The Infinity Gems.
Seriously, has there ever been a more video game friendly plot device than the Infinity Gauntlet? It's a boss battle MacGuffin and a fetch quest all rolled up into the same object! Granted, the Infinity Gems are a bit '90s, and some of the plot points would likely be fairly similar to the last Infinity Gem-based Marvel game, but I think centering the plot around the Infinity Gauntlet would solve a lot of the issues that this game has had. For instance:
- Scope: The first M:UA took you from New York to Asgard to the Moon to the Skrull Homeworld. It felt like a grand tour of the Marvel Universe, showcasing some of the best-known locales. From what I've seen of the sequel, the farthest you get is Wakanda. Even the plot has quite a bit of downsizing, going from "Dr. Doom becomes a god" to "heroes fight each other, then they don't." Traveling around the universe to prevent a reality-altering superweapon from falling into the hands of a death-obsessed Titan (among other potential villains) would bring back that sense of grandeur. Plus, it would open up great new places to visit: the Shi'ar Empire, Kree-Lar, Ego the Living Planet, etc. Which brings us to...
- New character options: Frankly, I've been a bit disappointed in the character lists between the two games. From the first game to the second, we lose Blade, Colossus, Cyclops, Elektra, Ghost Rider, Hawkeye, Nightcrawler, Dr. Doom, Sabretooth, Silver Surfer, and Spider-Woman, and we gain Gambit, Green Goblin, Songbird, Jean Grey, Penance, Carnage, Cable, Iron Fist, Juggernaut, and Psylocke. Wait, the first game had more characters? That's ridiculous! And frankly, I'm not thrilled with the substitutions. Sure, it's easy to hate on Gambit and Penance, and I like finally getting Iron Fist in there, but what does Psylocke add to the game? Or Carnage? While I thought Elektra and Blade were generally pretty worthless in the first outing, I'd trade Ghost Rider and Silver Surfer for almost any of the new characters.
Anyway, the Infinity Gems would open up a bunch of new playable characters who don't suck. Maybe it's just because the Marvel cosmic stories are what I've been enjoying most from the company in recent years, but I'd really like to be able to play as Nova, Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock, and--dare I even hope?--Quasar. Sure, I wouldn't expect to necessarily have Gladiator and Rocket Raccoon on your Change Team page, but it'd be cool to bring some of those Cosmic Marvel characters into the mix.
Plus, given her not-so-long-ago connection to the Power Gem, it'd be a good excuse to make She-Hulk a playable character, which they should have done ages ago.
- The Enemies: I haven't been terribly disappointed in the boss battles in M:UA2, but they have tended to seem both a little brief/easy, and occasionally a bit nonsensical (like the Anti-Reg battle against Bishop. Really?). I think it's largely a consequence of the plotline; in M:UA, you were going up against the Super-Skrull and Loki; in M:UA2, you spend most of your time fighting other heroes, and somehow that doesn't quite seem as compelling. That may be my bias as someone who hate-hate-hated Civil War, though, so take it with a grain of salt.
What would rock my socks, though, is fighting your way through a series of bosses who are amped up due to the possession of an Infinity Gem. Vulcan with the Power Gem? Phoenix with the Mind Gem? Annihilus with the Reality Gem? The possibilities are awesome.
- The Downside: The biggest problem with a plot like this is that it runs the risk of being too similar to the plot of M:UA, where Doom steals Odin's power and remakes Earth in his image. I think the biggest way around it is to change the stakes and the venue; sure, you're still going to battle a reality-altering tyrant in the end, but his concerns are going to be a lot less "make Stark Tower look like Doomstadt" and more "unmake the universe." Without the 'egotistical villain's wish-fulfillment' plot for the final levels, I think the game would avoid feeling like a retread.
The other big thing that I'd like to see return is the character-specific training missions. Granted, some of them were frustrating, and some were nonsensical, but I'd much rather blindly fight my way through AIM headquarters as Daredevil than escort some random prisoner through random corridors in a stealth mission in a game which lends itself neither to stealth nor escort.
Now that I finally have a weekend, I may try to finish the game. In the meantime, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!