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Review

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order Review - Superpowered

  • First Released Jul 19, 2019
    released
  • Reviewed Jul 18, 2019
  • NS

Assemble.

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Marvel's popularity has grown exponentially in the 10 years since Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 was first released, as forays into shared universes in both film and TV have propelled the company to the forefront of pop culture relevance. Previously obscure characters such as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther have risen to prominence thanks to appearances in movies, becoming household names, while new characters like Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, and Spider-Gwen have made their debuts in the vibrant pages of comic books. The stacked roster in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order reflects the past 10 years of Marvel's history, assembling a cast of beloved characters, both old and new, that extends its reach into almost every corner of the cosmos. The diversity of Ultimate Alliance's playable characters has always been the series' strongest aspect, and that remains true in Ultimate Alliance 3, where our favorite heroes team up for an enjoyable adventure brimming with synergized action.

Much like its predecessors, Ultimate Alliance 3 is an isometric action-RPG, hack-and-slash hybrid featuring four playable characters at any one time that you can switch between on the fly. There are a couple of left-field character inclusions counted amongst its comprehensive roster, like the monster-hunting Elsa Bloodstone and The Inhumans' Crystal, but it's an otherwise familiar list of names that features everyone from Hawkeye and Doctor Strange to Iron Man and Thor. Somewhat predictably, the plot revolves around the Infinity Stones after a Guardians of the Galaxy-related mishap scatters them across the Earth and into the hands of the evil-doers in Marvel's rogues' gallery.

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Thanos and his ruthless Black Order play their part, but the story is less Marvel Cinematic Universe and more Saturday morning cartoon. That works in the game's favor, and the light-hearted writing and enthusiastic voice acting carry a narrative that does as much as it can with so many characters vying for screen time. There are fun one-liners, and the characters feel true to the ones we know, with their iterations pulling from the MCU, comics, and TV. It also helps that this isn't simply a rehash of well-trodden ground, despite the presence of many common elements. Instead, Ultimate Alliance 3 tells an original tale that takes some inspiration from 1991's The Infinity Gauntlet, while also encompassing various aspects of Marvel's films, comic books, and TV shows to create something of its own.

You only need to glance at the roster to see how Ultimate Alliance 3 pulls from every eclectic branch of the Marvel machine. Costumes and character designs are judiciously plucked from numerous sources--all homogenized by a uniform comic book-inspired art style that's full of color. The most important thing about these characters, however, is how each of them feels to play. Each hero has light and heavy attacks that can unleash various combos, as well as four super abilities that are gradually unlocked as each character levels up. There's also a block that negates some damage and a handy roll for dodging out of danger. Simple stuff. What elevates Ultimate Alliance 3's combat is the variety inherent to each of its heroes and the numerous ways in which they work in tandem. Take someone like Captain America, for example, who's all about punching enemies in the face and following up with a vibranium shield to the ribs. He plays a lot differently to a ranged character like Star-Lord, who is ideally suited to fighting from a distance with his dual elemental pistols and flight-enabling jet boots. The differences aren't just restricted to each hero's choice of weaponry or traversal, either; the Hulk is a lumbering force of nature, Wolverine strikes with quick and agile ferocity, and myriad damage types like piercing, ethereal, fire, and ice differentiate each character even further.

Then there are the abilities that tap into every hero's spate of superpowers. An energy meter governs how often you can let loose with these snazzy attacks, but Ultimate Alliance 3 is fairly generous about replenishing any lost energy in rapid fashion. This is important because using these abilities with abandon and combining them with others is a ton of fun. The basic light/heavy combat is satisfying on its own. There's a lot of button mashing, but fights can get pretty hectic when enemy projectiles are bouncing all over the screen, so you still need to be wary of your positioning and be able to avoid danger. Abilities add another layer, letting you blast away a crowd of goons with a wrecking ball comprised of Spider-Man's webs, spin Mjolnir around in a deadly electrified circle, or mow down anyone unfortunate enough to get in the way of Ghost Rider's hellfire bike.

Proximity to teammates also allows you to combine certain abilities with others to unleash devastating synergy attacks that amplify their damage output, whether it's Iron Man reflecting his beam off Captain America's shield or Deadpool tossing a deluge of grenades as Storm shoots a bolt of lightning out of her fingertips. Dole out enough punishment and you can activate a big Alliance Extreme attack that triggers all four of your character's synergy attacks at once, filling the screen with a vivid cascade of particle effects, explosions, and ever-increasing damage numbers. The frame rate can take a hit during these moments, but you're just watching the fireworks at that point, so it isn't really an issue in gameplay.

The diversity of Ultimate Alliance's playable characters has always been the series' strongest aspect, and that remains true in Ultimate Alliance 3, where our favorite heroes team up for an enjoyable adventure brimming with synergized action

The level design is fairly straightforward, funneling you down corridors and into more open areas with little deviation. This does, however, lend itself to a sense of forward momentum as you're constantly encountering new foes to fight. The only thing that slows it down are some terribly dull puzzles that are fortunately few and far between, revolving around pressing levers and pushing boxes, and a camera that has a tendency to get stuck behind objects or jitter up and down when not completely stuck. This is an occasional problem during combat when you're momentarily blind to enemy attacks, but it can be an annoyance when simply traversing as well.

It's a shame you can't just forget the camera is even there because each level takes place in a new location and the environments on show are fantastically varied. Dimension-hopping allows the action to venture away from Earth and into some of Marvel's more outlandish settings as you barrel towards the end credits, and Ultimate Alliance 3 makes good use of the sheer number of enemy factions that exist in the Marvel universe. Within the first couple of hours you'll brawl your way through The Raft and tangle with Spider-Man's nemeses before joining Daredevil and Iron Fist in a battle against The Hand's ninja army. This makes for a disparate mix of enemy types and aesthetics that keeps each level feeling fresh, and the same can be said of the plethora of boss fights you regularly encounter, too.

Facing off against the likes of Green Goblin, Dormammu, and Ultron can be quite challenging by yourself on the default difficulty level. Fortunately, there's a surprising amount of depth when it comes to upgrading each hero. Aside from accumulating XP to unlock more abilities, you can also spend currency to enhance each of their powers, reducing the energy cost or improving their potency. There's also a sprawling hexagonal skill tree that allows you to purchase stat increases that are applied to every hero on the roster, whether you're improving their strength, vitality, and resilience or unlocking various offensive and defensive buffs. Meanwhile, ISO-8 crystals give you the opportunity to apply additional bonuses to specific heroes. It's minute stuff like increasing health or decreasing damage under certain conditions, but it makes a difference and gives you a degree of customization that can be used to turn the tide of battle--and that's without even mentioning the importance of your chosen team's makeup.

Picking heroes that work well together applies various team bonuses that can further enhance their stats. This is based on tangibles like their team affiliation, intelligence, agility, and so on. You could assemble a team of the original Avengers, the X-Men, Defenders, or Midnight Sons and see an increase in particular stats that will also take into account whether any of the heroes have shared traits like "wisecracking warrior" or "anti-hero." Maybe you want to compile a team of web-slingers, Marvel royalty, or one that encompasses the women of Marvel. You have the opportunity to recreate canon teams or mix and match to create your own based on which bonuses are applied and how they can benefit you.

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The only problem with all of this is that heroes only level up when you use them. Increases in strength, vitality and other similar skills are applied to everyone, but as you reach the latter half of the campaign, the lack of abilities, their upgrades, and the capability to equip multiple ISO-8s is keenly felt in your lower-level heroes, which means you end up neglecting most of the roster because they just aren't powerful enough. The workaround for this comes in the shape of XP boosts you can discover within levels and by completing optional Infinity Rifts that task you with repeating modified boss fights and challenges to earn different rewards. Getting enough XP boosts can be a long, grindy process, though, and that's just to get enough to significantly level up a single character. The diversity of Ultimate Alliance 3's roster is one of its core pillars, so feeling restricted to only using a few heroes during its final hours is a glaring disappointment.

After spending some time with Ultimate Alliance 3’s online co-op, it’s clear that while the server performance isn't perfect, it also isn't too bad. There's some occasional lag that only affects the appearance of other players in your party, causing them to slightly jitter when moving around. Other than being a minor eyesore, this doesn't impact the gameplay in any way. Playing with fewer than four people is less than ideal, however, as the host is the only one with the ability to change heroes on the fly. Everyone else is locked into their pick, although this is somewhat rectified by the plentiful amount of S.H.I.E.L.D. stations found within each level that allow you to swap characters in and out. Beyond this, playing more of Ultimate Alliance 3 in co-op emphasizes the game’s replayability and the sheer enjoyment derived from using its assortment of heroes. Going back and replaying parts of the campaign gives you the opportunity to use characters you previously neglected, making it easy to fall into a groove that’ll have you eager to reach the end credits for a second time.

More so than its predecessors, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order excels because of its character diversity and the ways its disparate heroes work together. For this reason alone it's an ideal co-op game, whether you're playing with another friend in the same room or with three friends online, but the AI more than holds its own if you're playing alone, too. It falters in places, but there's still nothing quite like the Ultimate Alliance series, and this long-awaited third entry makes it a triumphant return for a superhero brawler that feels more relevant than ever.

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The Good
Frenetic combat built around a diverse roster of characters
Synergy attacks are destructively satisfying
In-depth upgrades offer plenty of customization
Touches on numerous aspects of the Marvel universe
The Bad
The leveling system results in a lot of neglected heroes
The camera has a tendency to get stuck on objects
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Richard finished Ultimate Alliance 3's campaign in around 10 hours and completed a number of optional Infinity Rifts. Review code was provided by the publisher.
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Avatar image for JTWrenn
JTWrenn

Maybe I am missing something but I think this game is horrible. Played both of the earlier Ultimate Alliance games with my wife in co/op and loved both of them, but this is just a mess.

Co/op camera is horrible to the point of sea sickness, in both heroic and classic mode

Characters moves outside of special have no combos, and barely do a thing

Most fights are so crazy that you get lost and just have to dodge constantly to survive without any skill really, just pure button mashing.

Synergy digging is a chore the system takes forever to find who pairs with who, and why.

Local wireless play for some silly reason makes it so the host gets 3 characters and the 2nd player gets 1. Yeah, no idea on that one.

It is only 10 hours long.

How is this game an 8? Just on core game play and camera it is a very bad game. I don't get this at all.

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DeadManRollin

I was a big fan of the PC version of the original Marvel Ultimate Alliance. The modding community was great and I finished the game many times. Unfortunately, MUA2 never came out on PC, and I could only play it years later on my PS4.

Will be eagerly waiting for a PS4 release, but I hope the price stays below 20 dollars and there won't be too many DLC hoop la .

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Conlan

I can't wait for this to come out on the PS4. Maybe it will be a year from now, but it should end up on the PS4. After all MUA1 and MUA2 were both on Playstation.

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3D3

@conlan: Nintendo funded this game.

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JracoMeter

I really enjoyed playing through the game from start to finish. Was not expect the 10 hours of recording but I do not have any regrets.

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Oemenia

Nintendo bump doing what the Nintendo bump does.

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nintendoboy16

@Oemenia: *tinfoil hat*

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cejay0813

Anyone else not able to find a lobby for co-op?

Just automatically says “no room found” right after searching

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johnnyauau

It's quite a leap since it's bumpy release on Nintendo Wii when Marvel Ultimate Alliance came out. Including it's sequel from n-Space. If those two have been redone on Nintendo Switch, it would've been a trilogy blast! But three times the charm with the HD treatment and gameplay wizardry. If there's going to be a fourth or fifth time, or a spinoff, then there should be no problem being a marvel superhero. I wonder if the DC universe can do the same too?

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lonewolf1044

I am interested but I will wait for an sale.

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ChrisAnetkaC

@lonewolf1044: Sale on a Nintendo game? You mean like $4 off? Otherwise don't hold your breath.

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knowledgeplease

Wait the game is only 10hours? Well I’m taking my shoes off I was just heading out the door to grab it but not anymore. @reuwsaat

Online
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streamline

@knowledgeplease: Seems like good replay value with all the characters and I think 10 hours is reasonable for this genre. Though, I rarely buy games new because I’m so behind on playing that I never judge it against the full price. Still looking forward to play ME Andromeda (I know reviews weren’t good, but that’s my point for cost-value) one day for $5 or free by the time I can get to it, hehe.

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cejay0813

@knowledgeplease: 10 hours is a long time. Thinking that doesn’t include the infinity trials

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RGLGAThrawn

@knowledgeplease: Never played games in the 80s and 90s, did you? If you told someone back then that a non-Final Fantasy game would take 10 hours to complete, they would look at you in disbelief and then quickly rush out the door to buy it.

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knowledgeplease

@rglgathrawn: I’ve been playing video games for 24 years. We’re no longer in the 90s and I don’t feel like dropping 80$ on a 10 hour long game. I’m sure it’s fun I was really looking forward to it but I’ll wait for now. Just picked up rust and im hooked on that game anyway aha.

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Reuwsaat

@knowledgeplease: at least it was the time that the reviewer (@richarwakeling) mentioned it took him, I'd take a look at its howlongtobeat page overview in a few days to get some more data but I feel like his data is accurate since the Ultimate Alliance 2 is also on that ballpark, unfortunately...

Maybe November's black friday?

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Reuwsaat

Looks great, but $80 for a 10h game with its expansions is a very hard bargain to me

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Kezzy123

I thought the switch was only for 10 year old games ports? Did they get confused?

Avatar image for rglgathrawn
RGLGAThrawn

@Kezzy123:

What a lazy attempt at trolling. The Switch already has Yoshi's Crafted World, Super Mario Odyssey, Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Maker 2, SSB Ultimate, Labo, Splatoon 2, Kirby Star Allies, Mario + Rabbids, Mario Tennis Aces, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, with Animal Crossing, Pokemon, Breath of the Wild 2, Link's Awakening remake, Contra: Rogue Corps, Darksiders: Genesis, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Bayonetta 3, Luigi's Mansion 3, No More Heroes 3, Shantae 5, and Metroid Prime 4 on the way. And most of those games are exclusive to the Switch.

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aross2004

@Kezzy123: Because the PS4 and XBOX aren't lousy with old ports too, rite?

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GirlUSoCrazy

I saw in a screenshot that a character picked up a "rare item". Do you have to worry about any items you pick up? Is there some automatic feature that can optimize all that so you don't have to worry about it?

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P00DGE

@girlusocrazy: I quite like gear and inventory managment in games myself, so this would only be a plus

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GirlUSoCrazy

@P00DGE: Yeah but it would really suck for my kid who can't really read or do math yet and will still want to play.

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Forester057

@girlusocrazy: Probably a little too hard for a kid that young...

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streamline

@girlusocrazy: buy time by waiting for the game to get cheaper and sharpen though skills or just play the game with your kid.

Avatar image for cejay0813
cejay0813

Pretty much exactly what I expected. An 8 is pretty spot on. Monotonous dungeon crawler with Marvel characters. Team Ninja did really well with the animations and abilities as expected. Wish there was more Marvel lore in the game like the previous titles but maybe I'm not far enough along yet. Part of the reason I loved MUA games is for the historical bios and lore. Kinda like having a playable Marvel encyclopedia.

Is this missing completely in this game?

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aross2004

@cejay0813: There is lore on all the characters, areas, etc. Some of it is pretty funny as well whereas it is from Rocket's perspective, and the characters comment on things about the reports.

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Solaryellow

@cejay0813: I'd also like to know the answer to your question as I enjoyed that part of the original.

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P00DGE

@cejay0813: 8 is a good score for a game, but your thoughts on it seem to make it seem mediocre. 8 to me means really good, with a couple of flaws that can't be forgiven. 9 is incredibly good with minor flaws that can be overlooked, 10 is "a can't miss, system defining game". Mediocre games are 6 and below.

Avatar image for cejay0813
cejay0813

@P00DGE: Right and I do mention what I would consider to be pretty big flaw in my opinion but maybe sense I used the word "monotonous" it comes off as bad which is not really the case. The 8 is accurate because its a really good game, with flaws.

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Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order More Info

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  • First Released Jul 19, 2019
    released
    • Nintendo Switch
    Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
    8
    Average Rating15 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
    Developed by:
    Team Ninja
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genre(s):
    Action, Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence