Friday, October 16, 2009

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Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, or MUA2 as the kids on the internets are calling it, is the latest installment in a game line that can trace its origins back to X-Men Legends. What Activision seems to be aiming for this time around is less of a direct sequel to MUA and more of an adaptation of two Marvel stories with an original third act added to wrap things up.

The gameplay is relatively unchanged

save for the addition of the fusion attacks and the omission of the hard to pull off combo system from the first game. You have the option of customizing your team’s abilities as they advance or you can have the computer handle that for you if you just want to play through. One thing that I missed though was the alternate costumes and the ability to modify through them. Thematically, this plays in quite well with the universe they’ve decided to occupy this time around.

The first MUA seemed to be a mish-mash of Marvel’s mainstream continuity with its Ultimate books. This time around, Captain America has wings on his head, Thor wears a cape, and everyone more or less resembles their 616 universe look. I find that they actually improved on certain costumes by giving them that leather uniform look that the X-Men movies made so popular.

The story is pretty much straight out of Marvel’s Secret War and Civil War storylines, but are constructed off of the conclusion of the first game. Doom is still gone and is assumed dead, and there is a mention of Galactus coming to Earth. Granted, I was looking forward to playing out a Galactus centered game, but in the end this game turned into a great way to access the source material in a fresh way and I hope Marvel takes note of this.

The meat and potatoes of the game takes place in the realm of the Civil War storyline where you are asked to choose a side in the fight between heroes who are for super-hero registration and those that stand against it. Of course your choice effects what characters can be on your team but it also gives you different POVs for the story as well as different boss battles, though some of those don’t seem too different to one another.

The thing I found particularly interesting about this is that it feels like it hooks into how comic book crossovers are handled by readers. As a reader, you are able to buy into other titles , while it’s not necessary, it can give you insight into what other characters are doing during the events of the main story. You have the same option here, you can pursue one side of the game or the other and play it to a satisfying conclusion. You can then go back if you like and take the other path and see what was unfolding on the other side. Both choices lead to the same conclusion but it’s such an interesting way to present a comic book story.

I’m hoping we see more comic book video games like this that choose to present stories in this fashion. When I finished the game following both paths I was so interested in the source material, I picked up Secret War and bits of Civil War and was amazed at how close they stuck to it and admire the decisions they made when they departed from it. They also didn’t end the game with a cliffhanger, which while it was nice with the first game, certainly ties the hands of the next development team who might take a crack at it. Here’s hoping they have another go at a project like this (and please bring back Doctor Strange).

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