November 26, 2011
For the most part, the gameplay is largely unchanged albeit minor buffs and nerfs to certain existing characters (Akuma's lowered health, and C. Viper's new Optic Blast). Other than that the game plays out exactly as you'd expect; you have your light, medium and heavy attacks to chain combos, a special attack that launches people into the air (and back down to the ground) and you build up your meters to unleash ferocious hyper combos in order to juggle your opponent into your next KO. You have a choice of two assist characters to synthesize with combo chains, provide defensive support, and even combine for hyper combos. Spend enough time in Mission Mode and you'll become more technical in no time.
New to the scene, of course, are the twelve additions to the roster, with six appearing from each respective side. Marvel adds familiar and popular names like The Avengers' Hawkeye, Dr. Strange, and Ghost Rider. On top of that they let lesser known heroes into the spotlight with characters such as Nova, Iron Fist, and Rocket Raccoon. Many of the fans cried out in agony when they heard Rocket Raccoon was chosen and yet Megaman – beloved fan favourite – was not. Contrary to the predictions, the nocturnal scavenger provides a wonderful set of combos, and his size is great for in-fighters that like getting up close. Hawkeye has great zoning with his arrow attacks, and has a hyper that locks onto your enemy at any angle.
Capcom's offerings really hit home for fans with the return of Marvel vs. Capcom's Strider Hiryu. Alongside the robot-animal-loving ninja, there's Nemesis of Resident Evil fame, Frank West from Dead Rising, Vergil of Devil May Cry, Phoenix Wright, and Ghostbrand of Ghost 'n Goblins. Fans will be pleased to know that Strider plays much like he did in the previous game, with great integration to the current controls and combos. Phoenix Wright has perhaps the most obscure style of fighting, whereby he doesn't actually punch but rather beats you by looking for evidence, objecting and calling on Moya and Missile. Fans of the Ace Attorney series will greatly appreciate the fan service behind the novelty of the appearance of his attacks, and fans of the game will be in awe of some of the devastating combos he can unleash, with one that potentially exceeds 1.3 million damage points if landed successfully.
Each character has their own distinct feel, and all add more depth to the complete package. Each of them also offers good matchmaking with the other members of the roster, so the only 'downside' is having to see which one fits in what team, which shouldn't be an issue for anyone that played the previous games – players should be used to mixing and matching.
All characters have interactive dialogue for pre-game and ending quotes. Some range from intentionally cheesy to downright hilarious. For example, Rocket Raccoon's send-off to Chris Redfield is telling him his loss is for losing Raccoon City. There are far more references than this and they all add a great charm to the game.
Mission mode returns, now sporting 480 (500 with Jill/Shuma) missions that vary from easy to hair-pulling. Training mode is great for tinkering with the mechanics, viewing the numerical stats of attacks, improving your technique and it even goes as far as simulating online lag for opponents with lower speed connections. Arcade mode keeps the same interface, offering the expected different difficulty levels and the option of playing with Fight Request, so you can practice in Arcade while searching for online opponents. And that, like any Fighting or Sports game, is the meat of this game – the online/multiplayer component.
Online returns with what is seemingly a much better network stability and matchmaking system, allowing for considerably shorter time intervals between games. The lobby system returns, allowing for eight players to participate in a King of the Hill type mode. The unbelievably welcome addition to this mode is the ability to spectate matches as you wait for your turn. This feature almost seems like common sense, and yet it wasn't included in the original. Instead players were faced with watching a menu and depleting life bars.
The fighting game crowd loves to watch matches as well as actually playing in them, and the inclusion of a spectator mode is greatly appreciated. Normal online has Player matches that are friendly matches between people in your region or across the globe, and Ranked matches for more serious bouts. And if you have a buddy, then prepare to lose yourself in hours upon hours of offline multiplayer rounds. Again, much is largely the same as our last ride, but the overall performance upgrade is well worth the second trip.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was a delightful 2D sprite fighter with vibrant colours and flashy attacks. Sceptics were worried that a 3D iteration wouldn't do well for the series, but Marvel vs. Capcom 3 offered a unique aesthetic that was heavily influenced by comics and it worked just fine. The menu was bare, but functional, and visuals were smooth, crisp, and wonderfully detailed. Some of the hyper combo animations look fantastic and the choreography for them is great fun to watch. With Ultimate Marvel, the graphics didn't receive a massive bump, but the whole presentation received an entire makeover. The menu is polished and dynamic, as if you were flipping the pages of a comic with each section (or page). The character select screen has also been divided into two comic book pages with all Marvel characters on one side, and Capcom characters on the other.
New maps have also been added onto the current list, and they all look wonderfully rendered. Original characters remain the same, however, they have all received a bonus of two extra skins, with more along the way via downloadable content. It's a little frustrating to see a company plan DLC for so far ahead of its future, especially given the nature of this game in the first place, but it's to be expected given Capcom's business model.
A sequel is a game that takes all the things its predecessor successfully accomplished and builds upon it while introducing newer additions and providing a level of care that sets itself ahead of what came before. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is as such a sequel. Not only does this iteration fix major problems the previous game suffered from, but there's also a complete overhaul of the in-game menu presentation. Let's not forget the dozen new characters either, many that are sure to be fan favourites. The original cast has been rebalanced as well. But, despite all of this, the real stickler is - why couldn't Capcom have just done this in the first place? If we consider this the "true" version of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, it means they intentionally released a game they knew would be surpassed nine months later - not cool.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was reviewed on the Xbox 360. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.