The roster of playable characters in Marvel’s upcoming “Ultimate Alliance 2” video game grew by one last Saturday at Comic-Con International, as its panel in the new Hilton Bayfront Hotel kicked off with a preview trailer spotlighting Penance.
“The Marvel Comics ‘Civil War’ event changed the whole Marvel Universe, and we felt from a story perspective there really wasn’t a character who better personified that change than Penance, who changed from the happy-go-lucky Speedball to what you see here,” said Evan Skolnick, lead writer on the game. Skolnick is no stranger to Speedball, as he wrote the character in “New Warriors” back in the 1990s.
Dan Tanguay said that Penance also brought a lot to the table from a gameplay perspective.
“Thematically and narratively, we felt it was very important to have a character who was really impacted by the Civil War,” Tanguay said. “Gameplay-wise, he’s going to make for really good fusions, and that was very important for us because everyone has to fuse with everyone else in the game. Beyond that, we really wanted to have a few new characters in the game that people would get excited by. And finally, he just looks kind of cool.”
Later in the panel, they noted that three playable characters have yet to be announced – two of those will be announced before the game comes out this fall, while the third won’t be revealed until the game is released.
Skolnick and Tanguay were joined on the panel by facilitator Ricardo Torres, Editor-in-Chief of Gamespot; Guha Bala, one of two brothers who founded Vicarious Visions; Todd Jefferson, Director of Games for Marvel; Armin Shimerman, the voice of the Green Goblin in the game; Fred Tatasciore, who voices the Hulk and the Thing in the game; and eventually Stan Lee, creator of many of the characters in the game and a character himself.
Although there have been a few modifications for gameplay reasons, the game is pretty much an adaptation of Marvel’s “Civil War” storyline. For instance, neither Thor nor Hulk appeared in the “Civil War” comics (unless you’re counting clones) but both are playable in the game.
“We really wanted to focus on the key themes and signature scenes from the ‘Civil War’ comics, but everything needed to work with our game mechanic, which is four-player cooperative action RPG,” Skolnick said. “So anything that didn’t fit that we needed to modify in some ways, and in some cases work around them. Even scenes that we closely took inspiration from needed some modifications.”
Skolnick then introduced a cut scene from the game, which featured Captain America’s forces being trapped by Iron Man, SHIELD and the pro-registration forces, with Iron Man offering them amnesty – a scene that ends with Captain America agreeing to talk to Iron Man, and with a handshake Cap plants a device on Iron Man’s armor that takes him out.
The scene features appearances by Hercules, War Machine, Madrox, Cable and several other non-playable characters, as well some playable characters who weren’t in the original comic book story, such as Venom and Green Goblin. “This cut scene should work no matter which side you chose in the Civil War,” Skolnick said.
Skolnick said that elements from the Brian Michael Bendis-written “Secret Wars” comic are also present in “Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2.” In that storyline, Nick Fury takes some superheroes on a clandestine mission to Latveria to bring down Castle Doom. “In the comics, a SHIELD agent named Daisy Johnson uses her powers to bring Castle Doom down from afar, but in the game we put that in your hands.”
He added that the biggest change in the game was the ending, as they wanted to provide a satisfying ending to the game no matter which side you choose in the war. “We feel you don’t have to stick strictly to the story, to every panel, every letter, every caption to get the feel of Civil War. For instance, Thor and Hulk don’t appear in that series, but for gameplay purposes, I couldn’t think of the game not having them.”
Torres asked Shimerman and Tatasciore about their history with Marvel Comics. Shimerman said he was a big fan of comics “since before most everybody in this room was born.” His brother sold comics, and he said he used to imagine what the characters sounded like when he read them.
Tatasciore said he’s also been a fan for years, especially the Hulk and the Thing, who he voices in the game. “It’s like a kid in a candy store playing these things. It’s great.” The actor read “Civil War” for research. He also spoke in the voice of the Thing, throwing out a “It’s clobberin’ time!” that received a great reaction from the audience.
After Bala spoke about the resources they’ve put into the game, which has about 2 million lines of software code, and Tanguay noted they took a lot of fan feedback on the roster and gameplay into consideration, the panel welcomed Stan Lee to the table – and the crowd went wild.
“We love you, Stan Lee!” someone yelled from the crowd.
“You guys have a hell of a nerve starting without me. I don’t like to miss anything so do you mind taking it from the top again?” Lee said.
He then went on to praise the creators of the game. “These men are magicians,” he said. “When you see that artwork and you see the action and you see what goes on on the screen – I mean, Harry Potter, forget it!”
Torres pointed out that Lee could now add “video game character” to his already impressive resume, noting Lee had a cameo in the game. “I don’t know why I only get cameos,” Lee said. “Can’t they make me the star?”
Torres also asked what single fantasy Stan Lee would like to see his character live out in the game. “My whole life is a fantasy,” he said. “Well, I’d kind of like to be as strong as the Hulk, as smart as Reed Richards; I can’t say as good looking as anybody because hey, you know …”
Lee went on to praise the storyline of “Civil War,” saying the registration act was “one of the best ideas ever in comics,” saying he wished he had come up with such a good reason to have heroes fight each other. “When I started writing comics years ago, I never dreamt that these silly little panels could turn out to be something that’s even more gripping than a movie, because in a motion picture you’re just watching the story. In Activision games, you’re part of the story, you’re playing the story and you’re creating the story. So I don’t know what it will be like in another 10 years but whatever it is, I hope I’m around to see it, because you guys are wizards.”
During the Q&A portion, a fan asked the panel what downloadable character they’d most like to see in the game. Tanguay said he coulnd’t talk about what was actually going to be downloadable content, but said he’d like to play as Howard the Duck. “He would just curse and insult everyone, and shame them into just giving up and walking away, I suppose.”
A young fan asked about the Galactus teaser at the end of the last video game. Skolnick explained that while they hadn’t forgotten about Galactus, their main focus was on turning “Civil War” into a great game. Later, Tanguay explained that they did consider a direct sequel to the last game as well as other possible storylines, but once they found “Civil War,” “that was pretty much it.”
The panel also said that they considered some sort of defection mechanism so characters could switch sides in the game like they did in the comics, but decided against it. The roster bonuses from the previous game will be back, and players will have access to team upgrades called boosts that can be found throughout the game. The game will also feature customized conversations based on the character relationships – so Reed talking to the Thing would be a different conversation than Reed talking to Captain America.
Another fan asked about the possibility of having Black Bolt in the game. “Oh boy, he’s one of my favorites,” Lee said, who added the Inhumans weren’t in the game because they weren’t involved with the Civil War.
“For now, we’re saying silent on Black Bolt,” Skolnick said.
The panel ended with a brand new trailer that featured Gambit, Phoenix, Wolverine, Venom, Juggernaut, Human Torch, Deadpool and some additional cut scene characters like Patriot from Young Avengers.
“Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2” comes out in September from Activision.