Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order Review
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
If there are two things I like most in life, its video games and Marvel Comics. Over the course of my life, I have found a massive amount of enjoyment, solace and comfort in these mediums of entertainment. I love being whisked away to faraway worlds and getting swept up in fantasy storylines while forgetting about the doldrums of normal life.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is the third game in a long-lasting series that I have been playing since the first game released back in 2006. The first game in this series really captured my attention back in the day with its roster of superheroes, local multiplayer and easy to grasp gameplay. This third instalment is a soft-reboot by Team Ninja for Nintendo and is a Switch exclusive.
Storywise, it's a standard comic book affair really. The game is influenced by the two recent MCU films about the Infinity Stones, this title, however, encompasses more of the Marvel Universe and its characters. Its list of heroes and villains is astronomical and it tells a slightly different Infinity Gauntlet tale. The story was good enough to keep me invested, I just felt it was a vehicle to shoo-in as many Marvel characters as possible, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Anyone who has played either of the previous games will know what to expect from the gameplay. You control a team of four heroes, antiheroes or sometimes villains and battle your way through various stages from the Marvel Universe. Fighting enemies, taking down famous bosses and even, on rare occasions, solving small puzzles. The puzzles are very simple and light on difficulty but they do break up the fight sections adequately.
While the gameplay is fun, I did sometimes feel that the game could have taken a few more risks. Don't get me wrong, I had a great time playing it, especially with my kids but I did feel it was a very 'safe' game and plays exactly like the previous titles in the series. I am sure a lot of fans of the series will be happy with this and it does not make it a bad game, I just feel maybe the genre could have been pushed to new heights with this title and it wasn't.
You have your normal RPG-lite elements everyone expects, each character has various upgrades and moves to unlock. It was fun watching your characters get stronger and gain new abilities along the way. With such a high number of playable characters, it means there was always something new to try, a new team composition to experiment with and team-ups to put together. When selecting your team you do get team bonuses for certain characters teaming up. Spider people, for example, work well with other Spider-people and provide bonuses for using them together respectively.
Each character only starts with one special move, they unlock more as they level up and they can be upgraded with AP points you earn while traversing the games many levels. You can also spend your cash and enhancement points to unlock a web of passive abilities in the lab. They increase your attack, health and other stats and they are numerous. Later in the game, you can also start equipping your characters with ISO-8 crystals, all these little skills and upgrades make sure you are always progressing your team. Even if sometimes they are very small stat boosts and feel a little arbitrary.
The combat system is simple yet entertaining, you have a bar that governs your special ability usage restricting when you can use it. This fills as your fighting your foes and performing various actions throughout your pursuits. You also have a super that charges over time too and the good thing about this is that you can join in with all your teammates to ramp up the damage and chain your supers together. Some of them are great to see too, causing massive damage and really helping take down tricky bosses.
Along with the supers you can use synergy links to combine your characters abilities. This system is also used for bypassing some environmental objects and accessing some hidden areas. Its quite simple and watching your favourite heroes work together was always a joy. All in all, as I said earlier, the combat system is fun if not simplistic. It's nice because my youngest son understood it and could play it effectively and we could all play together. So while I thought the combat system was basic, its a game that's supposed to be played together and perhaps its simplicity is a good thing.
While we are on the subject of playing together, that's where Marvel Ultimate Alliance shines. That's when I had the most fun, when my boys and I could pick our favourite Marvel characters and just go and kick some villains back to where they came from. Its mindless fun but it's very enjoyable, its nothing that breaks the mould for the genre but perhaps it does not need to. You can play multiplayer online and locally but in my house its the local multiplayer that will shine brightest. I can imagine playing this with my boys on holiday, in restaurants and anywhere we can. Its a quick pick up and play title that suits the Nintendo Switch perfectly.
One thing did bother me a little. I wished some of the cutscenes matched my team composition better, sometimes the cutscenes did not have any of my characters in and it did break the immersion a little. I know it would take a lot of work with the massive roster of characters but it is something that I felt was a little off-putting and my lads brought it up a few times while playing. It's only a small thing and not game-breaking, just a little weird.
Graphically this game is good, it's not going to win any graphical awards but its art style is pleasant and all the characters are modelled nicely. The sound design is likeable also, all the characters are voiced excellently and it was a nice touch to see Yuri Lowenthal reprise his role as Spider-Man from the PlayStation 4 title of the same name. While the story and dialogue can be a bit cheesy at times, its what we expect from superheroes and comic book characters and its totally acceptable in my book.