Pinball FX2 is inarguably one of the finest Pinball simulations ever made. Both the physics and graphics engine behind the tables are very well done. It’s then up to developers Zen Studios to produce tables that utilize the FX2 engine artfully to ensure that pinball fans have a variety of themes and skill levels to choose from. These tables are released as downloadable expansions to the base game. This is a review of one of these expansions.
The Marvel license has been good to the Pinball FX franchise. Digital pinball wizards have an assortment of Marvel tables featuring some great characters and “storylines”. The story in the Marvel Civil War table unsurprisingly follows the Civil War storyline in the comics. This storyline follows the tragic incident at Stamford, Connecticut where super villain Nitro killed more than 600 people with his mutant powers.
This event causes the government to enact the Superhuman Registration Act in an effort to catalog and track superpeople worldwide. Iron Man agrees to help round up the superhumans whereas Captain America refuses, seeing it as an infringement on civil liberties. This disagreement between two prominent superheroes results in a “civil war”. Both sides of the issue rally for support of other mutants as the war gets bigger and and deadlier.
The player gets only the briefest summary of the previous events, which is good for fans who know the backstory and want to get right to the action, but will feel rushed for players who may have been enticed by the name recognition Marvel brings. Unfortunately, though the Marvel civil war included dozens of named characters and in actuality the entire Marvel universe, the pinball version truncates the roster to Iron Man vs. Captain America, with some named characters thrown in as “allies” who side with either Shellhead or Mr. Stars ‘n’ Stripes.
Civil War introduces some cool new mechanics. First of all, you will notice that you start with a multiball, representing the two heroes scrambling to help survivors of the terrible blast. Losing the multiball doesn’t mean you lose one of your 3 starting balls. In fact you can skip the multiball altogether. As soon as you lose one ball, your turn ends and it’s time to pick a side.
Using the flipper buttons you choose between fighting for Iron Man’s cause, or Captain America’s. Depending on whom you select, the rest of your game will be tailored to that character. You will have different goals and different ways to beat minigames. This ability to play the game from two different perspectives is a brilliant innovation, and the subject material is an excellent way to utilize it.
The next interesting gameplay component is a little tricky to explain. As you shoot a ball into an orbit, the chutes bring the ball down and dump the ball dangerously close to the center gutter. However, if you are holding the corresponding bumper button to the orbit that the ball is coming down, then the ball will float safely to the opposite bumper with ease. This adds an interesting element to the gameplay and requires active participation during the orbits.
I mentioned allies. Allies are won or lost in game modes. Win game modes and you win allies. Lose game modes to correspondingly lose allies. There are 8 neutral allies for you to fight over, Spiderman, Sentry, Human Torch, Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, Tigra, Luke Cage, and Vision.
Pinball FX2’s tables are always nice to look at, so this comes down to a matter of taste. I just hope you like red and blue. The hero models are nice as usual and the trail effects are cool.
The music is fairly mundane. It never stands out above the stellar sound effects. The effects are brilliant and coincide with hits of bumpers and targets. It’s dizzyingly array of whoops and beeps and phaser sounds. Crank it up.
The voice acting is mostly substandard, with some lines spoken believably. Most of it just seems like script reading. This takes away the punch from these mighty men and makes them feel more like toys than like superheroes.
Some tables have a more natural mass appeal, and some are relegated to fans of the theme. Civil War walks the line between those extremes. Many will be drawn to it for it’s inclusion of the Marvel license and characters. Its two ways to play and quantity of cameo appearances earn it respect, but its content may be too focused for the average comic fan. Those who both enjoy pinball and the Marvel Civil War storyline will have much to geek out over with this expansion. It’s a good thing there isn’t a peace treaty in sight.