Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 Fusion Preview
Back in the PS2 generation, gamers were treated to several action/RPGs that helped to bridge the gap between PC and console RPGs, and most of them turned out very well. Both Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance and Dark Alliance II were great, Champions of Norrath was super fun, and both X-Men Legends titles were mucho entertaining, especially for superhero fans. They all used a similar formula extremely well, and if you were a comic book nut and a fan of the hack ‘n slash dungeon crawler style, you were probably a fan of the aforementioned games. Therefore, you’ve likely been waiting for another Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, which released over two years ago to relatively generous critical feedback. Well, you’ve got a little longer to wait, but the highly anticipated sequel is indeed coming for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and Activision showed off an early trailer at the Comic-Con event in San Diego. From what we can tell so far, things are looking good.
The sequel is called Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 Fusion, and while it will use the same gameplay mechanic, gamers can expect more stylistic and adult art design. The trailer showed off some very impressive characters, and the best part is that over 20 Marvel characters will be available for play, including Wolverine, the Hulk, Spider-Man, and the Human Torch. The story centers on the “Civil War” storyline, where you’ll be forced to choose a side right from the start. That could be difficult for all you hardcore fans out there (we can just picture the mental battle you’ll have to endure), but it adds a good deal of flair to the standard format. There’s another twist to the premise you might not be expecting, either: as cooperative-based gameplay is the toast of the town these days, as evidenced by extraordinarily promising titles like LittleBigPlanet, Activision has decided to implement that idea into Fusion. There’s a very good reason the title includes that word…
Yep, you’ll be able to “fuse” two superheroes’ special skills together, thereby generating a massive special attack that most enemies won’t be able to counter. The trailer just recently shown at Comic-Con boasted the powerful Thing tearing up pieces of concrete, then allowing the Human Torch to light them on fire to create flaming deadly projectiles. So like, what happens when we combine Iron Man and the Invisible Women, or Spider-Man and the Hulk? Can we combine any two superheroes, or will it only work for certain duos? We don’t have answers for these questions just yet, but the idea of combining powers is still a good one, and the possibilities – on the surface, at least – appear limitless. Remember, this is supposedly part role-playing, so having the ability to power up based on experience gained will be a significant aspect of the gameplay. Hence, we wonder if combo moves pave the way to more experience and faster character advancement, which would be unassailably cool.
Some may complain that Vicarious Visions aren’t doing enough with this sequel in order to satisfy the fans, just because they’re using the same engine from the original Ultimate Alliance. After all, we’re in a new generation, so many ideas from the last generation are often branded as “stale,” even if the label is unfair in many cases. Obviously, we’ll get a greatly enhanced visual presentation and more detail – getting hit will cause your armor or suit to change appearance due to the inflicted damage, for instance – but overall, the foundation is very much the same. You will have the same third-person, quasi-top-down view, the control should be similar, the destructible environment (with limits) will be there, and all that’s left is how the developers handle the combination powers this time around. They could be just a major option or the focal point of the gameplay; for example, you may have to solve puzzles using the fused abilities of two specific characters, and again, that presents numerous possibilities.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 Fusion is scheduled to arrive some time during the first quarter of 2009, which means it could be a solid option for those of you looking for a flashy beat-‘em-up. Superhero games and movies tend to go up and down on the quality scale, but considering how much fun Ultimate Alliance was, and the number of satisfied gamers it produced, we imagine this sequel will be well received. And so what if it uses the same engine? This is a tried-and-true gameplay mechanic, and there’s nothing saying we need something revolutionary just because we’re in a new generation. Not every title must be original; in fact, that’d be downright impossible. And provided we get a new story, new world, more characters, and a new feature – like those combo skills – just about all fans of the original are gonna be interested in Alliance 2 Fusion. There’s no two ways about it.
7/24/2008 Ben Dutka