Review by discoinferno84

"Gonna take you for a ride..."

The villains' plan was simple: combine the worlds of Marvel and Capcom, and take over everything while the heroes are too busy fighting each other. There's nothing too outlandish or fancy about it; just some good old-fashioned misdirection and manipulation. When you've got a scheme that includes the combined efforts of Albert Wesker, Doctor Doom, Magneto, Super-Skrull, M.O.D.O.K., and Taskmaster, there's pretty decent chance of it succeeding. And it would have, if they hadn't made one huge mistake: their shenanigans somehow summoned Galactus. This dream team of criminal masterminds couldn't foresee the possibility of a gigantic, planet-devouring, omnipotent being showing up and wrecking their machinations. With the fate of both worlds hanging in the balance, heroes and villains alike must save their respective dimensions.

If you've played Marvel VS Capcom 3, you're not going to find anything new in terms of Ultimate's storytelling. In fact, the game begins by flipping through images of the tie-in prologue comic that was shipped with the special edition of the original version. The entire roster – including Jill Valentine and Shuma-Gorath if you've downloaded them previously – is all present and accounted for. There are a handful of new playable characters, ranging from the eclectic to the obviously popular. Any Capcom fan will probably drool at the prospect of fighting with Ace Attorney's Phoenix Wright, or use Frank West's improvised weapons from Dead Rising to annihilate everything. Vergil's slick, elegant swordplay makes for an interesting contrast with Dante's all-out offensive approach. Old school gamers, however, will get nostalgia pangs when they control Strider, Firebrand, and Nemesis. While Marvel rounds things off with fan favorites like Ghost Rider, Hawkeye, and Nova, it's Rocket Raccoon (seriously) that steals the show. With dozens of fighters to choose from, you'll have plenty of opportunities to find one to master.

Getting that far, on the other hand, is something else entirely. Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3 retains all of the combat mechanics and surprisingly deep strategies of its predecessor. Hyper combos, crossover counters, advancing guards, and all of the technical aspects are all waiting to be delved into. Each character is designed with special moves that augment their overall playing styles. Ghost Rider can use his chain whip to slaughter opponents with long range combos, but can't handle close-quarter combat to save his demonic life. Hawkeye is a bit slower than most fighters, opting instead to wear down his foes with arrows. Phoenix Wright requires a lot of effort and time to be used effectively, and Firebrand is only remotely useful while airborne. These various benefits and limitations are what the game's dynamic is all about: figuring out the strengths and weakness of each character, and then building a team of three that balances everything out. Since you can summon your teammates for supplemental attacks and switch characters with a push of a button, it's just a matter of trying out different combinations and learning what works best for you.

Veterans of the previous game shouldn't assume that it'll be just as easy this time around. All of the returning characters have been tweaked in a few subtle ways. Akuma, for example, has decreased move priorities, rendering him incapable of dominating fights by spamming a single move. Chris can now cancel his attacks more quickly, thus giving him better maneuverability. That's aside from the all the new attacks included in several fighters' movesets. Given all of the changes, you'll want to spend several hours in the Training Mode and learn the various nuances and updates. The Mission Mode is still around, allowing gamers to test their mastery over the combat mechanics. For those of you that don't care so much about the technical stuff, there's the brand-new Heroes and Heralds Mode. It lets you choose to either defend Earth from Galactus, or assist in its destruction as one of his underlings. It doesn't really matter which side you choose (the bad guys merely get re-skinned in a garish blue aura), because you'll end up fighting through multiple gauntlets of teams regardless. There's a bit of depth involved thanks to the inclusion of character cameo-specific cards that boost attack strength, steal health, cancel movements, etc. If you want something simpler, however, you can unlock Galactus Mode and exterminate teams in slow-paced and short-lived challenges.

You'll probably get more satisfaction from beating other people online, though. A fighting game's longevity is determined by its multiplayer, and Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3 is no exception. You and a bunch of random strangers can duke it out, or watch ongoing matches via the new spectator mode. You can earn points for your victories and level up an in-game profile, resulting in multiple titles, avatars, and other rewards. However, they all serve as distraction from the online mode's somewhat limited offerings. The rank-based opponent searches aren't always reliable, resulting in some horribly unbalanced matchups. Given how much focus is placed on combos and character placement, the occasional lag can prove annoying. What's most disappointing, however, is the lack of a replay mode; the whole experience would seem much more worthwhile if people could upload videos, keep track of their favorite players, and learn strategies and techniques that they couldn't learn any other way. Something like that would prove far more useful and interesting than the tedious, bland gameplay modes being offered here.

The game tries to distract you by filling the screen with flashy attacks and fan service. Many of the new stages are simply revamped versions of previous areas, and the results are a mixed bag. The Demon Village is simply redone in black and white in homage to Gargoyle's Quest, while Asgard is enveloped in bright lights amidst a starry sky. The Days of Future Past stage is far more interesting, though; one of the walls has huge shout-out to Marvel VS Capcom 2, complete with portraits of the older fighters that didn't make the cut for the latest game. Several of the Arcade endings and pre and post-fight dialogues feature new crossovers to accommodate the new roster. Little things, like the way Ghost Rider's chain unfurls and lashes out, or how Strider's death throes and sound effects are lifted straight out of his game, demonstrate the attention to detail. The majority of the movement animations and character models remain untouched, for the better and worse. Deadpool still moonwalks smoothly in retreat, Iron Man's Proton Cannon can be seizure-inducing, and Haggar's lead pipe remains the most badass weapon of all. It's nothing new, but it's worth seeing.

That can be said for the game as a whole. As an updated version of a previously released title, Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3 is comes up a little short. The new characters offer plenty in terms of variety, strategy, and charm. The fact that the older fighters were all updated with new moves and tweaks shows how much effort was put into their design. The combat still operates with the frantic speeds and technical depth that made the original game so fun. Unfortunately, the rest of the new content is lacking. The Heroes and Heralds Mode offers a decent challenge with its team gauntlets and customization, but it won't last long. That goes double for the Galactus Mode, which might get boring before you even finish it. The online multiplayer steals the show with its spectator options and profile rankings, but it feels limited compared to what Super Street Fighter IV and Third Strike Online Edition feature. That doesn't make Ultimate a bad game, though. It's still fun to play regardless of its flaws, and that's all that matters.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/30/12

Game Release: Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (US, 11/15/11)

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