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What's Hot: Large slate of playable heroes; Cool Fusion mechanic; Strong links to Marvel Comics stories.
What's Not: Doesn't diverge much from formula established in previous games; Gets to feeling boring.
Crispy Gamer Says: Fry
When Marvel's much-hyped "Civil War" crossover series was coming out three years ago, I brought an issue over to a friend's house. A group of us gather on Monday nights, and our host was excited for the newest chapter. Once he finished it, though, he was so infuriated that he threw it on the ground -- only to pick it up and tear it in half. Right down the spine, too, so the staples popped out. Everyone in my crew of comic-reading friends agreed that it was the first time we'd seen a response like that to a printed superhero story.
Developed by Vicarious Visions, the action role-playing game lifts its inspiration from that same series that changed the status quo in the Marvel Universe. The government has passed legislation that requires superhumans to register their real names and powers. As in the "Civil War" comics, you'll see the heroes break ranks according to personal beliefs, either joining up with pro-registration Iron Man or protesting the law with Captain America.
Venom has officially been in too many games. I call for a boycott!
The game's biggest success comes in the all-new Fusion mechanic. Fusion moves let different characters connect their special abilities for destructive combo attacks. For example, Ms. Marvel can aim her blasts into one of Iceman's reflective structures so that the refracting energy obliterates enemies over a wide area. Or Spider-Man can web up and swing Wolverine at an enemy boss for massive damage. Fusion works because it channels the same kind of curiosity that pops up when you first encounter a new character in a comic: "Hey, who's that Penance guy? I wonder how his powers would work with Daredevil's moves." As you unlock new heroes, Fusion makes you want to experiment.
However, even the game's best feature points out its flaws. "
And that's not necessarily a bad thing. But the overall feel is glib and bloodless. You don't get the sense that lifelong friendships are shattering, or that a huge ethical chasm has opened up between the pro-registration and resistance factions. You're told that the stakes have increased, but the gameplay is still the same: blasting everything in sight.
The brief moments of fun -- lovingly referenced fan service, beat-'em-up mini-games and trying out new Fusion pairings ---don't do enough to stop the game from feeling like one big grind that you can sleepwalk through. You won't be invested in seeing what happens if Cap's faction emerges triumphant.
My generation of comic-book fans tends to have a lot of angst about where the next wave of comics readers will come from. Some have hoped that games like "Marvel:
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 game purchased by the reviewer.
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