Is Modern Warfare 2 Infinity Ward’s “Swan Song”?

We’ve been lazy here for a while and have been failing to cover – even mention – the slow crippling and death of the studio that made $558 million in a 5-day span (reportedly exceeding $1 billion in 2 months).

As it goes, Activision had accused the heads at Infinity Ward (Vince Zampella and Jason West) for conspiring against the company from threatening Modern Warfare 2’s early development to creating a studio that goes against Activision’s benefit. Thusly, the publisher had fired Zampella and West in early March. The exiled leadership of Infinity Ward then decided to counter Activision’s attacks with a lawsuit of their own, stating that their release was merely a ploy to withhold the hard-earned royalties gained from Modern Warfare 2’s epic sales.

It is a huge mess and the proverbial case of “he said, she said” at this point – however, the repercussions of this case could very well mean the end of Infinity Ward. Several key members of Infinity Ward’s development team have already up-and-left the company (literally in droves).

Zampella and West have already announced plans to head Respawn Entertainment; signing on with Electronic Arts in the process. Talk about a slap in the face for Activision – although, this move might very well have proven the publisher’s case as truth…

Only time will tell whether Infinity Ward has any future left as it’s own studio. Mergers abound – Activision may just find it best to consolidate their Call of Duty franchise developers (that is Infinity Ward and Treyarch). As for the continued support of Modern Warfare 2; if members of the studio continue to jump ship, it’s not entirely out of the question that downloadable content come from Treyarch. Stopping the flow of content would be a foolish endevour on Activision’s part, as the recently released “Stimulus Package” map-pack has already garnered 2.5 million purchases, shattering Xbox LIVE records in its first week (available exclusively for the Xbox 360 at that point).

DLC // First Modern Warfare 2 Map Pack is Oscar Mike!

Infinity Ward’s face, Robert Bowling, has opened the proverbial can-o-worms with his tweet regarding the cure for “mapathy” hitting Xbox LIVE three weeks from now.

Three weeks!? What the heck are we supposed to do before then – play more Modern Warfare 2 and running around the same God-forsaken maps over and over again like we have been doing for the past five months!

Okay then.

REVIEW // Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2

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.

Let the games begin!

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.

The power of fusion or Iron Man giving his heart to Spider-Man...?

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.

Deadpool creating a pool of dead!

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.

To whose side shall you pledge allegiance?

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.