Ulimate Alliance 2: electric boogaloo

By Jordyn Marcellus

Comic book fans have rejoiced this year. After the brilliant Batman: Arkham Asylum, the bar was set extremely high for video game adaptations. Vicarious Visions’ Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 doesn’t approach the sheer level of wicked game design that Arkham does, but still manages to be an extremely fun romp and one of the best film or video game adaptations of the Marvel Universe.

Ultimate Alliance 2 offers an adventure through the Secret War and Civil War crossovers done through Marvel comics. Gameplay-wise, the game is far more refined than its predecessors. All characters have four powers plus their regular attacks and that’s it. The pared down powers allow for a lot more pick-up-and-play time, with less time spent in the menus trying to build the ultimate character.

The combat has been upgraded substantially, with 10 characters on screen easily handled — battles offer up to 20 enemies at any one time to pound on.

Visually, the game is pretty good. Character designs are clean and mostly based on the Secret and Civil War-era designs. Even characters from the previous Ultimate Alliance game have been given a visual upgrade. Iron Man’s Armor is well-detailed, rivalling the film at times, while you can see the two bands of leather that keep the shield on Captain America’s arm. The new engine also allows for in-game speech lip-syncing, which substantially enhances the cinematic qualities of the game.

This is one of the major advantages of UA2: the game plays like a movie. It tells the story of Marvel’s Civil War story line and does a pretty competent job of it. Voice acting is odd though ­– Spider-man sounds wimpy, while Cap comes across as a lunchroom jock bully. However it is still an incredible adaptation of the story line and shows how much fun a straight-up animated adaptation of some of these big Marvel events could look on screen.

The game oozes flavour from every pore, too. Esoteric characters like Firestar and Justice just hang around the screen, offering commentary on events and acting as characters in the greater narrative.

The game’s menu system takes numerous visual cues from the Civil War covers, a genius touch that makes the menus pleasant to the eye. Minor annoyances, though, are abound — it’s often hard to navigate the pages.

These cinematic qualities do offer one major frustration. The camera system is meant to show off the lush visuals with dynamic camera angles. Unfortunately, those exact same dynamic camera angles are frustrating to play through. Constant struggling with the camera system, including vain attempts to move it to offer a better perspective using the right analog stick, is a persistent problem. It never makes the game unplayable but does offer an aggravation to players who may otherwise be getting into the game’s brilliant mise en scene.

One other thing to note about the game is its roster. Vicarious Visions have given players 23 characters off the bat, with promises of even more characters down the pipe through downloadable content. Initial playable characters include old stalwarts like Spider-Man, Wolverine, Thor and Iron Man. But they’ve also branched out, offering less-known characters like the Thunderbolts’ Songbird and Penance. Even the Green Goblin and Venom are playable in the game, offering a not-so-heroic alternative to the regular goody-goods.

While Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is the opening salvo in an already jam-packed season of top-caliber video games, it offers a lot to fans of Marvel comics. The tightest gameplay yet means that fans can immediately get up and go, but frustrating camera issues do mar the otherwise great time.


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