The super hero genre of games has never been done…(how should I’ll put this)….”that well” seems to be the best way to put it. There has been a constant complaint that there has never been a good Batman game, which is a feat since there were Batman games on the original Nintendo system. What does not help the case is that the Superman game for the Nintendo 64, aptly titled “Superman 64”, is considered one of the worst video games ever made. But that hasn’t stopped publishers and designers from trying. There have been successes, namely the Playstation Spider-Man game designed by “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” creators, Neverware, as well as the popularity of the PC game, “City of Heroes” as well as the relatively new “Marvel Ultimate Alliance,” which spawned “Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2,” which was released this past week.
I got to play the new game, which I was quite excited about. Even beyond the crap that has come out before, there is something fulfilling about being able to play as your favorite hero. When you save New York as Iron Man, you feel like you’ve done right by the forces of good, which perfectly explains the appeal of this game.
For the uninitiated, “Marvel Ultimate Alliance” is game in which up to four players get to be members of the top tier of Marvel characters, which includes Captain America, Thor, Deadpool, the Fantastic Four, and Wolverine to name a few. After choosing a character, the players go through a story mode to save the world from some terrible threat in a free form environment remincent of the old four player arcade games. There are also power-ups and unlockable costumes and secrets to be found in these levels.
The hook for this sequel is the storyline, which is based mostly on the 2006 storyline “Civil War” which saw the heroes in the Marvel Universe in a political fist fight. Fans enjoyed seeing Captian America and Iron Man duke it out on the page, so being able to actually control one of them in a fight has its inherent pull.
The game is a fun play, just on the comic novelty of it. Anyone who has played the original is not in for any surprises or a steep learning curve. The level up system is well done and easy to learn. The controls are also pretty straight forward, but a little backward intuitive. Considering any games that has a jump button tends to rely on the jump button in game play, I found it off-putting that it wasn’t the “A” button (where the right thumb would be while just holding the controller). It would be like making the Left shoulder be the button to shoot in Goldeneye on the N64, not the worst thing, but not the logical choice. I also felt that there was an imbalance in the regular fighting moves and the powered fighting moves. It seems almost as if there was no use to the regular moves because they did such little damage to the enemy.
A more balanced fighting system, especially with the four players going at the same time, would have been nice. As if turning on a dime, it would be incredibly easy the ridiculously difficult. The action also tended to clump up and make finding your character hard to find. The camera would zoom out to get all the action and either every character was in a huge brawl, making find the character a needle in the haystack or the character designs would look to similar that enemy and friend were hard to discern. There were times that I was The Thing or Venom just to have a huge figure to see in these situations.
But in all this, it is a still an enjoyable game.
The storyline is engaging, even for those who don’t know the source material and it isn’t wrapped up in the comic book lingo to alienate the casual gamer or non-comic book fan. It isn’t the benchmark of super hero video games. That is shaping up to be DC’s upcoming online game, DC Universe. But it is still an enjoy chapter in a genre that has yet to fully realize its potential.
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All images from IGN.com