Have you ever wondered what would happen if Dante fought Wolverine? What about a match that pits The Hulk against boulder-smashing superstar Chris Redfield? These questions, and many of life's other mysteries, are all answered in Marvel vs. Capcom 3--the third installment to the highly popular Marvel vs. Capcom fighting series that fans have been begging for since the waning days of its predecessor's popularity. First, let's talk about characters. While we have yet to see the full lineup of characters from both Marvel and Capcom, there were a surprising number of characters already playable in our hands-on demo. Morrigan, Ryu, Chris Redfield, Felicia, and Dante were on hand to represent Capcom, while Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, Deadpool, and The Hulk stepped up to represent Marvel.
We were quickly told that the characters are all still being worked on, so while some characters--like The Hulk--look a bit stiff and glossy at the moment, you can take comfort in knowing that is likely to change as development progresses. With that said, some characters are further along than others. We were told that Deadpool has been the focus of attention, and it shows. His general animation looks great, and he already has a fair number of taunts and moves that are faithful to the spirit of the character (his minidragon punch is especially cool). It's also worth noting that Deadpool has a teleportation device to help him zip around, but if you try to use it three times in a row, it will malfunction and explode.
All of the characters feel pretty good and are easy to play at this point. Returning characters like The Hulk, Wolverine, Captain America, Morrigan, and Felicia all have similar moves from previous games. As such, they are pretty easy to jump into and use effectively right away. As for the new faces, Chris Redfield feels a bit like Jill Valentine from MVC2 and most of his moves are focused on projectile attacks with his sidearm, though he also uses his knife in some standard moves. Dante, who appears as the Devil May Cry 3 version of the character, borrows many of his notable attacks from the Devil May Cry games, including his sword, which has a bit of reach to it. Moreover, some of his attacks have him using weapons from those games (like the gauntlets), and he can also change into his devil form.
As for environments, there were two that we saw--one in an elevator that rose up against the skyline of New York with The Daily Bugle and the Baxter Building as enormous balloons of Marvel characters (most notably Spider-Man) floating in the background. If you think of a certain department store's holiday parade, you'll get a good idea of what it looked like. The second level was the Mega Man-themed Kattelox Island, overrun with servbots getting into trouble. It's nice to see these universe-specific levels as opposed to Marvel vs. Capcom 2's generic, albeit very nice looking, fighting areas.
But when you're actually in a fight in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, there's a good chance you're not going to take much notice of the backgrounds anyway. These fights are just as fast paced and crazy as those in the previous game, with an emphasis on quick and, in many cases, over-the-top combos. But there are some differences. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 featured a six-button setup with four attack buttons and two assist buttons. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 also has four attack buttons and two assist buttons, but the breakdown of the four attack buttons are mapped out as light, medium, heavy, and "exchange" (as Capcom calls it). Those first three buttons are self-explanatory, but the exchange button can be thought of as the launcher attack--the move that lets you launch (of course) your opponent into the air where you can then perform a devastating air combo.
If you're especially skilled with the timing of the exchange button (and you press left, right, or up to knock an opponent into walls or higher into the air), you can perform damage resets that essentially let you start a combination over again with a different character. So let's say you start an air combo with Morrigan that launches Wolverine into the air. If you time it right so that you press one of those corresponding directions and the exchange button, then she'll leap out and one of her tag partners will come in with a brief window to do another combo before repeating the same process. This will allow the third character on your team to come in and finish the barrage. This isn't an automatic thing. It requires some pretty precise timing to nail properly and get the most damage out of it. When you press down (or if you have neutral direction on the controller) while hitting the exchange button on an air combo, then your opponent gets slammed to the ground and the combo is over. Additionally, if you hit the exchange button when you're on the ground (without pressing down) then you can still perform a standard attack. It probably sounds a little confusing on paper, but once you get to try it out for yourself, it makes a little more sense. Also, though the button layout is slightly different, it's still pretty easy to come to grips with how to execute classic moves in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which we may or may not have tested by spamming Wolverine's berserker barrage. More skilled players will be happy to know that advancing guards are in the game and that you can still perform multi-character supers, as well as integrate the different types of assist attacks (shot for projectiles, direct for body attacks, and extra where a character throws something onto the screen) into their combos. And here is one final piece of info: When your team is down to one character, you'll see a glowing red X next to his or her name. This means that character can inflict slightly more amounts of damage on his or her opponents in a last ditch effort to survive.
If anything, at this point, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 already succeeds much in the same way that its predecessor did in making you feel like you were really good at fighting games even if you were not. We'll have more on Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds before it is released early next year.