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Friday, October 30, 2009

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 on PS3 Impression

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 on PS3
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 from Activision gives decent service to Marvel fans while remaining open enough for the average gamer to jump in and enjoy. The overall formula remains in place with a few updates but this is clearly a case of if it isn’t broke, lets see why …

Gameplay – Gamers start off with a pre-determined team of four then later will piece together their team of heroes (and villains). The action is a top-down, angled brawl-fest where gamers proceed through levels with obstacles, boss encounter’s check-points, etc to advance the story. Co-op mode is a plus, but when the second player decides to leave the disconnect process, well it sucks. Gamers can level up their heroes and reallocate points later and on the fly, very handy. Fusion attacks between characters will determine which teams gamers choose and can un-balance the gameplay with very powerful attacks, but punch, punch, kick goes a long way. Healing and reviving characters on the go makes up for sometimes spotty AI (anyone heard of block?)

Graphics – Cut scenes look really good and the in-game graphics are not too shabby. In-game story points can be carried out with in-game graphics, close-ups that don’t look as good as cut scenes (duh!) but still get the job done. In these instances the characters can feel a bit stiff but the detail remains. The gameplay can sometimes feel like the old arcade Smash TV! as gamers are overrun with bad guys just waiting for a fusion attack. While levels and even characters have more detail thanks to the next-gen upgrades due to the distance gamers are playing from there is not too much to this detail. Like the first MUA the game is a brawler that gets the job done and looks good doing it.

Sound – The soundtrack is film worthy with epic scores and changes in pace but there are enough Saturday morning cartoon one-liners thrown in to keep gamers from enjoying the music too much. The voice work overall, during cut scenes, is decent enough but again feels pulled from the cartoon counterparts, of which there are many.

Design – Levels are very interactive and also very linear. Don’t think too much about why Ironman can’t fly over a building or Spidey just scale rooftops, just part of the game. The characters look good, carry a stance befitting their station (Wolverine crouches all the time, Venom all over the place, etc) but it’s the bonus costumes which are really fun. Old looks, new looks, it’s all implemented very well. The design put into the fusion powers is also well done no matter how lacking in power they may be, everyone works together.

Miscellaneous – The storyline. The first MUA was more about the joy of picking a varied team of Marvel heroes while this latest iteration, its gameplay similar to the first, takes up one of the best Marvel storylines and implements it to mixed results. The Civil War storyline circa 2006 sees the Marvel universe split into two factions. One side is Pro-Registration, the other Anti-Registration taking up their roles in the Superhuman Registration Act. While the comic was outstanding and conflicts between former allies great the game loses a bit as the story is not quite as fleshed out, a shame really. The unique story is such a great draw for fans even as it’s almost three years old. That being said the other miscellaneous item which really makes MUA2 shine is the downloadable characters that have already seen Cable, Carnage and Psylocke offered and more on the way. There is so much incentive for gamers to keep playing and downloading, it’s outstanding.

Overall, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 breaks into three groups. First the must buy, which is anyone who enjoyed the first game. Don’t waste time, go out and buy an excellent follow-up. Second are Marvel fans with any gaming system. It’s tons of fun to play as such a variety of characters then get online and praise/bash the look, feel, costumes, powers, power fusions, etc like any good gamer should. Third is the average gamer, not casual gamer, but the average gamer who likes a great distraction and good gameplay. MUA2 is a solid game with solid graphics, great sound, a ton of characters and flavors to pick from and a decent difficulty level. MUA2 also reminds us that a sequel does not have to reinvent the wheel, sometimes it’s about a new set of rims and nothing more.

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