Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 Review
A crumbling foundation
With some of the biggest franchises in its arsenal, it’s not a surprise that Warner Bros’ LEGO franchise has endured year after year. When you got Star Wars, Harry Potter and DC Comics on your side, it’s easy to draw in fans. While their comic-book competitor may have gotten the big-screen treatment this year, Marvel Comics gets the showcase game this year with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2. Following in the footsteps of the original, the Traveller’s Tales designed sequel once again brings together the biggest heroes in the Marvel Universe for a dimension-spanning adventure.
Taking place directly after the events of the first game, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 sees Kang the Conqueror launch his most audacious plot yet to take over the universe. The supervillain is building his own city, Chronopolis, by traveling through time and capturing some of the biggest cities and locations in comics’ history. With the homes of the vast majority of superheroes crammed together under the rule of the Conqueror, Marvel’s biggest heroes must come together once again to fend off this time-corrupting plot.
Let’s be honest here, Kang’s intricate plan is just merely an excuse to get a ton of Marvel characters in one big adventure. In that regard, Traveller’s Tales succeeds, as it is a blast seeing faces both familiar and not come together. What other tale would have the likes of Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man 2099 and Black Bolt working together to save the day? With the focus largely on the heroes, Kang’s plot does kind of fade into the background, though. The villains, as a whole are kind of wasted, with some of the biggest names either not appearing (Magneto, Dr. Doom) or burdened with extremely limited screen time (Loki).
We should probably get into the roster issues that Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, I suppose. Before I begin, I will say that there are a staggering amount of characters featured here. While the stars of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy) take center-stage in the campaign, there are plenty of side-characters lingering around Chronopolis. Fan favorites such as Squirrel Girl and Hit-Monkey are out there just waiting to join in on the fun.
However, due to the rights issues involving some of their most popular characters, Marvel elected to not include the likes of either the X-Men or Fantastic Four. Considering the previous game included these characters, it’s annoying how characters such as Wolverine and The Thing are ignored here. I get that Disney/Marvel is doing this for a reason, but it’s not ideal for fans. There are still plenty of familiar faces to choose from, but the roster could have been significantly improved.
With Kang’s forces spread across multiple timelines, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is never short on locations to travel to. While the action begins in modern day Manhattan, players will venture to areas such as the Wild West, Nueva York and Hala, home planet of the Kree. The main missions in the game will take you all over Chronopolis, but you’re also free to explore them as you wish. Each locale holds its own set of side-missions, puzzles and collectibles. The main campaign is already sizable enough, but with the amount of bonus content hidden in the game, there’s more than enough content here for fans to seek out.
Despite this, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2’s Chronopolis is a pretty shallow open world though. There’s limited interaction with the environment, outside of destroying stuff to collect LEGO pieces, and there just really isn’t a ton to do outside of the bonus objectives. You can’t really go into any major buildings, as most of the world is just there to look at. The only thing that separates this from other boring open worlds is that Chronopolis at least has several different environments built into it. From 1920’s New York to the Wild West, there’s a good amount of content to look at. I just wish there was more to actually do in these worlds, as well.
The open world is only part of the LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 experience, however. Like the other licensed games in the LEGO franchise, there’s a decent-sized campaign. Usually splitting the wide cast of characters into groups of three or four, each level takes you to a different world as you try to formulate a plan to stop Kang. Characters in the game are split into different classes, with each class having their own unique powers. Some can shoot beams of fire (Captain Marvel, Iron Man), while others can use their strength to open heavy doors (Drax, Hulk). Specific characters like Ms. Marvel and Doctor Strange have their own unique set of skills, as well. These powers are then used to solve rudimentary puzzles, which considering this franchise is for the younger set, is a good enough challenge.
While the puzzle-solving side is perfectly competent, the combat of the franchise is in dire need of improvement. As mentioned, this is a series for a young audience, so to expect a deep combat engine would be foolish. However, the engine here is sloppy at best, and frustrating in its worst moments. It’s a button masher, but everything feels mushy and slow. Aiming is haphazard, and whether you are on-foot or in a vehicle, it still feels terrible.
Not helping matters is the fact that your teammate A.I. is some of the worst I have seen in recent memory. They basically have only three modes: standing in front of you not doing anything, standing to the side and not doing anything or getting glitched out while running in place. Considering the game gives you unlimited lives, I shouldn’t have gotten as mad as I did playing this game. And yet, most of my time with it was spent gritting my teeth as I attempted to wade through this obnoxious combat.
Another frustrating aspect of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is the cumbersome camera. The game offers you some control over the camera, but for the most part you are at the mercy of the game as it refuses to help in any way. With as much stuff as there is to collect in this game, I would have liked a camera that allowed you to get a better look into corners and nooks that are otherwise hidden. Worse yet is trying to control it while using a vehicle. Flying is particularly bad, as the camera is content to give you the worst possible angle at all times. Most 3D platformers have mastered the art of camera movement in this day and age, and frankly it’s strange that the one here is as terrible as it is.
The LEGO franchise has never been known for its graphical prowess, and that trend continues here. The LEGO-ized Marvel characters look fine enough, especially if you’re a fan of the figurines. However, I go back to the general blandness of Chronopolis. There’s a lot that could have been done with this unique world, but it all feels too similar when you’re running through it. Due to the merging of the worlds, you also tend to see certain NPCs pop up repeatedly. Even if it fit the story, it didn’t help soothe my issues with the blandness of how the game looks.
Additionally, I wasn’t super impressed with the voice acting featured in the game. Research has led me to the fact that recording for the title took place during the recent voice actor’s strike, and it shows. Most of the characters just sound off, with Spider-Man’s whiny voice being one of the worst. Being obnoxious has always been one of Spidey’s traits, but he sounds particularly annoying here. The repeated bits of NPC dialogue also begin to grate on the nerves after the tenth or so time hearing them. If I had to hear one more joke about winter clothes, I would have thrown my PS4 through my TV.
For better or worse, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is very much in line with the other LEGO titles. Traveller’s Tales has a formula with these things, and they are intent on sticking with it for the time being. While that leads to titles that are rarely straight-up bad, it has led to them becoming staler and staler over the years. Core components of the game, such as the combat, just aren’t enjoyable. That, combined with an underwhelming roster and boring open world, lead to Marvel’s latest outing in the series to be one of the more forgettable entries. Hopefully, for the inevitable follow-up entry, TT Games can manage to break out of their current rut.