Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 Preview

Avengers Assemble!

That’s right, true believers, the sequel to one of the most popular superhero games ever made is closing in on us faster than Galactus at an all-you-can-eat planetary buffet. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is shaping up to be bigger, badder, and more action-packed than its predecessors and for a few good reasons. MUA2 is looking to offer up a slew of new features and much needed tweaks to enrich the experience.

[image1]Fan favorites, such as Deadpool and Wolverine, are back to dish out more punishment, and the Marvel roster has been expanded more than the spandex-clad fatties in a yoga class. Jean Grey, Gambit, Venom, The Juggernaut, and ex-New Warrior turned brutal emo-goth Speedball Penance are just a few of the new faces you can expect to see. Even my personal favorites the Heroes for Hire, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, make an appearance in what looks to be the most fan-pandering list of characters ever to be brought forth in a video game. And that Ms. Marvel ain’t hard on the eyes, either.

If any of you followed the Civil War story arc that went down in the 616 (Marvel’s Earth-616 universe) a couple years ago, the game’s setting will be a bit familiar. After a botched battle between the New Warriors and some vigilante super-villains, the town of Stamford, CT is left in ashes and in ruin, which leads the public to press for Super Hero registration. In the comics, it left the Marvel universe divided between the pro- and anti-registration camps and made Captain America a wanted criminal. The game follows that basic concept but allows for some breathing room and a branching plot. It also doesn’t necessarily use the 616 version of all the characters; the developers essentially had carte blanche to derive their designs from both the Ultimate line and the Old-School original ensemble.

Throughout the game as you interact and talk with various characters, you’ll be given multiple choices for a response, much in the same way as the dialogue trees in Mass Effect; these will determine the attitudes of certain NPCs towards you as you shape your relationships with them. Your options will be either aggressive, diplomatic, or defensive, and choosing which is best for any given situation will be up to you, but keep in mind that each option might carry a different stat boost so you’ll have to choose wisely. The other core RPG mechanics, such as the level system, haven’t been altered too much from the last game, which means even lesser-used characters will receive some decent upgrades as you gain experience. I wish healthcare was this universal.

[image2]Combat isn’t looking to change too much, either. You’ll still be working from the third-person perspective of the last game and take control of one of your four squad members to punch, kick, throw, and super-power your way through hordes of ne’er-do-wells, but there are a few augmentations added to spice things up. Most notable is the inclusion of the new fusion ability, which allows you to combine the powers of any two characters on your team to create a super attack: blast Iron Man’s rays at multiple enemies using Wolverine’s claws to split them, or create a hurricane with Thor’s Hammer and add some of Deadpool’s grenades into the mix for good measure. You can even do the old fastball special with Wolvie and the Hulk. All the fusion moves will be crazy and cause over-the-top flexes of your heroes’ tight-fitting spandex-clad muscles, sure to make for even more thrilling, epic crossover-style brawls and massive explosions of chaos – in fact, there will be over 250 different combinations for you to try out.

Another nice tweak is the inclusion of healing tokens, which work essentially like 1-ups. If you lose a character mid-battle and you happen to have or find one of them, you’ll be able to bring your downed comrade back into the fray. After all, no one really ever dies in comics, at least not for too long. You might actually be able to kill and bring back Jean Grey more times than the X-Men.

The number of controllable members in your party will still be (fantastically) four, but you’ll also get additional firepower from A.I.-controlled characters from time to time. The demo level had us take on Deadpool in Washington, D.C. before he ultimately succumbed and joined up as an NPC for some robot-blastin’ fun.

[image3]While Civil War will divide the Marvel Universe into two distinct factions and certain key characters will go to certain sides (they weren’t saying who, but Iron Man and Captain America are bound not to see eye-to-eye), we were assured that your roster of available teammates will not be affected.

The first Ultimate Alliance and both X-Men Legends titles are classics, and it’s hard to imagine that MUA2 is going to fall far from the tree. Developers Vicarious Visions seem to get their source material in a way that some other devs (who shall remain nameless) don’t. We’re talking about some serious fanboy love here. And that’s something, because fanboys hate everything.

Look for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 September 15th for the 360, PS3, PSP, Wii, and DS.