This has been the summer of the superhero video game. Between Batman's latest entry and the launch of a new massively multiplayer superhero title, Atari's Champions Online, fans of four-colored fantasy have had a plethora of choices this year.

This has been the summer of the superhero video game. Between Batman's latest entry and the launch of a new massively multiplayer superhero title, Atari's Champions Online, fans of four-colored fantasy have had a plethora of choices this year.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is an action-oriented RPG game filled to the brim with the characters who populate the Marvel comic books. The first Ultimate Alliance game was a wholly original concoction, but this time out the game loosely follows the story set up in Marvel's Secret War and Civil War books.

War has come to the world of Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men. A terrorist attack on New York City precipitated by a superhero assault on the home country of the evil Doctor Doom turns public opinion against the capes, and results in a new superhero-registration act.

Heroes and villains across the spectrum are forced to take a side for or against the legislation. The iconic characters must choose to surrender their secret identities and become licensed agents of the government, or rebel and be labeled criminal outcasts.

Captain America and Tony "Iron Man" Stark lead the two factions, with the ultimate patriot taking the anti-government stance while the billionaire industrialist leads those heroes willing to come out to the public.

Players can choose which of the two factions to join, and the game unlocks certain heroes depending on this core choice. A total of 24 heroes are available, and players can select and build their own team of four.

Players choose any combination of characters and proceed through the game's stages, combating foes and facing named enemies. The game's "fusion" system also allows players to combine the powers of two heroes on their team with different effects, so team choice has an impact on these actions as well.

Combat is fast-paced and simple to learn. Characters gain new attacks and powers by defeating foes and leveling up. Dialogue also plays an important role, and most scenes allow players to choose from three choices - aggressive, defensive and diplomatic - and the choice affects the way other characters respond.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is a typical sequel. It has better visuals, and the ability to swap out characters on the fly makes it more flexible. But the core of the game is really not much different from the original title.

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