Genre: Action, Role-Playing, Beat ’em Up, Hack n’ Slash
Developed by: Vicarious Visions
Published by: Activision
Platforms: All of them, I think
Feeling Like: Mount A grads, Assemble!
If you haven’t experienced the Maritime provinces of Canada in the winter, don’t. All the character building hogwash that Calvin’s father spewed is a trap; it’s damp people in miserable conditions trying to find a shining ray of hope underneath an oppressive blanket of gray, sleet, snow, hail and ice. They don’t deserve it. Nobody does.
So why the hell did I fly from Victoria to Halifax in the middle of January?
Oh, that’s easy. I was called to arms. We all were.
Dave R had an apartment right by the Common. All of us were employed. A few years since graduation gave us ample time to get on our feet, pay off some loans and for the first time in our lives, obtain disposable income. None of us being in serious relationships at the time may also have had something to do with it.
So what do four friends do when going outside means going toe to toe with a very pissed off mother nature?
That’s right, play cooperative video games until four in the morning while destroying our bodies with counterfeit energy drinks.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 was the perfect choice. Larger than life personalities band together under extreme circumstances. They’re here for a good time, not a long time. The gang’s all here: Captain America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Gambit, Fuzzy, TD, Lipsit and HSkey. The four player simultaneous co-op gave us all ample opportunity to experiment with our favorite superheroes, while mashing the attack button against hordes of robots, aliens and scores of other ne’er-do-wellers.
The story structure is much improved over the first Ultimate Alliance and those who have seen Captain America: Civil War will be in the know. The government wants to bring heroes under their control and register them legally. This will make them employees and they’ll be directed where to go. Iron Man is OK with this, he sees it as a realistic and reasonable way to ensure their powers are kept in check. Cap is NOT OK with this and sees it as a conflict of personal choice and freedoms. He doesn’t want his comrades to be forced to give up their secret identities and compromise themselves.
It’s a phenomenal setup and builds a creative foundation for you to play in. The presentation is slick as hell; the menus match the Civil War colors and style perfectly. Leveling up feels convincingly mighty. The frame rate did drop occasionally in giant fracas, but the models are a vast improvement over the first Ultimate Alliance, and you can swap out your characters at any point in the level instead of waiting for a save point.
This meant a ton of experimentation, as some characters can combine their powers. The fusion system is brilliant and we quickly lost track of how many bad ass options were at our disposal. Like how Iron Man can blast his rays of energy off Wolverine’s claws across the room. Or how the Hulk and the Thing just jump up and down hilariously, basically turning any surface into a trampoline of death for the rest of its inhabitants.
It’s not quite perfect and there’s no way Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 gets ahead of 75 other titles on the 500 if there wasn’t a four player option. It was nice to be totally carefree and away from home for a few days and do nothing but play cooperative games. Eventually the story reveals itself to be weaker than expected and the choices lacked impact beyond the pro or anti registration. Fusion powers that clear the room look incredible upon the first few viewings, but eventually due to the repetitive gameplay, they lose their luster.
So, firmly entrenched in “Above Ground”, but I can’t justify putting it any higher. That being said, I’ll never trade in my experience for playing something better. Fighting shoulder to shoulder with Fuzz, TD and Lipsit in Dave’s warm apartment on Robie St. and then rewarding ourselves with drunken poutine in minus 30 weather is about as Canadian as you can get. It felt appropriate; our own little group of personalities flying in from all corners of the country for an important circumstance. Grab a few friends and plow through this in a few celebratory evenings and you won’t regret it.