Unfortunately, as far as gameplay is concerned, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, while still very good, does not live up to its predecessor. There are a few aspects to the sequel that are superior, but for the most part, there is less to love here than in the original.
The game's greatest problem is that it feels watered down, and over-simplified. While it's more accessible as a result, it's also less appealing. Of primary concern is the game's length. We played through the entire campaign in 7 hours and 3 minutes, according to the in-game timer. I'm not sure if replays due to death were included in that time, but we only had to reload from a checkpoint two times total. When the game was over, and the credits rolled, my boys and I looked at each other and said, "That's it?" Seven hours is short for any game, but especially short for an RPG. When you compare this to the (arguably) overlong original game, MUA2 falls short.
The "dumbing down" of the RPG elements is also a serious problem. Each character has only four super powers to choose from. What this means is, instead of choosing the best powers for your own individual playstyle, or that best suit the characters stats, each character is more vanilla. You can easily maximize two powers, and at times, three out of the four powers will be maxed out for your level. There's no real customization at all; one person's Iron Man will play almost exactly like everyone else's. The first game allowed seven powers to choose from, if you count the extreme. Customization is one of my favorite aspects of any RPG, and the removal of these options from the series is questionable, at best.
Also strangely absent from Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is the gear mechanic. No longer do you pick up belts, gloves, or any other equipment, for that matter. Instead, players collect badges. Badges can be dropped, or earned when you meet certain conditions. For example, defeating the last boss earns a really impressive set of badges. You can equip up to three badges, which apply to your entire team. I found this quite inferior to equipping individual characters with specific gear. Many badges are great for a particular type of character, but not for others. On a well balanced team, you'll want to equip badges that help each member, like XP bonus, extra health and stamina, and the like. Most badges are quite limited in application, though, like an entire line of badges that give extra damage to melee attacks. In the end, the vast majority of badges are useless, due to them applying to your whole team, and not individuals. I'm sure there is one optimal set of badges that is the best for any situation, and that, again, makes the game seem less customizable and more generic.
Another head scratcher about Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is that each character only has one unlockable costume. The first game allowed for four different skins total for most characters. The comic geek in me really despises this omission. Compounding my disappointment is the fact that the costume change is merely cosmetic, and has no in-game effect, unlike the attribute system used in the previous game. Instead of buying attributes based on which costume you use, each character has access to almost all attributes from the get go, and can unlock and improve them with tokens earned by defeating enemies, smashing boxes, etc. There are two attributes that become locked when you "choose your side", which does allow for some small replayability, but it's pretty much six of one, half a dozen of the other.