The goal of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is create grand scale superhero action, tossed into the realm of an action RPG. Compared to its predecessor, Ultimate Alliance 2 is heftier, loaded with “wow” moments, such as a spectacular helicopter crash in Washington.
Despite the rather small visual scale, with the necessary widened camera to accommodate the action, Activision captures the Marvel Civil War comic book saga in grand style. The concept, that of superheroes divided over government regulation of their kind, is a perfect setting for a video game which is able to capture the chaos better than film.
Combat in this sequel feels slightly more refined. Collision detection is tighter, leading to satisfying brawls that only become tiresome over long play sessions. Split up over the course of a few days, or with a group of friends, Ultimate Alliance 2 shines.
Some core problems remain, although some attempt has been made to fix them. The irritant of Ultimate Alliance 2 are the crowded confines of each stage. With four to five heroes and upwards of 20 enemies, grasping any glimpse of what is happening becomes part of the challenge.
In the original, it felt as if the game was playing itself, assuming no other human players joined in. The AI was dominant, wiping out the horde before the player had a chance. That issue has been rectified somewhat, with toned down AI that puts the burden on the player, only interfering when something is blocking the NPC path or the crowds have grown too large for a single combatant to handle.
Menu systems remain clunky, although finding another way to quickly level up the countless number of playable characters seems like a lost cause. No valid solution seems to exist, and the option to have experience assigned automatically is less than satisfactory. The breaks in the action are likely as short as they can be, but still tend to pull the pacing down as you configure the chosen group to your play style.
Undoubtedly, those familiar with the Marvel Civil War saga have the most to gain here. Being placed within this story will satisfy fans, exhilarated at the thought of participating in the battles depicted within the comics pages. The dual team-up attacks which let two team members combine for a singularly powerful assault, further enhance the experience as even rivals join together to fight for the chosen cause.
Ultimate Alliance 2 is meant to be played at least twice, once as S.H.I.E.L.D. defending the government’s plan to have all heroes register with them, and a second run through alongside Captain America as he stands for his freedom. Only die-hard fans will be able to withstand the pile of repetition the game offers to see this through, an unavoidable after effect of the genre.
Still, considering the story choice, it is hard to imagine the Civil War being contained to any genre aside from the action RPG. From the dialogue trees, fantastic character selection, and simple beat-em-up brawling, Ultimate Alliance 2 is where it needs to be for the story. The medium gives the plot a chance to breathe, a rare instance where eight or so hours is justified completely.