The user interface for team management is also much improved. It’s fast, looks nice and doesn’t feel cumbersome. Still, those who liked to customise their heroes right down to the minutest details and play around with the dozens of powers will be slightly disappointed by the new stripped-down and streamlined system. The game still features the “auto-spend experience points” system, so if you don’t want to get into the whole RPG number crunching and play it like an action game, you can always turn it on and let the game spend points for you. Be warned though, the auto-spend system has a habit of automatically switching itself on every time you swap out a character. The team roster itself features most of the usual fan favorites such as Wolverine, Deadpool, The Hulk and Gambit among other Marvel regulars while some lesser known characters such as Songbird and Penance also make an appearance due to their involvement in the storyline.
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One of the coolest things about Marvel Ultimate Alliance was the ultimate attacks that heroes could use once they had enough power built up. In Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, ultimate attacks are replaced by the much touted “Fusion” attacks, which can be pulled off once you have filled up a common meter by beating down baddies with normal attacks. By pulling the left trigger at the same time during co-op or a trigger and a face button in case of AI controlled heroes, two heroes can join their powers to perform an ultra-powerful attack and do heavy damage to a single target or take out large groups of enemies. The game boasts unique attacks for every possible character combination but it eventually narrows down to three types of attacks. You can either perform a targeted attack where a hero will fling another hero in the direction of a single enemy (ideal for doing massive damage to a boss) or a guided fusion where two heroes can join their melee attacks and rapidly attack multiple individual targets (which oddly looks like the two characters holding hands and running). Lastly, two heroes with ranged attacks can perform a room clearing fusion useful for mopping up a roomful of bad guys at once.
The animations for the attacks largely remain the same for most of the character combinations with only a slight cosmetic variation. For example a fusion between Deadpool and Iron-Man shows Deadpool tossing grenades at enemies while Iron-Man shoots his repulsor beams in a circular motion. Now, if you try to pull off the same move with Gambit and Ms. Marvel, there is only a slight difference as Gambit will throw kinetically charged playing cards instead of grenades and Ms. Marvel shoots energy beams instead of repulsor beams. That is just one example, but I’m sure you get the idea. Yet, these attacks always remain fun to watch (especially the ones involving Thor) and are particularly useful to take out multiple enemies at once if you happen to get too overwhelmed.
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Other than the core gameplay, there are a number of collectibles to find, upgrades to collect and special conversations to be had. Team bonuses once again make an appearance as the game grants you special team boosts every time you choose characters that are a part of a Marvel team or have something in common with each other. Also, back from the previous game are the simulator missions (standalone challenges that can be played in the game’s hub areas) although the character-specific sim missions are missing this time around.
The game also features a new dialog system where you can choose three types of responses while talking to NPCs. You can either choose an aggressive, diplomatic or defensive reply. Choosing one type of reply a number of times will grant you special bonuses but the dialogues themselves don’t make any difference whatsoever in the conversation or the story. The previous game featured up to four unlockable costumes for each character, but here, they are limited to only two per character. To add to that, not only are most of the costumes utterly disappointing to look at, but they also do not offer any stat or ability boosts as in the previous game. It’s as if the designers decided to pick the worst costumes that the characters have ever worn and also make them useless at the same time.
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There is no doubt that Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is a very good looking game. The visuals have been largely improved over the previous title. The maps are much bigger this time and feature a lot of destructible objects which, coupled with some of the more destructive powers of your heroes, results in a lot of onscreen carnage at any given time. The character models look decent enough but could have been better. There are minor slowdowns whenever things get too crowded with lots of explosions and powers flying around, but nothing that breaks the flow of the game. There is a lot less variety in the levels compared to the previous game which is understandable considering the plot of the game.
The game does manage to shine in the audio department as well. The music, although not memorable, is good enough but the voice acting during cut-scenes, dialog and combat manages to stand out. Each of your heroes comes with their own trademark quips and one-liners, which are very well delivered. Gambit sounds exactly like he should (complete with his trademark Cajun accent) while Deadpool breaks the fourth wall quite a few times. Watch out for a Stan Lee cameo as well. Overall, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 delivers the goods in the audio-visual department.
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So the question still remains, is Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 worth your hard earned bucks? The answer is difficult but mostly leans towards a yes. Those who love their comic books will certainly get more enjoyment out of it than those who picture Tobey Maguire every time the words “Spider-Man” come up. There are some changes which may disappoint fans of the previous games and some may find the game a bit on the shorter side (with a single playthrough clocking in at around 10 hours). However there are enough reasons to go back through it again with different characters and there is always the possibility of new characters getting added via DLC. Co-op play is still a blast and the game is accessible to players of all skill levels.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 doesn’t do anything too different from its predecessor. What it offers however, is a surprisingly good and well-presented story and a more streamlined approach. It does not promise to be bigger or better than the previous game, but it’s a solid superhero adventure that has enough variety to keep fans of the franchise coming back for more.
(+) Great story and presentation
(+) Core gameplay is still addictive and fun
(+) Looks and sounds impressive
(+) Co-op play is a blast
(-) RPG elements are stripped down to minimum
(-) Not much difference in the Anti and Pro missions
(-) Disappointing unlockable costumes
Title: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
Developer/Publisher: Vicarious Visions/Activision
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Rs 1,999), PlayStation 3 (Rs 2,799)