Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion

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Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 isn't vastly different to the first Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which was pretty similar to X-Men Legends 2, which owed more than a little to X-Men Legends. Trouble is, X-Men Legends came out in 2004, so the fact that the series has only shown incremental signs of evolution is cause for concern.

As before, a buffet of superheroes is spread out before you, all ready to mash their way through level after level of Diablo-style action-RPG gameplay at your command. You choose a squad of four - swapping them out on the fly, should you wish - and access their superpowers through the face buttons modified by the right trigger. Experience is earned for every enemy dispatched, and each level-up grants you the opportunity to enhance one or more of your abilities.

So far, so familiar, but this sequel does have a few new(ish) tricks up its sleeve. The biggest is the addition of Fusion attacks. These are earned by filling up a meter with normal melee and power attacks, and allow you to combine the talents of two of your heroes for one extra-powerful attack. There are three basic types, and which one you get depends on who you team up with. Targeted Fusions allow you to direct a strike at one specific enemy - ideal for bosses. Guided Fusions are ones you can steer around, great for mopping up scattered enemies. Clearing Fusions are wide-area attacks that come in handy should you get crowded. Each can be modified with a spot of button-bashing, to make them more effective.

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The Marvel: Ultimate Alliance series seems to exist on a spindly icicle bridge halfway between licensed product and all-out fan fiction. Its central premise - choose a bunch of your favourite funny book characters and power them through a biff-heavy narrative, lamping anything that isn't in tights and a couple of things that probably are - is simple, direct, and has already proved irresistible to the kind of person who knows how much Steve Ditko's autograph is worth on any given day, and gets angry whenever somebody draws Captain America with the scales of his chainmail pointing the wrong way. The first game stayed on the charts longer than many might have expected, and if Activision's smart, it should be stealth-developing a reskinned version alongside this sequel, too, swapping out the colourful superheroes for the current Radio 4 announcer line-up: that way the company would pretty much have the entire audience between the ages of twelve and 65 handing over money this Christmas - in middle England at least.