Marvel vs Capcom is an odd crossover (though not as odd as Disney vs Square Enix or, if you prefer, Kingdom Hearts). We’ve all become accustomed to it over the years though, and now playing any game in the series is as comfortable as wearing a pair of old, violent, cartoony slippers. This particular title seems to have been released purely as a sort of primer for the recently(ish) announced Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 is a (very slightly) polished re-release from the previous generation of consoles. The original itself was first intended to be DLC before ending up tacked on as an “ultimate” version of MvC3. As London natives might say, this game has been ‘rahnd the hahses’ a bit (to be spoken in your best Michael Caine).
Of course, when it comes to beat ’em ups, Capcom is a safe pair of hands. As well as MvC, the company has made a series of fighting games you may have heard of called “Street Fighter”. If you’ve played any of those games – and of course you have – then you’ll have an instant understanding of the basic controls here. Special moves use all the same inputs, and if you’ve played pretty much any beat ’em up released within the last 5-10 years then you’ll also be familiar with the concept of a multi-layered gauge you build up throughout the match that powers hyper combos. In case you were wondering, there’s also a super jump.
You have 51 characters to choose from (including the boss, who needs unlocking). There’s still a chance that your favourites are missing though, in part because if the exact same character roster appeared in each game, that would be taking the mick a bit, wouldn’t it? Capcom zombie fans at least are catered for. There’s no Leon “looks like H from Steps” Kennedy, but you do get the chance to play as Nemesis from Resident Evil 3. Then there’s Chris and Jill (who, seeing their names together on screen like that, sound like a pair of CBBC presenters) and, from Dead Rising, Frank West. Ryu makes an inevitable appearance, and it’s great to see Phoenix Wright misappropriated for some fist-in-face action.
On the Marvel side of things you have the old faithfuls Wolverine, Spiderman, and Hulk. Whether by accident or by design, the selection also includes characters who have recently been thrust into the limelight by Hollywood or Netflix (namely Deadpool, Rocket Raccoon, Doctor Strange, and Iron Fist; though sadly no Daredevil, Punisher, or Elektra). For both Marvel and Capcom face punchers, kudos must be given for the care and attention given to the animation of each model, which captures the personality of each character very well. The movesets also match their regular abilities or, for the Capcom entrants from completely different genres, at the very least their licenses.
The boss I referred to is Galactus. In true Capcom beat ’em up boss tradition he’s cheesy, unfair, and not very fun to play against. Present in his gigantic form you first have to defeat a pair of clones that he sends down and, well, yeah. You can play as him… after collecting 30,000 “Player Points”. You earn these points by playing in any mode (including training), but don’t expect to build up thirty grand’s worth in a hurry.
Still, everything is just as solid as you’d expect from Capcom, and there’s an irresistible nerdy glee to be had from putting some of your favourite comic and/or gaming characters together for a rumble. UMvC3 suffers from two big problems though, and the first one is this:
It’s nothing special.
That sounds like a pretty damning statement… and it is. Make no mistake, this is not a bad game. It’s a good game. The competition is so strong, however, that there’s not a single thing this game does that isn’t done better elsewhere. UMvC3 is more guilty than most to have let several cheesy moves and combos slip through the QA net and, making this problem even more painful, there’s no dodge button as you’d find in many more recent beat ’em ups. A shameless player could therefore (with the right characters and moves) trap their opponent in an inescapable flurry of cheap moves cheesier than week-old Stilton left in the sun.
The problem isn’t so much with what the game has, than with what it doesn’t have. The most glaring omission is any sort of decent tutorial. There is literally no explanation anywhere of the game mechanics. While most of us can get by with trial, error, and Google, any newbies attracted by their favourite comic characters will struggle to understand exactly what to do and when to do it. Another thing the game lacks – surprising given the Marvel part of the license – is any sort of storytelling worth mentioning. There’s not exactly a wide range of game modes, either. There’s Arcade, Training (in reality just beating on a docile AI opponent), Missions (the closest thing to a tutorial on offer), and an utterly uninteresting “Heroes and Heralds” thing that has virtual cards to earn and equip with various effects during matches. Sort of like the godawful Shadow Lords expansion for Killer Instinct, only not so bad and with much, much less story.
Then there’s online. Well, apparently. This is UMvC3’s second big problem. In my time with the game so far, I have tried to find an online game with every combination of settings available, yet have literally never managed to find an opponent. Lack of players? Server problems? No idea. I can’t be the only one with this issue though because, going by the achievement stats at time of writing, over two thirds of people with the Xbox One version of the game have never played online. Even allowing for those who have played the game little or who have no interest in playing online, that’s very weird for a beat ’em up. Some people have had severe lag problems on other formats, but that would actually be a significant improvement in the online mode for me.
What’s the bottom line? A well made, if rather undercooked, way to see Marvel and Capcom characters beat each other senslessother senseless.
Review by Luke Kemp. Thanks to Xbox for the review code.