Review by Darth_Havok
Marvel's not so "Ultimate" experience on the Switch
So like many of you who played the first 2 Ultimate Alliance games and perhaps some of you who remembers the X-Men Legends games back in the day, I had a fairly good idea of what to expect.
Much like the previous installments, this game follows a very similar formula:
- Choose up to 4 of your favourite Marvel characters from popular series such as the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men, Inhumans, Heroes for Hire and many, many more.
- Like the previous entries, party composition can provide bonuses, so if you're rocking a team of Avengers, Spider-people, X-men, etc.
- You equip 4 special (extreme) moves on each character, each one mapped to a face button that you activate while holding down the shoulder button; then similarly you can use these same moves in synergy with other team-mates. As an example, you can use beams or bullets and bounce them off Captain America's shield, much like the mechanics introduced in the second installment.
The basic game play is where it falls short a little bit, as the basic light attack does very little damage, but repeated strings lead to combos. The heavier attacks however, are a bit of a one-shot attack that don't really seem to provide as much value. This means that it's very easy to find yourself button-mashing in the beginning, which leads to the frustration of getting caught up trying to dodge or block mid-combo. You will also find, that while all characters are unique in their own way, many of them perform the same functions. For example, many characters will have an AOE (area of effect) type attack, or a forward, dashing type attack. Different names, somewhat different properties, but essentially they're used in the same way.
The combat and general movement are fun, but haven't really progressed since the previous entries. I didn't find anything really new or innovative here.
The enemy combatants are pretty much what you'd expect for a game in this genre. Generally speaking, you have several smaller enemies that can be simply defeated by a string of light attacks. Then of course, there's the heavier type of enemy who is far more resilient. The variety of enemies ranges from mutants with claws, goons with guns, snipers, flamethrowers, etc. and then mix them up between the smaller and heavier types. There are of course some more unique types, both in size and move-set, such as the mutant-hunting sentinels.
Another component of the combat is the ability to stagger enemies. This is both the heavier type of enemies, as well as bosses. These enemies and bosses have a purple stagger gauge beneath their life bar. Staggering the enemy temporarily stuns the enemy and prevents them from moving for a time and while they're staggered the damage inflicted increases while the enemy is defenseless. The amount of time a stagger is inflicted varies between enemies and bosses.
The AI on your team is pretty stupid, in that it often just spams attacks, runs into massive attacks and often gets themselves killed. Enemy AI, while pretty spammy at times, is a bit smarter. For example, some enemies will throw grenades at their own team members. Now this doesn't do damage to their own team, but if you're a melee fighter, you can't get anywhere near them without taking damage.
Early on in the game, the boss encounters seem quite varied and different from one another, but as time progresses, the same unique formula is often repeated.
The Story isn't bad. It's not as good as the first game in the series, but better than the second. It's fairly predictable, with a few twists - mostly to serve as irrelevant filler.
The difficulty in a single play-through ranges from fair, to very difficult - not so much specifically related to skill, but when the screen is so full of enemies on certain levels, or the view shifts a certain way, there's so much chaos on screen, you can't even figure out where your character is, never mind telegraph enemy attacks. Adjusting the difficulty, however, doesn't affect this in the slightest. The toughest enemy in the game is actually the game's camera.
Other issues plague the game, such as poor "lock on" targeting concepts, which often result in whiffed attacks, which can become frustrating. To me, this severely diminishes the replay value, as often times it's a chore just slogging through wave after wave of fodder with control issues.
This brings me to the next issue, which is perhaps my biggest gripe in the game. The good thing about these games is that there's lost of hidden goodies of varying value. Things like "art" which is not much for me, but many fans may appreciate looking at the scenery after they've obtained them, then of course there's things like in game currency, health, energy and power up related materials. (more on this in a moment)
In contrast to this, is the fact that with so many great characters, if you want to built you favourite team and customize them so that they're wearing their stylish alternate outfits, you need to unlock them. Why is this different than any other game? Well, in this scenario, you're unlocking some characters (to be fair, not too many) and alternate costumes (among other cool items) through playing the game's Infinity Mode.
What is Infinity Mode? Infinity Mode is actually a fair cool aspect of the game. What is is, is a map of several dimensional "rifts" which are found throughout the Story Mode. Playing through these different Rifts net you different rewards. There's 3 rewards to be earned per Rift, pending that you meet each Rift's specific criteria. Said criteria varies between using specific characters only, completing the challenge within a set time limit, performing a set amount of damage using Extreme or Synergy type attacks and so on. Completing each of these not only offers you a prize of some sort, but you also get a Star (like a check mark) for each of the three tasks you've completed. Now, not only are certain characters the prize that you unlock on some of these, but certain alternate costumes for your characters are unlocked when you reach a set amount of stars per rift. The amount of stars required to unlock, and the costumes unlocked however, are set. Meaning the player has no choice in what order the costumes unlock in. So for example, if you don't play Black Widow, but you're a big Captain Marvel fan and you want her alternate costume, too bad, you not only have to get Black Widow's costume first, but you must also gain several more stars before you can unlock the alternate costume you really wanted. Depending on where you are in the game, this can be really difficult to do and often requires you to play as a team just to take advantages of the bonus, as opposed to just playing with your favourites.
This is further compounded by the fact that certain challenges require you to use specific characters. Well, if you didn't use said characters much or at all through your play-through, then they're going to be very low level. This can be remedied however, by grinding the Infinity Rifts endlessly to level up all your characters. Now, I have nothing against grinding in some games, but I never really enjoy the feeling that I really have to in order to get full enjoyment out of the game.
That said, there's also a few difficulty spikes, or instances where you want to include a new character on your team as they become available (they're unlocked through the Story) and you're almost forced to grind to new levels to be able to progress. If you're really good at the game, it's entirely possible that you'll never experience this yourself, but if you're a casual, or beginner for example, you might find the struggle less appealing and need to level up.
The game does balance this in a way. Some Infinity Rifts are fairly rewarding with their loot; some of which can definitely help you level up your characters. That said, since only one or two Rifts are right for the kind of grind you're working on at any given moment, this means that you could be playing the same rift, against the same enemies and bosses, over and over again, which of course isn't appealing for everyone.
I will say that the music and locations that you visit are both great, though you'll see the same assets from various levels all over the place and sometimes certain enemies will show up in levels they don't really seem to fit with, but that's a small nit-pick on my part.
With the graphics and art-style the game's going with, I honestly can't help but think that this game looks and feels like a high-end Mobile game at times. The graphics aren't very realistic, the characters bodies are pretty much all the same too. For example, the women generally all have thick thighs and hips, tiny waist, bubble butt and ample bosom. The men too are very similar in the same way, broad shoulders, muscular build, etc. it's like they used the same "frame" for every character, making only minor tweaks here and there as needed. There are some notable exceptions of course, which I won't name due to spoilers, but you'll know the outliers when you see them. Essentially, it very much reminded me of Marvel's Contest of Champions in this way, though prettied up enough that comes with a console port. I will say that the character designs however aren't all straight MCU being shoved down our throats, but it also varies from what's in the comics and other media as well, so that was appreciated on my part.
The other thing that makes me feel like this is a high-end Mobile port, is the power up system that I mentioned previously. Anyone who's played some of Marvel's newer mobile games has no doubt run into something called ISO-8 crystals. These crystals are used almost like equipment that you can attack to your characters to provide them with unique buffs. As in the other games, the crystals come in a variety of colours that represent their core area of effect, they have varying grades of quality and you can also upgrade these crystals from their base forms to make them more powerful. The only thing missing is the micro-transactions! (kidding) Though I'm sure paid DLC is in the works down the line.
All in all, it's a fun experience, though far from perfect. I enjoyed the game for what it was, but ultimately (pun intended) I felt disappointed at the end.
I think the true value here is playing with friends and enjoying the team dynamic, more than any other quality. For me, what I wanted was something new, something innovative, something that would "wow" me. What I got, simply was more of the same; which isn't a bad thing, but it's far from Uncanny, Amazing, Astonishing or any of the other words I've used to describe some of Marvel's finest works.
Product Release: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order (US, 07/19/19)
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