DEMO REVIEW: ‘Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3’ Shows Promise

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As an extension of the E3 festivities, Nintendo teamed up with Best Buy to bring a Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order demo to Best Buy stores across the country. I got to stop by my local store to get my hands on the game and bring you my thoughts on this action RPG beat ‘em up that gives up to four players an all star cast of Marvel super heroes and pits them against a host of Marvel villains including Thanos and his Black Order.

The demo of this long awaited game opened with my team of heroes fighting their way through the streets of New York as they are beset by ninjas of the Hand. We got to pick from a group of about 16 playable characters. I played as Captain Marvel in one play through, and Miles Morales in the other. I also completed the demo with coop partners, during both playthroughs. They played played as Wolverine and Iron Man in the first demo, and then Thor and Star-Lord in the second.

To progress, we periodically met up with Jessica Jones to guide us through our mission as we made our way to the Hand’s hideout setting up to throw down, with the help of the Immortal Iron Fist, against a big boss opponent. However, the demo was limited to a 10 minute timer, and though I got to go through the demo twice, due to some difficulties with coordination among the four players, I was never able to experience the boss fight.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3’s controls felt good, and the layout was intuitive. Having a jump, interact, light, and heavy attacks mapped to the face buttons normally, but when the player holds down the ZR button the face buttons change in functionality to allow the player to activate their special moves. These ranged from damage dealing power attacks, like Thor firing an energy beam from Mjolnir, to area effects like Miles Morales covering an area of the ground in electrified spiderwebs. While these moves were fun to see on display, and the availability of them was well paced by an energy gauge that filled as you felt damage with your basic attacks, there was a distinct lack of variety in targets to unleash them on.

Every Hand ninja in the mobs confronted in this level felt like any other. There were no distinctive abilities or attacks to make the player switch up their approach as they progressed through them. Hopefully there will be some measure of variety between levels as the story progresses throughout the plethora of environments available throughout the Marvel Universe.

The only shake up in the level’s game play came in the form of a light stealth sequence. The team was tasked with moving through an area while avoiding search lights. The thought of a stealth sequence in this style of game might cause a shiver in some gamers. The inclusion of such game mechanics often results in frustrating mission failures as controls, not intended for this style of gameplay, fail to allow the players to complete the sequence. Happily, failure to avoid the lights only resulted in some bombs being dropped from above and a wave of ninjas assault the team. This light punishment for failure made the sequence a fun distraction, as opposed to the potential frustration such sequences often become in games not devoted to that style of play.

The visuals were a mixed bag. With everything from character designs, to energy effects lacking a level of detail and polish that most players have come to expect from a full priced console game it would be easy to write off the visual altogether. However, the game designers at developer Team Ninja used those limited graphics to keep the character animations fun. The team was also effective in capturing the feel of the superhero power fantasy. In addition, character specific flairs abound, giving each a visual feel that is all their own.

An excellent example of this is the standard arial ground pound move that is available to all characters. While playing as Captain Marvel this maneuver consisted of going up into the air and slamming her fist into the ground with that powerful feeling she always exudes. Miles Morales on the other hand, performs this move by firing his webs from both hands and slingshotting himself into the ground. These visuals keep the time between special moves a bit more entertaining and further encourage the player to try out the full cast of playable characters.

The only place where the visuals failed a time or two was in tracking my character. With the camera angle often times pulling to a tight angle from the side, instead of the standard top down view usually employed in this style of game, it was often easy to lose sight of one’s character among a crowd of enemies and special effects.

The only aspect of the game I didn’t get to interact with at all was the leveling systems. While I had no expectation of getting to really see the system in action, I had hoped to maybe at least get a chance to peruse the screens and get at least a brief feel for what the game would have to offer. But, no such luck.

While this demo didn’t completely sell me on this game, it does show promise. I think for the diehard Marvel fan who wants to see a huge team up of characters and brawl their way through legions of enemies, this game has a good chance of pleasing. If the player wants a challenging game that forces them to be precise with their controls and be challenged by a variety of enemies, they may need to look elsewhere.

We will not have long to wait to fully find out how ell this entry will live up to the legacy of its predecessors as Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order comes to the Nintendo Switch on on July 19, 2019.

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