Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | Wii | PS2 | DS
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: n-Space 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Activision 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sep. 15, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

The first thing you notice about the Wii version of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is the quality of the cutscenes. These cinematics are truly impressive - even with the Wii's outdated 480p resolution, everything looks great, from the high-detail characters to the stunning environments to the special effects. Indeed, these are the very same cutscenes that Xbox 360 and PS3 owners see, albeit with fewer pixels. Initially, it seems like Activision delivered a terrific follow-up to the well-regarded Wii version of the original Ultimate Alliance.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 screenshot

Even once the action starts, it takes a little while for this first impression to wear off. For a Wii title, the in-game graphics are decent; the characters look like they were torn from the pages of their respective comic books, the environments are presented with a nice blend of cartoonishness and realism, and the special effects really light up the screen. The music and sound effects capture the heroic, action-packed vibe of the game. The basic controls are simple and effective, with attacks, special moves, and character switching mapped to buttons rather than motions. The beat-'em-up/RPG hybrid system, in which you punch out enemy after enemy in order to level up your characters and abilities, is intact. Those who want a straightforward action experience can have their abilities automatically improve, rather than of assigning points to their favorite techniques. There's one- to four-player local co-op.

Also, the story will have comic-book fans (and fans of good storytelling in general) salivating. The tale draws on the Secret War and Civil War stories, widely recognized as some of the best in the series, and features tons of famous Marvel characters (26 are playable, though you have to unlock many). At the outset, you control a team of superheroes as they invade Latveria, a country apparently hostile to America, without the American government's permission. They defeat the country's leader, Lucia von Bardas, but she comes back to life as a cyborg and plants a bomb in Manhattan's Times Square to retaliate.

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They manage to defuse the bomb, but naturally the government is not pleased about the fact that renegade superheroes almost got the Big Apple blown to pieces. That, coupled with a superhero-caused explosion in Stamford, Ct., provokes Congress to pass a law mandating that superheroes register with the state, dividing the superhero population into those who register and follow orders (including Iron Man), and those who refuse (including Captain America, which is probably some kind of political statement). You choose sides at this point, taking one of two different paths. This adds some replay value (to get through once, the game takes close to two work days), as do the various side quests.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 screenshot

Unfortunately, the longer you spend with this title, the less all this will impress you, because the gameplay simply does not live up to expectations. A variety of small problems add up to an overall experience that feels clunky and unwieldy.

Take, for example, the game's big new feature, Fusion Attacks. The concept is brilliant: when you build up four Fusion Stars and activate a Fusion Attack, your character teams up with another to unleash some serious damage (not to mention some impressive graphics). Each combination of the characters creates a different attack, meaning that there are almost countless ways (250-plus) to smack bad guys around. The controls for this move, unfortunately, are remarkably sloppy. You initiate a Fusion Attack by holding Z and shaking the Nunchuk, which rarely works on the first try. Then you select the second character by pointing the Wii-mote at the screen, which is a pain. Some of the attacks even require you to keep pointing in order to direct the attack, which can take you by surprise.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 screenshot

Another very noticeable problem is that the computer-controlled characters, both friendly and hostile, are stupid. Your allies like to bunch up around you as you travel, making you rudely push them out of the way. Sometimes they help you fight enemies or break objects, but other times they stand around helplessly. The same goes for the enemies, who often stare blankly until you whack them a few times.

Screenshots / Images
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