Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3 (XBOX 360) Review
For most avid gamers the fighting genre has always been dominated by the likes of Tekken and Street Fighter with both franchises leading the way when it comes to arcade style games. Street Fighter had a great run of titles from the late 80's through to the mid 90's and then there was a break for the franchise while Tekken continued to be developed. In that time Capcom didn't sit doing nothing though, they developed a separate franchise in the form of Marvel vs. Capcom which took heroes from various Capcom games and pitted them against some of the most well known and loved comic book characters in history. Needless to say it was an instant success for arcades, Playstation and Dreamcast and before long a second title had been released, this time for Playstation 2 and Xbox. Boasting plenty of new features and graphical updates it was another barnstorming success and it seemed likely that we'd have a new fighting franchise on our hands.
As fans of the series waited patiently for the next release months turned into years and things remained silent in the Capcom HQ; until April 2010 when they officially unveiled the third game in the Marvel vs. Capcom series at Capcom's Captivate press show in Hawaii. Needless to say the buzz surrounding the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds was extraordinary and when we got our hands on a copy pre-release we were hugely impressed by the game.
Now nine months after the original Capcom are releasing a low cost standalone expansion which is titled Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. With new characters and new features where does it fit in for the average consumer and those who bought the first edition?
Before we look specifically at the new elements of ultimate (skip to the bold sections below if you wish), lets remind ourselves of how the game plays out...
From the get go Marvel vs Capcom 3 has the arcade game feel, from the brilliantly retro main menu and hypnotising flashing lights to the crazy Japanese music it makes the player feel like he's battling his friends in a Tokyo arcade. As with most fighting simulators there's a range of different game modes and it's wise for any newcomers to start out on training mode as getting to grips with each of the fighters takes a lot of time and practice, that is of course if we don't plan on button mashing our way through every fight. One of the major gripes people had with previous incarnations of the game was the complexity of the controls which seemed to take longer to master than the art of Tai Kwan Do and required a brain almost as big as Steven Hawking to remember each fighter's skill-set and special moves. Capcom have done well to add a remedy to this problem and thanks to the addition of the "Simple Mode" players are able to perform combos and special moves easily at the expense of limiting a character's available moveset, a fair trade for anyone who is struggling to get to grips with the controls.
The "Mission Mode" is for players who have learned the basics and would like to begin their journey into the world of advanced fighting techniques and special moves. With the opportunity to take each fighter through their own unique Mission Mode players will spend hours learning every detail of said fighter, although it isn't for the faint hearted. At level one things are kept relatively simple with 2 or 3 button moves and combo's, however as we progressed things became extremely complex, with a wealth of moves in each fighters locker consisting of 7, 8 or even 9 button combo's. Of course, stick through to the end of the mission mode and players can be guaranteed that they will annihilate almost anyone they come up against when the time finally comes to take on friends or enemies in competitive play. That is of course unless they have done the same, something that wouldn't be too surprising given how rewarding it actually is being able to use a fighter to his full potential.
Once players are up to scratch with at least the basics of the game the fun can begin. Matches are fought in a three vs. three situation and players may select fighters from either the Capcom or the Marvel roster, and with a large number fighters to choose from there is no shortage of strategies and plans. All of the usual suspects pop up including the likes of the Hulk, Spiderman, Wolverine, Ryu, Dante, Magneto and of course, Captain America. The Capcom team have worked hard to ensure players get quality and each fighter has received an enormous amount of attention from the developers.
Arcade mode is perhaps the most interesting for anyone who is at all anal about their games and likes to know the full juicy back story behind each character. After fighting through five stages - which range in difficulty depending on which mode selected - players will come up against the dreaded Galactus in the final fight for plant earth. If players prove their worth by defeating Galactus they will be rewarded with a number of unlocks depending on which fighter they used to strike the final blow.
The team have drafted in the hugely talented Comic Book writer Frank Tieri to work his magic on the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 storyline, and as such each fighter will have their own personalised back story to be unlocked on top of a full bio. This is another sign of the detail which gone into the production behind the game and in various instances where we're given dialogue banter and mid-match events between the characters that reference past Marvel Comics storylines. Players will spend hours of their time working through the Arcade Mode and unlocking each ending proves a sterling reward for the hard work put in to do so.
Of course, fighting simulators are at their best when they become the battleground for two friends eager to get on over on each other and in this game it is no different thanks to the brilliant versus mode. From the pre-match selection strategy to the end of match gloating battle in MvC3 is fantastic. The new look 3D characters looks superb on the 2D background whilst character animations are smooth and well rounded. The fact that each player is given three fighters to use at any time also gives the game a different dimension, separating it from the generic fighting titles which are currently available. Once players are confident with the controls they can work some extremely complex combo's and even call upon their subs bench to help out mid-move for double the damage. The only issue is that newcomers to the title will struggle to keep up, we definitely got that feeling the first time we booted up the game and it was a case of whoever could hit the most buttons won, that's if we survived the high tempo music, flashing lights and screaming from the fighters which left us thinking we'd entered a different dimension. Yes, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 can be slightly overwhelming at times but rarely have we ever had so much fun.
The added bonus with Marvel vs. Capcom 3, unlike its predecessor is the ability to battle online enemies through Xbox live, a welcome addition that helps propel the game into the stratosphere. With the online multiplayer we have the chance to take on opponents half way around the world in a mano-a-mano duel for glory. Players will have the chance to check up on their opponents pre match thanks to a comprehensive stat-tracker which records matches won and lost whilst also showing the players general fighting style, with its positive and negative points. More good news is that for those players who can't handle defeat and choose to leave a battle before it has ended the game will automatically pit against those who do the same, meaning more good clean fun for all.
So that was Marvel vs. Capcom 3, what does the Ultimate edition bring to the table? Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 retains the arcade feel and modes of the previous instalment. The matches are still fought in a three vs. three team situation where the players can pick either Marvel or Capcom or both. The roster of fighter has increased from 38 to 50 and the new additions to the Marvel team are: Doctor Strange; Ghost Rider; Hawkeye; Iron Fist; Nova and Rocket Raccoon. New fighters for Capcom are: Firebrand; Frank West; Nemesis T-Type; Phoenix Wright; Strider Hiryu; and Vergil.
While the core game remains identical, a number of changes, both aesthetic and functional have been made. The game's heads-up display looks much better in this version and the games overall appearance has a stronger emphasis on the comic book themes. Many returning characters have been re-balanced and have new moves and animation tweaks.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has the same gameplay modes from the original game including Arcade, Versus, and Training but also feature the new Heroes and Heralds mode. This is a team-based mode where players earn new abilities with upgrade cards, customise their characters with new powers, and compete in groups as either the Heroes defending Earth or as one of Galactus' Heralds. The new mode also gives us access to play Galactus, who was a non-playable boss character in the first installment, and still is the boss in this version.
Finally the online experience has been enhanced with the addition of a spectator mode that allows up to six players to watch online matches between other players.
Graphics and Audio
It is hard to express just how good Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 looks. It is not photorealistic or packed with the most polygons ever but the style which Capcom have aimed for has been executed flawlessly. Each fight is a glorious work of art as we switch between the main game interface into over the top special move animations then view comic book style artwork. It is the best realization of a comic book style game we have seen to date.
There are plenty of different arenas to do battle and each looks as spectacular as the next, from bright lights of Tokyo to an inter-stellar battlefield in which our fighters take on Galactus. Character animations look brilliant whilst the hand drawn comic look of each hero really brings out the retro feel of the game.
One of the best things about the game is the cut-scenes and end of battle sequences, and of course the movies which have been produced will have players spending hours upon hours of their time battling through arcade mode just to unlock them, so high is the production quality, which doesn't let up from the moment the excellent intro movie starts.
As for the audio, as soon as we started up the game we were greeted by the generic hyper-paced music that has become common place in all arcade fighting simulators. With some of the most insane music ever produced players feel immersed in what has become the modern Japanese culture, with the 180BPM music compiled of every electronic sound ever made. Each fighter also comes with their own soundtrack which can be listened to in the extras.
In battle the audio will leave people in no doubt about which type of game they are playing, along with the screams and shouts from each fighter there are many instances in which the characters will converse with each other, exchanging dialogue throughout the match which references past Comic storylines.
Played though a decent sound system there is also loads of power to the blows as they land, giving a real feel of damage as we blast through massive combo's.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is to fighting games what Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is for racing sims. The hair brained, adrenaline filled battles leave players on the edge of their seat eager for the next round of action. One of the main issues that was raised with the original version was the lower number of characters present but that has been resolved now while the detail put into making each fighter unique is still present and highly impressive. Although slightly difficult to newcomers to get to grips with the game soon becomes a true test of skill once the basics are learned.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 should also stand as an example of how good a game can be if the publisher allows the time required to develop and polish a game. That said, owners of the original game may feel disappointed that this content is not being offered to them at a lower price. For those who do not have the original it is however a must buy at the lower retail price.
Spectacular fighting capabilities are only enhanced by the many different game modes and the unlockable content will have players occupied for hours on end. If you're a fan of classic arcade action, fighting games in general or even a comic book aficionado don't miss out. 95%