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October 14, 2009
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
23/9/2009ActivisionActivisionVicarious Visions1-22-4
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 on PS3...
Everyone loves a superhero, whether in comic book, movie or video game form. A look at the all-time box-office top-10 reveals a place for both Spider-Man and Batman, and a look at any recent video game top-10 shows that Batman: Arkham Asylum has been tearing it up this year. While those movies and game are primarily focused on one specific hero, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 gives you access to over twenty heroes (and villains). Does this add up to twenty times the fun?

The story of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is based on the Secret War comic series and begins a year ago when S.H.I.E.L.D. commander Nick Fury leads Spider-Man, Ironman, Captain America and Wolverine into Latveria to stop the dastardly deeds of their new prime-minister, Lucia von Bardas. It seems that Lucia has been secretly funding The Tinkerer as he attempts to customize and improve super-villains' hardware, and Commander Fury is none too happy about it.

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Effects are pretty nice.
Unfortunately for our superheroes what Nick Fury fails to mention is that the mission may not have been approved by the government, and when von Bardas gets retribution a year later by bombing New York, there is much angst and gnashing of teeth from the public about the role the superheroes played in causing all this trouble. The upshot of this is a senate proposal called the Superhero Registration Act, where all superheroes would have to reveal their identities and allow the military to dictate their future actions.

This does not sit well with certain members of the superhero community and they refuse to sign up for registration, thereby becoming criminals under the new Act. With the superhero world divided, civil war breaks out between the two factions and you get to decide which side of the fence you 're on are you on the side of the law, willing to submit to registration, or are you on the side of freedom and willing to fight your friends over this injustice?

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Using a couple of pistols.
Unsurprisingly Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is the sequel to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and despite the three year gap between games, anyone who played the original will have a very good idea of what to expect from the sequel. M:UA2 is an action-RPG with a third-person view. You control one of four heroes who run around together, the other three are computer-controlled, and can switch between them by hitting a direction button or change party members via the pause menu. In the online mode you cannot swap from one character to another as your three friends control your other party members. The face buttons are your standard fighting fare; quick attack, charged attack, jump and grab. Hitting any three of those buttons will most likely result in a combo attack, which are very straightforward to pull off. L1 blocks, R1 heals (if you have tokens), but the real superhero fun is reserved for L2 and R2.

By holding R2 the hero you are controlling will have access to four superpower moves (initially you only have two, but this quickly becomes four as you progress through the levels). Ironman blasts enemies with his repulsor beams, Wolverine unleashes nasty claw strikes, Spiderman slings webs, Captain America hurls his shield, the Human Torch unloads some fireballs, Daredevil cracks his whip, Green Goblin tosses grenades and so on.

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Captain America - his movie is in development hell.
Holding L2 opens up even more options, this time in the form of fusion attacks which combine two heroes' special powers into one very powerful attack. There are three different Fusion types in the game; Guided, Targeted and Clearing. Guided fusions are best used when your enemies are spread out as they allow you to chase down your quarry. Targeted fusions are best used on bosses as they deliver a couple of very powerful hits in a tightly focused area. Clearing attacks are best used when your heroes are surrounded, and target all enemies within a wide radius of your heroes. Although many fusions of the same group are similar, it 's still a good deal of fun to try out the different combinations of heroes and watch the destruction they can wreak on your enemies. There are over 250 fusion attacks in the game, so trying them all out will take some time.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is an interesting game in that, despite having no major flaws, the game also fails to reach any great heights. There is no "wow" moments in the game; no moment that takes your breath away. One strange thing that happened often while playing the game (it may be limited to the review copy) was that the screen went completely black for a second or two one second you 're happily kicking enemy butt, the next you can still hear the action, but the screen is black. This happened when the credits were rolling too, so it doesn 't have anything to do with the amount of on-screen action as initially thought. Combat is also a bit repetitive after a while as button-bashing (or continually hitting X, X, circle combos) is all you need to do to pass most areas. The superpowers are cool, but not always more effective than standard attacks, and you have to destroy a number of enemies to charge up the fusion bar before unleashing those powers.

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Visually the game is pretty solid, but dark.
Graphically the game is decent enough, but again there are no moments likely to take your breath away. Characters look and move well, superpowers are instantly recognisable and some of the fusion effects are entertaining (Storm's tornado for one). The environments look detailed enough from the third-person perspective we're playing from, but they do look a little bland close up.

The first few levels of the game are played in very dark backgrounds, and whilst this makes sense given their setting (invading Latveria at night, taking down the electricity in a warehouse and wandering through tunnels) I found it almost too dark to see the action clearly. It gets a tad annoying attacking dark-coloured enemies on a black background for the first few hours of the game. Even more so when an objective is to destroy a certain number of Latverian technologies, but being unable to see them properly, even with the Human Torch illuminating things as best he could. Thankfully the environments become more diverse, and certainly better-lit as the game progresses.

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Spider-man uses his web in Ultimate Alliance 2!
There's not much music to speak of, and what's there instantly fades to the background. It rises in pitch when there are enemies on the scene, and plateaus when you 're on your own. The voice-acting plays an important role in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 because there's a superhero civil war going on, and you really need to feel what the characters are going through to get involved. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a mixed bag. The main protagonists of the civil war are Ironman and Captain America, both of whom lack intensity in their delivery, and fail to capture the moment. This also applies to most of the heroes you talk to back in the hub (where you go between levels), though there are some exceptions, like Nick Fury, Deadpool and Mr. Fantastic. During battle your heroes will often dish out one-liners to go with their pummelings, and whilst a lot of them are lame, they are believable enough and can give you a wry chuckle.

Overall Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is an entertaining game, that suffers a little from simple (read: button-bashing) combat mechanics, voice-acting that doesn 't capture the moment and an inability to take your breath away at any stage. However don't let that dissuade you from checking this game out as there's plenty to enjoy; having twenty-plus heroes at your disposal is a lot of fun, there 's a stack of cool superhero powers and fusion attacks to try out, as well as an interesting story and a few RPG elements thrown into the mix. If you like the Marvel universe or the Dynasty Warriors games, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 will be right up your alley. For everyone else it 's still well worth checking out, for hire at least.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSCharacter-models are well done as are the fusion attacks. Some environments are a tad bland, and often too dark. Cut-scenes are not up to scratch, but do the job.
SOUNDThe music quickly fades to the background, and the voice-acting is a mixed bag. Some characters do their job well, but the main protagonists lack intensity to go with the story.
GAMEPLAYFor a while it 's great fun, but soon the repetitive nature of the combat starts to take hold. Superpowers and fusion attacks spruce things up a bit, as does the seemingly endless cast of heroes and villains.
VALUETakes around twelve hours to complete on the first run-through, but you 'll likely want to check out both sides of the story before putting it on the shelf. The simulator missions and in-game trivia game add an hour or two of fun.
OVERALLIf superheroes float your boat, or you 're interested in the Marvel universe Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 will suit you to a tee. For everyone else there 's fun to be had but it may wear a thin a bit quicker. Overall M:UA2 is solid if unspectacular superhero action.

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