Preview: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

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Activision is such a tease. At New York Comic Con, the publisher promised to show us something solid on Vicarious Visions’ upcoming action-brawler, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. Instead, it just brought us a trailer; a cool teaser, but a teaser nonetheless.

At Game Developer Conference last week, Activision brought along some folks from Vicarious Visions along with the game. So where does the tease come in? They just let us watch. Fortunately, the demo of the game in action didn’t disappoint, every bit as cool as the Comic Con teaser trailer. We just wish we could play it. Now.

Read on for more details.


Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS)
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision
To be released: Fall 2009

Inspired by the events of Marvel’s “Civil War” story arc, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 will have players (and heroes… possibly villains) choosing sides in a narrative that takes a more mature slant than the previous title. Set to a more contemporary tone, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is as much about the choices you make as it is the heroes you choose to embody. Although we didn’t see it play out in the demo, Vicarious Visions tells us that these choice will affect who you can control, who will fight along your side and ultimately, the outcome of the game. 

The title still maintains its cooperative roots, this time allowing for up to four players to fight alongside one another either on a single console or online. Vicarious Visions has only revealed a handful of the game’s 24 characters, among them favorites like Captain America, Spider-Man, The Hulk, and more. We were also told that you can expect more playable characters available by way of downloadable content, but they weren’t ready to talk specifics, including pricing and time frame for availability. 

Among the new reveals at GDC were two new characters ripped straight from the pages of the Marvel universe, Iron Fist and Songbird. Iron Fist’s specialty is martial arts, with up-close combat his forte, using Chi energy as a weapon. Songbird — like a handful of the game’s characters — has the ability to glide through the air, using sonic energy to create wings that sprout from her back. 

The core gameplay of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 appears to remain the same as its predecessor, with a focus on high intensity action and upgrading heroes abilities as your progress. This time around, however, Vicarious Vision is making it easier than ever to experience each of the characters’ special abilities. In the previous title, it was too easy to rely on one character that you’d continually upgrade, leaving other (possibly weaker) characters by the wayside. In Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, it will be possible to swap characters on the fly, encouraging players to experiment with different abilities as they go. 

But the key addition to the title is the Power Fusion system (the subtitle Fusion that was originally attached to the title appears to have been scrapped). The focus here is on bad-ass hero team ups, the system allowing each hero to fuse his or her abilities with teammates. The system allows for nearly 300 different tag-team combinations; one example we saw had Thor bouncing lightning off of Captain America’s shield, shocking crowds of nearby enemies. 

From a visual standpoint, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is vastly improved from its predecessor. While the original title seemed like a shinier version of last-gen titles, this new game was verly clearly designed with next-gen hardware in mind. The lighting is particularly phenomenal, with light posts castings impressive, reali time shadows across pavement and characters. Environmental destruction has been amped up as well; as Vicarious Visions put it, “people liked smashing things” in the first title. They deliver in the sequel, as we saw all manner of things being trashed in the battlefield. 

Overall, the game has a far grittier look and feel, mirroring the imagery of more mature modern comic book artists, and fitting with the games more mature themes. The angle of the action has been changed as well, pulled in a bit tighter, with cinematic angles that amplify the intensity of the on-screen action. 

To say we’re excited to get our hands on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is an understatement. Next time we see the game, hand us a controller, Vicarious Visions. If you think the fusion of Spider-Man and the Hulk is frightening, just wait until you see two game journalists come together to combine powers. It’s a thing of nightmares.

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