Jean Grey: Phoenix
At a pre-Comic-Con International: San Diego press event, Activision showed off several of their upcoming Fall 2009 Releases. Of particular note to the throngs of comic fans descending upon Southern California this weekend is the sequel to the multi-platform hit action-roll playing game (rpg), Marvel Ultimate Alliance. The second installment has a new developer, some new control schemes, and a whole bevy of new features. Of course, there are also new characters for gamers to play as.
Two of those new characters were revealed for the first time at the event: Jean Grey "Phoenix," and Remy Lebeau "Gambit." (Newsarama Note: We'll have more images of the newbies soon) The characters both appeared in the X-Men: Legends series previously, which transformed into the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series after two games of its own, but this is their first time fighting alongside the other heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe. Fans of Phoenix from prior games will remember her as being quite strong, even somewhat over-powered once she is leveled up fully. The developers assured us this is still the case; the Phoenix Force will show its true power if you take the time to build up your character.
The hands-on preview had a team of four (and it was busy, and popular, enough that it was always four human players) going through the streets of Washington, D.C. on the eve of the Superhuman Registration Act. Marvel Comics fans will recognize that term, as it sparked a massive superhero Civil War just a couple years ago. That hero vs. hero action is the basis for the game's story, though it has been altered to include then-dead characters like Phoenix and Thor, and off-world characters like Hulk. All three of them, plus Gambit and Invisible Woman, were playable at the event, and players got to see just how they handle.
Remy Lebeau: Gambit
As players ran through the U.S. capitol, they fought a bunch of soldier-style enemies. There were variants of these foes, though, including Rocket-launcher shooters who offered some fun ways to use powers. All of the characters clearly handled differently, and there have been significant tweaks to the overall gameplay. Rather than having a long list of powers and keeping 3 on hand at a time, each character will have 3 powers plus the long list of power-fusions using a fourth.
Rather than rotating powers on the fly as in the first game, now you can rotate characters on the fly. Any unlocked characters can be put into your group of 4 at any time- provided they're on your side of the fight. Some characters are linked permanently to one side or the other, pro or anti-Registration, but the majority can go either way.
The role playing element of improving character traits is handled differently as well. You can do this without stopping the action, now, if you're in a multiplayer game. One person can change the traits on their character (who is temporarily controlled by the computer) while the others continue to play. You can also redistribute all your points at any time. Facing a bunch of rocket launchers? Take points from the Hulk's ground smash and add them to the long range thunder clap to reflect them back. A whole battalion of soldiers swooping down on you? Give Phoenix's area affect a big boost, taking away from her individual TK attack. It's all fast and easy to maximize the action.
Otherwise, this is pretty much more of the same, albeit much prettier to look at, and I mean that in the best way. The folks at Vicarious Visions have kept the game close enough to the original to make it easy and enjoyable for fans to jump right in to the sequel.
The current playble character list now reads as follows:
Juggernaut (Pre-Order Exclusive)
For fans that are upset that their favorite character hasn't made the list of playables yet, Activision did confirm to Newsarama that they plan on downloadable content, in the form of other characters, at the very least. PS3 gamers won't be left out this time, either (extra characters were Xbox360 exclusive in Marvel Ultimate Alliance). So keep campaigning for your faves, and maybe you'll see them after the game comes out.
This is at once a game that fans of the original will instantly love and critics of the original should find much better. All the changes made were good ones, made to make the game more action-oriented and easier to understand. Couple that with a better storyline (that makes more sense, too), and you have a game that every marvel fan, casual and hardcore, should be very excited about.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 will be available September 15, 2009 on PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and Xbox 360. The version previewed here is the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 edition. Cosmetic, character, and gameplay difference may be present in other versions of the game.Fans can interact with developers and producers at http://marvelultimatealliance.marvel.com/