Comic-book games are all about wish-fulfillment: What comic book fan hasn't dreamed of laying the telekinetic smack down Dark Phoenix-style, or flinging a few of Gambit's explosive cards? Now Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 brings something to the table that Marvel fans always wanted: a comprehensive storyline combining two recent comic book arcs.
The game starts out with Marvel's "Secret War" storyline: Nick Fury leads Spidey, Wolverine, Captain America, and Iron Man on a secret attack on Latveria to take down Prime Minister Lucia von Bardas, who has been providing anti-American terrorists with super-technology. When the mission gets out of hand and a reanimated cyborg version of Lucia sets up a bomb in Times Square, the American government gets a bit piqued that Fury didn't send them the memo about his plans.
This kickstarts the second storyline about required superhero registration: think The Incredibles, but less stringent. A Civil War breaks out between the super-powered who are willing to fall in line with the government's demands and those who oppose. Iron Man heads the former group and Captain America leads the latter, and some characters are only available depending upon which side you choose. Most of the best ones will go either way, though, and the game has multiple endings according to your decisions.
MUA2 is a four-person co-op game, and it's a lot more fun if you invite over friends to play, especially if those friends are Marvel geeks who will appreciate the hilarity of, say, Deadpool's deadpan snarking. Unfortunately, it's not that much fun to play by yourself, since so much of the game relies on teamwork and the computer characters' AI isn't winning any medals.
Each character starts with two superpower moves, and as you gain experience points you'll get to unlock another two. You can pick which moves you want to unlock first, or you can auto-allocate your XP while you focus on destroying cars and telekinetically tossing your enemies around.
Fusion Attacks are this game's addition since the original MUA, and the name says it all: you pick another character on your team to "fuse" with, and the pair of you perform a devastating teamwork take-down. For example, Iron Man can fire his repulsors at Wolverine's adamantium claws, which will reflect the blast at surrounding enemies. You'll want to try all the combinations to figure out which fusions work best in a given situation, but some of the pairs' attacks are just clones of each other. It would have been great if every single Fusion Attack were completely unique, but that's a lot to expect of a game that includes so many different characters.
Speaking of disappointments, the game's voice acting falls flat on more than one occasion. Maybe it's because by now we expect to hear Hugh Jackman's voice from Wolverine's mouth, Robert Downey Jr.'s voice for Tony Stark, or even Tobey Maguire's Spidey. MUA2 couldn't get that kind of star power, and while the dialogue itself is good, the delivery leaves something to be desired. This, combined with surprisingly unsophisticated graphics, long load screens, and the fact that each character only gets one alternate outfit (as opposed to three alternates like in the original MUA), left a bad taste in more than a few gamers' mouths. We've waited three years for MUA2 to come out, but taken side by side with the original, there's nothing ground-breaking here. It's still a fun romp for Marvel fans who will treasure the opportunity to play with the new characters, but the simplistic gameplay would bore most hardcore RPG gamers.