Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 puts you in charge of a team of superheroes battling either to overturn or enforce superhuman registration. Your team consists of up to four heroes; switching between characters during the action allows you to use their varied powers to overcome your enemies. In multiplayer mode, up to four teammates can play together.
Like it's predecessor, 2006's Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, this is an isometric-perspective brawler that focuses on action and effective combination of powers. Just as the first Ultimate Alliance game, this episode features a wide variety of playable characters, including Captain America, Daredevil, Deadpool and other familiar names, as well as less well-known characters such as Penance (a gritty reboot of kid-friendly 80s character Speedball the Masked Marvel). Some characters are locked to a particular side in the superhuman civil war: for instance, Luke Cage and Captain America fight on the anti-registration side, while Iron Man and Mister Fantastic lead the pro-registration forces.
This is a straightforward action-RPG beat-'em-up. Managing your character's Stamina bar lets you use your powers more effectively, and a simple levelling system lets you focus your abilities in different areas, but the fun definitely comes mainly from the fast-paced superheroic fights.
Gameplay in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is fairly forgiving. Characters whose health runs out are "fallen," but teammates can revive them. They will also rejoin the team at the end of a stage.
The combat mechanics are relatively simple: characters have two basic attacks, a quick attack and a chargeable strong attack. Chaining these together into combos can produce special effects such as stunning enemies, bouncing them into the air or knocking them down. Each hero also has four powers; powers consume Stamina, so you can't just beat every foe in your path by mashing out your best attack power.
Teammates can also collect power-ups called Fusion Stars, which let them unleash combinations of powers called Fusions. Targeted Fusions do big damage and are indispensable for taking down tough bosses, while Clearing Fusions take out large groups of enemies. Guided Fusions move around the screen under your control, striking down opponents. Different pairs of characters create different Fusions, so make sure you have a good mix in your team. In particular, you'll find boss battles quite a slog unless you have the damage potential of a Targeted Fusion.
Partway through the game, you'll have to choose a side in the war over superhero registration. As a result, if you want to play all the characters in the game, you'll need to play through it at least twice, choosing a different side each time.
Joining the Fight
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is exciting bad-guy-bashing fun with enough RPG depth to prevent it getting dull. Fusions are an entertaining teamwork mechanic, although ironically they're a little harder to make work in an actual multiplayer game. If you want to bash some bad guys, alone or with friends, it's a solid choice.