Marvel is quite a popular brand these days due to the popular movies they have been producing lately. Before that rise in popularity, Marvel’s characters were used fairly often in video games. Now not all of them were good, and it didn’t gain them the level of popularity they seem to be enjoying now, but they were still there. One such game that didn’t come out that long ago (2009) was Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2.
From what I understand Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 largely follows the Civil War storyline that happens in the comic books. I know that the ending of the game is quite different from the ending of the comics, but I’m not sure how much beyond that is different between the two.
Basically, because of the number of incidents involving superhumans, like the strike on Latveria that you take part of at the start of the game, the United States government has decided that all super powered individuals need to register with the government. This decision divides the super hero community into two camps. One group is against the registration and is led by Captain America. The other group is supportive of the registration and led by Iron Man.
You get to choose which side you want to join and for the middle of the game fight against the opposing group of heroes and villains. The ending part has you dealing with a threat that arises due to the nanites the pro-registration group used in some of the super-villains to control them. It creates an enemy that unites both groups once more and gives them an enemy to combat. It’s not an exceptionally deep story, but it was entertaining enough.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 employs a top down style of gameplay. You get to choose a squad of four heroes to make your way through levels fighting enemies, accomplishing goals (like destroying certain objects or finding a certain person), and usually defeating a boss or two in the process.
This is basically the same style of gameplay as earlier entries took starting with X-Men Legends and continuing with X-Men Legends II:Rise of Apocalypse and Marvel Ultimate Alliance. So if you’ve played any of these games, the style of gameplay should be familiar.
The game controls largely like a beat-em up. Your buttons attack, jump, and grab/pick up. Each hero also comes with four powers that use a combination of two buttons. There are also team up powers that allow you and one of your allies do a combination attack to do larger damage.
The levels you travel through contain collectibles that will unlock artwork, bonus simulator missions, information about characters, bonus attributes, or new characters. So exploring the various levels and environments are encouraged. I think that should take care of most of the aspects of gameplay.
The only other thing that I can mention is that the game does support co-op. A second player can drop in and out as a member of your team and fight alongside of you. I didn’t really use it, but I imagine it could be fun to do.
While the game doesn’t really treat it with the gravity it could, the major theme is about power and how those who wield it are monitored. This is at the center of the civil war, but also comes into play both at the beginning and end of the game as well.
It happens in the beginning when Nick Fury leads an unsanctioned attack on Latveria after gaining intelligence that the country is not as peaceful as it is appearing to be. Is this use of power proper? Is the governments ignoring of a legitimate threat okay, because everything seems okay on the surface?
It is as I’ve said at the center of the whole civil war. Do superheroes need someone to monitor them? If they do, who watches those in control of that monitoring? Is it quite power that unmonitored power and power monitored and controlled too much can both be bad things?
This also comes at the end, but it is reduced. It is perhaps even an answer to some of the potential questions raised earlier. The actions of those who tried to control power by questionable means created a new problem that was maybe even greater than the first. If the beginning showed the potential danger of power outside of any control, the end showed the danger of misuse of power by the ones in control.
As I said though, the themes are there, but aren’t really dealt with in any serious fashion. I mean part of this could simply be the fact that we’re dealing with superheroes with fantastic powers so it just reduces the impact a bit. Regardless, I think it is an interesting theme to come across.
- Playing a Comic Book – You get to basically take up a group of your favorite Marvel heroes and fight your way through a story pulled from the comics. It’s a pretty enjoyable setup for the game really.
- Heroes Fighting Heroes – The downside of these kind of games is that after you’ve fought a good portion of the villains in the first game, where do you go? Did you think have the heroes fight each other? If so, you weren’t the only one. It certainly adds a different spin on things.
- A Button Masher – The game’s controls are pretty simple. While I think this is a pretty good thing for accessibility, it can tend to make the game rather repetitive after awhile.
- An Interesting Mix – I feel that the character roster does a pretty good job at hitting some of the most popular Marvel characters, but the roster is actually smaller than the previous entry in the series (not counting system exclusive heroes). This doesn’t matter that much, as you may just stick with your favorites, but it also seems strange to downgrade the roster too.
- Different, But Not That Different, Paths – Part way through the game you can choose to be either pro-registration or anti-registration. While this is made out to be a pretty big decision, it really isn’t. It changes some of the characters you can use for some missions, and gives you slightly different missions that aren’t really too different.
- Who Invited Mr. Freeze – While not a huge issues, I did experience a fair number of freezing during my playtime with the game. It wasn’t like it was every time I played, but it was often enough to make an impression.
- Limited Time and Place – As I said above it Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 didn’t have as many characters as the previous entry, but it did continue a practice from it that was highly annoying. They had characters who were only available for certain systems or as DLC. While the DLC may not seem bad, this game had some messed up DLC due to licensing. The DLC disappeared for awhile, came back for a bit again, and then disappeared for good. I think console exclusive characters have no place, and they handled the DLC horribly for this game.
To be honest I’m not sure if I can recommend Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 or not. I had fun with it and enjoyed it despite some negatives and shortcomings the game had. Those who enjoy Marvel or have played the earlier games that are like it would enjoy it. It’s not a horribly deep game, but is an enjoyable button masher to play through. The only thing that holds me back from even a tentative endorsement is that the game seems to be a bit expensive these days. Amazon is out of stock, at least for the PlayStation 3 version, and the marketplace has it for over $100 for a new copy.
I guess my thoughts would be if you find a nice cheap copy, it would be worth it. However, I would not recommend spending the asking price for the remaining new copies out there. It is a fun game, but there is little groundbreaking about it. The fact that there is the potential for technical issues and that the DLC is completely unavailable also detract from my recommending it too highly.