Republicans vs. Democrats, Coke vs. Pepsi, Mac vs. PC, heroin vs. acid, Stella Artois vs. Miller High Life. There are some things that everyone will take a side on to debate over. Most of the time, there never is a clear "winner." Except for that last example because as we all know, the High Life tastes like butt. But normally, taking a side in these debates won't result in massive explosions and wave after wave of cannon fodder running at you. It has been a few years since X-Men Legends and the first Ultimate Alliance really sat us down to find the answers to these questions., but Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 storms back to ask the important, hard hitting questions: Songbird's normal costume, or her Pirate Hooker one.
The story starts off with your standard "good mutants fighting evil bad corporations." You run into a few familiar faces (and frustrations) and gameplay. Combat is the standard button-mash-athon, albeit with lots of pretty explosions. If there is one thing this game does well, it is blowing the crap out of anything and everything. Boxes, barrels, windows, cars, lamp posts, mail boxes...you name it, it's packed with about 20 pounds of C-4. I think the Mythbusters would enjoy this game in their downtime. It doesn't take long before the story starts to pick up. After a particularly brutal mutant attack on a suburban town, a law is passed that requires every mutant to register their real identity. This is where the divide is. Some go for it, others rebel. The story branches once you make the choice to rebel or register. The nice part behind this is that it really is YOUR choice. You are given the events and circumstances and are asked to agree with the mutant registration, or oppose it. Depending on which side you take, different mutants will be available for you to unlock and control. Though the selection isn't too different, it is something to think about. And since Captain America is a giant sissy, it was an easy choice for me to make.
The mutants themselves are all rendered pretty well and all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Wolverine, however, doesn't seem to have any weaknesses. I would venture to say with the popularity of the pointy haired Canuck in recent years, making him anything less than immortal would spell instant hatred for the game. I get that he's strong and can regenerate his health, but seriously... Once he is leveled up a bit, he has, what I have dubbed, an "I win" button. Simply press it and watch scores of foes fall. With the addition of Storm's chain lightning and Deadpool's grenade volley, the battles quickly become one sided. The fusion powers, while a wonderful addition, often seem unnecessary and only really used as a last ditch effort to clear the screen. Every two mutants have a special fusion power. The Invisible Woman puts the Hulk in a giant hamster ball and he runs around smashing things. Storm makes a giant tornado, sucking everything into it while Gambit pelts it with cards, or Deadpool with grenades. Some are clearly more powerful than others, which makes selecting a good team of mutants important. My one gripe with the whole process is that in the heat of battle (i.e. half the damn screen blowing up with enemies) it's sometimes hard to see the small, opaque button icon over each mutant when you want to trigger your fusion. This can lead to an untimely death or triggering the wrong fusion.
The sound is well captured. Everything sounds the way that you would expect it to sound. Every explosion, slice, punch, lightning bolt and gunshot is faithfully rendered. The voice acting, however, can be hit or miss. Everyone has specific lines that they say while fighting, and while they don't get repeated too often, some of the voices sound a bit sketchy. I don't recall Deadpool being Mexican, but his voice sure leads me to dig out some of those early comics to refresh my memory. I guess it's a minor gripe, but you would think with such a large budget and decent amount of time they could have done a little better of a job.
Overall, MUA2 falls short on several fronts. It is by no means a bad game and is definitely worth a look if you enjoyed the first game. However, the overall simplicity of the game might leave you wanting something more. It's great to watch your characters level up and customize them into the perfect group, but you might wonder if they are TOO perfect. The replayablility isn't as high as I would have liked. It is possible to go back to early levels to find things you didn't get before, but it'll be an even bigger joke as Ironman glances at someone and they explode. That being said, all the characters are blast to play. The game itself is geared towards party play, and with a few friends you can really lose track of time. And remember, yelling "start power!" gets the same point across as "fusion power!" If you friends disagree, they clearly aren't your friends