Review – LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 (PS4) could have been so much more
The first LEGO Marvel game was like a breath of fresh air for a stagnating series. It mixed fun open-world gameplay with linear stages, and had a cast of characters that ran the gamut from the Fantastic Four to the X-Men and the Avengers. It proved that a Traveller’s Tales game could still innovate given the chance, so, by all accounts, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 should have been a glorious sequel. Sadly, it’s not.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 starts with the Guardians of the Galaxy answering a distress call from the Nova Corps. Instead of being decimated like in the comics, the Nova Corps we see in the game are alive and well, led by Nova Prime – no, not Richard Rider, but the woman from the movies. Weirdly, the developers chose to bash together elements of the 616 Marvel Universe with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Anyway, the Nova Corps on Xandar are under assault by Kang the Conqueror, leading aboard his massive Damocles Base. The Guardians arrive just in time to witness Kang teleporting both himself and a significant chunk of the Nova Corps away. They then rush to Earth to warn the Avengers, only to discover that they too have been caught up in Kang’s scheme, teleported along with large portions of Manhattan.
Apparently, Kang has been cherry picking specific places and times to meld into an image of his perfect city, Chronopolis. If you’ve read the recent ‘Secret Wars: Battleworld’ Marvel event, where God Doom rules all that’s left of reality, you’ll find that Chronopolis shares more than a passing resemblance to Doom’s world. The game’s depiction, however, is a tad underwhelming. Some places are cool, like Post-Ragnarok Asgard and Noir New York City (missed opportunity not calling it “Noir York City”), but others are completely boring by comparison. Do we really want to venture to Egypt or regular old Manhattan? Why not give us more eclectic places such as the Blue Area of the Moon or the Cancerverse?
Avengers Mansion, the very same one from the ‘90s and early ‘00s, serves as the focal point of the heroic resistance. Here, the Avengers lead the charge against Kang, traversing the disparate regions and gathering allies to try and find a way to return everything to normal. Gwenpool is also here, taking over Deadpool as the game’s fourth-wall-breaking character. She offers the player cheats and upgrades, and also has secret Pink Bricks missions that are unlocked depending on your progression with the side missions and other secondary objectives.
Seeing the Avengers recruit the entire Marvel Universe to fight a greater threat isn’t new. It’s pretty much the basis for the ‘Infinity Gauntlet’ and ‘Infinity War’ crossover events of the ‘80s. However, their twist of adding Battleworld doesn’t serve a point nor does it add anything to the gameplay.
More but less
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 more than makes up for that with the sheer number of playable characters. I consider myself a hardcore Marvel fan, but even I found myself wondering where Captain Avalon came from. (Hint: Despite the name, he’s not a member of the inter-dimensional Captain Britain Corps.) There are also lesser known characters such as Hit Monkey and the Winter Guard, something that is very much appreciated. Nearly everybody in the game is unlockable as a playable character, even bosses like Kang or MODOK.
Seeing all of those characters makes the omission of Fox-licensed heroes even more glaring. Yup, Marvel’s feud with 20th Century Fox is still on-going, which means no X-Men, Deadpool, or even the Fantastic Four, much less anybody remotely connected to them. Ironically, while the roster is a testament to Marvel’s huge and varied cast, it also drives home how integral Fox’s properties have become.
Luckily, you can somewhat bypass this with the custom character creation tool. It’s much more in-depth this time around, and you can even assign individual weapons, moves, and powers to your creations. This means you can recreate Logan, Deadpool, or any number of the heroes missing in action.
We’ve been here before
Yet no matter who you choose, the game is still like every other LEGO game. You’ll destroy the environment for studs and to reveal hidden building prompts to progress. You’ll need to find hidden Stan Lees and to hunt down Gold Bricks. It means that everything has a” been there, done that” feel to it, and no amount of character additions can change that.
Combat still feels as loose and unsatisfying as ever, especially when you’re fighting bosses; just keep hammering the square button over and over to slowly whittle away their health. It doesn’t help matters that each character has their own uninterruptible attack animation, too.
The player’s health bar may as well not be there since you can respawn indefinitely. In fact, you can even create your custom characters to be invincible. There’s no sense of danger in the game, and while that’s certainly appreciated for those with kids, those of us craving a little challenge will find the game unsatisfying. I’m not joking when I say I’ve dozed off a couple of times while playing – not a good sign for any action game.
You’re free to explore Chronopolis when not advancing through the story’s linear stages. There’s a lot to do here, with every region having tons of side activities. The best are the character missions like helping Ursa Major as he fights the other members of the Winter Guard, or accompanying Shuri on her patrols across Wakanda. However, these missions soon get repetitive as they usually involve escorting the guest character and following their instructions.
As a result, exploring Chronopolis just isn’t fun. On top of that, finding these regions can be a pain in the ass as they don’t show up on the mini-map. If you want to get to a particular area, you’ll have to manually mark it on the main map and then head over to the landmark that appears in-game.
Visually, Marvel Super Heroes 2 looks decent although open areas are quite lacking. The draw distance is horrendous and items such as trees or characters will suddenly pop into view as you get closer; it’s especially noticeable when you’re flying around. When a game looks like this in the age of the Xbox One and PS4, pop-in issues are simply unforgiveable. Luckily, the frame rate manages to hold up even when there’s a lot happening on-screen, so that’s a plus.
It’s pretty much the same situation on the audio side of things. The character voices don’t really fit with the established ones, no matter if you’re comparing to the cartoons or movies, and it’s a bit jarring to hear. Thor, for example, sounds nothing like his Avengers Assemble or MCU counterpart. Couple that with the lackluster voice acting that’s on par with the 1996 Resident Evil, and what you have here is a recipe for crap. I’m told this is due to the voice actor’s strike, but couldn’t more effort have been made to get a better performance from these non-union actors?
I had honestly gone into LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 expecting a game on par with the original. However, apart from the greatly expanded roster, what I got instead was a game that was a step below the original in every way. Scratch that, even the roster is disappointing. Sure, there are a lot more characters now, but I’d trade the multiple versions of Captain America – Captain Avalon, Cap Wolf, Captain America (Old West) – for the X-Men or the Fantastic Four. Hell, I’d even settle for the low-tier mutants like Chamber or Marrow.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is a competent game, and kids who love Marvel or any of the other Traveller’s Tales LEGO games will definitely enjoy playing it. It’s just a shame knowing the game could have been much, much more.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is out now for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch.
Developed by Traveller’s Tales and published by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment.
A copy was provided for review.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 (PS4) was reviewed on the LG OLED C7 Television.