Ultimate Alliance 2 takes place when many of the world’s heroes were divided over the Superhuman Registration Act, a US law requiring all Supers to give up their secret identities and officially join forces with the US government. Understandably, many masked crusaders have quite a problem with unmasking, in addition to that giving up that little Civil Liberties thing. As Ultimate Alliance 2 begins, the rumblings of the Registration Act are just touching off, and the perfect excuse to mix and match superhero teams is granted.
Using the now-familiar action-RPG format seen in X-Men Legends and the first Ultimate Alliance, Ultimate Alliance 2 jumps right into the action with the four-hero action team. Players command one of the Supers, with the rest of the unit driven by a competent-enough AI. At any time, players can grab control of any of the characters on the field with the press of a direction pad, and team members can be swapped out almost as easily. Given the nature of the storyline, characters will be unavailable at given chapters, depending on player choices throughout the game.
Ultimate Alliance 2 boasts two separate story paths, both Pro- and Anti-Registration. While this sounds very cool in theory, there’s really very little difference between the two paths, other than having a few character restrictions and differently-uniformed enemies to battle. Still, since the single-player game is relatively short, it’s certainly enjoyable to play through both sides of the conflict (and entirely necessary for those who want to unlock the requisite plethora of extra content). In addition to the two story paths, the new game + feature, allowing play on higher difficulties with elevated character levels, increases the replay value.
Gameplay itself is quite solid. A series of basic combat moves are mapped to each of the action buttons, and each character boasts a suite of extra superpowered moves with the additional press of a shoulder pad. And if these often-impressive powers aren’t enough, Ultimate Alliance 2 introduces Fusion powers, special attacks made when two characters team up to unleash a new level of carnage. With 24 playable characters, there are tons of two-character combinations with which to experiment.
Character development is typical for the action-RPG genre. As characters battle baddies and level up, they gain additional powers and traits to bring to the field. The great thing about Ultimate Alliance 2 is the ability to rearrange the points spent at any time, with no penalties. This way, players are free to experiment with power suites without fretting over the possibility of ruining a given character forever. There is some imbalance between various characters’ power, however, as some of them just completely overshadow the rest. Still, with 24 character possibilities, keeping everyone on an even playing field just isn’t feasible.
Ultimate Alliance 2 looks good, although not quite as impressive as some of the other current titles that are currently hitting the market. In general the powers look solid, the character modeling is usually strong, and the most of the levels are well-constructed. I did have a little problem discerning exactly where my characters were when powers started flying in the more chaotic swedges. This isn’t too much a problem, as there’s very little friendly fire here, but I did lose several attacks by accidentally targeting an ally. The voice acting was also fairly solid, and I didn’t find any of the characters particularly cringe-inducing. That’s quite an accomplishment in an action-RPG, when those once-cool catch phrases soon turn tired and annoying. Granted, I wasn’t able to spend quality time with each and every character, but I imagine the trend continues.
For those with an eye for collectables, Ultimate Alliance 2 has them in spades. Unlockable characters, costumes, art, movies, and replayable side-missions abound, calling for some serious hours to be spent gathering everything. In addition, players can co-op the story in multiplayer fashion.
Overall, Ultimate Alliance 2 is a solid super-powered action-RPG, but it doesn’t seem to bring anything amazingly new to the genre. Fans of the previous Marvel titles will have a blast, and those looking for some down-and-dirty spandex-laden throwdowns won’t be disappointed. Still, this just isn’t a title with a lot of staying power, and although I had fun during my super-powered romps, I probably won’t be revisiting the disc any time soon.