ultimate Alliance, Ultimate Alliance 2 has some RPG elements in that heroes can be leveled up with experience. When a character achieves a new level you have the opportunity to spend points to increase the strength of a power or some other attribute. If you'd rather not mess with it, the game has an auto-leveling feature that will handle all of this for you behind the scenes. Gone from Ultimate Alliance II are the loot drops which provided equipable items for your heroes, replaced by medals that are hidden in the levels. When found the medals apply a team-wide stats boost, but they're somehow not as satisfying as finding pieces of equipment. There's just something about loot…