First of all, let me start by saying that I am an enormous Marvel fanboy. Go ahead… ask me about something, anything from the Marvel universe. My email will be available for those with queries (email)… and don’t even get me started on Wolverine – dare you challenge me, I will make you cry, bub.
Now that that’s out of the way – Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (for the sake of my sanity, referred to as UA2) has been a title that I have been waiting for since I finished the first Ultimate Alliance on the original Xbox. Raven Software did an extraordinary job in bringing the Marvel universe to life in UA1, because of that I had my reservations about the game’s sequel being handled by Vicarious Visions – one: because they’ve mainly only handled ports to portable systems, and two: because I didn’t know what the heck they developed prior to me looking up that information. Will I find love for Vicarious Visions with their take on the Marvel universe, or – despite my bias – will I reign down a mighty fury for ruining a franchise I’ve held dear since Raven Software’s X-Men Legends.
All is not well in the Marvel universe – up to four players are able to control a super team of Marvel heroes as they journey through a Civil War that has been incited as a result of the Superhuman Registration Act brought by public concern over “super powered negligence”. The game will have players choose whether to side with those who support the registration of superheroes (led by Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic) and those who oppose such measures (headed by Captain America and Luke Cage). How the end-game plays out is determined by who the heroes decide to ally with.
A Smorgasbord of Superheroes
My lord, so many of them! Vicarious Visions did a great job in packing in plenty of heroes into UA2. The popular characters like: Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Wolverine are present; but so are certain under-appreciated ones, such as: Daredevil, Gambit, Blade, and Songbird.
Two-faced Heroes = Replayability
The Civil War backdrop to the game’s story was a great way to implement more replayability to the gameplay and have players feel as though their second playthrough is an all-new experience.
Impressive Graphical and Aural Presentation
The graphics are top-notch for a game that is from a bird’s-eye perspective. The cut-scene graphics are note-worthy, as well. The characters are deeply detailed – from the scratches on Thor’s pimp helmet down to the worn edges of Captain America’s iconic shield. It’s all fairly stunning and very polished. The voice casting itself is spot-on. The actors compliment their heroes well and make it all the more as though you’re watching a comic book come to life.
Intriguing Backstory Falls Flat
Vicarious Visions using key elements from the “Civil War” story arc from the Marvel Comics universe was a great way to engross players into the plot. However, the main story players follow only scratch the surface of the aspects surrounding the Civil War narrative.
Weak Superhero Customization
I was extremely disappointed in the fact that the idea for having different costumes (and unique powers associated with them) were removed from UA2. This was a feature that I had enjoyed since X-Men Legends 2. The costume system was a great because: a) it gave players a variety of costumes to enjoy visually, and b) when combined with other characters and costumes, it gave your team a unique look.
While Vicarious Visions did trip-up on some aspects of the game, they managed to release a decent follow-up to the Ultimate Alliance series. Though the customization is sorely lacking and the plot was not as good as it could have been, the gameplay and graphical presentation are fantastic. I’ll definitely have to see improvement in the next inevitable installment from Vicarious Visions, or else I’ll have to go crying to Raven Software and beg them to continue the awesomeness that is X-Men Legends and Ultimate Alliance.
Review based on the Xbox 360 version.