In today’s world, it seems that Marvel is everywhere. Marvel comics have been around for 80 years and show no signs of slowing. For 10 years now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been leading the film industry; Avengers: Endgame is now the highest grossing movie ever. Marvel just recently laid out their Phase 4 plans for the next two years for both film AND tv. And Marvel games have been all too prominent in the past few years on mobile devices.
One game that has always held a special place in the hearts of many — especially mine. In 2006, when I got my first Xbox 360, a nice little game came with it; two actually — the Forza Motorsport 3 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance combo pack. I played Marvel Ultimate Alliance for hours and hours. And when the sequel came out, I played that one even longer. So when Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order got announced by Nintendo back in March, i was more than surprised. I was elated. Ecstatic. Excited. And every other single “E” word I can’t think of right now.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order (which I’m just gonna refer to as MUA3 to avoid unnecessary finger cramps) only had a short 5 month wait from announcement to release. E3 gave us the release date and we all waited with bated breath as it released.
Now after having played MUA3 extensively, I can happily say more than a decade later, the game holds true to its predecessors. The gameplay is the exact same hack-n-slash, beat ‘em up button masher as before, the difference being that you now have team-up attacks that do much more damage called Synergy attacks and even MORE powerful attacks called EX or “Extreme” attacks which involve one or more teammates and attack pretty much the whole area.
Now because MUA3 is a Switch exclusive, there are compromises in performance. During these EX attacks or when there are more than about 10 enemies on screen, noticeable frame rate dips occur. This is less noticeable in docked mode, yet still present. It’s understandable and frankly not all that annoying when playing in handheld mode, as the game itself is animated in a comic book-esque style. For some, however, this might be a hassle so be just be aware that things may get skippy when chaos abounds.
To be honest, I didn’t notice any other issues with the game, as far as performance is concerned. The combat system makes the frame rate dips seem normal and the sound is always on point.
My favorite part about MUA3 is the vast amount of playable characters in the game. Of course, the core Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy are playable. The game seems to be capitalizing on the current hype wave of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — the characters found in both MUA3 and the MCU are very similar in style, albeit unique renditions created for this game. But random additions like monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone and mind bender Psylocke give the game even more variety and life. Putting together a team filled with Venom, Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, and Deadpool felt like a crossover dream come true. Countless more combinations are possible and I’m still trying them all
Another cool thing to note is the voice acting. Plenty of voice actors are brand new, bringing familiar life to classic characters found in Marvel movies and TV shows. Even cooler are the voice actors reprising their roles from previous games. Nolan North returns as Deadpool, reprising his role from the 2013 Deadpool game. Isaac Singleton Jr. reprises his role as Thanos from multiple previous animated iterations. The coolest reprisal (an honest-to-goodness easter egg) is the return of certain Spider-verse characters — Yuri Lowenthal, Nadji Jeter, and William Salyers all return from last year’s Spider-man to play Spider-man, Miles Morales, and Doctor Octopus, respectively.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order (okay only a little finger cramp there) features an original story spanning pretty much the entire known Marvel Universe. From Avengers Tower to Xavier Mansion, Asgard to Knowhere, and even all the way to the lunar Inhuman home of Attilan, the game features an incredible amount of locales to fight in. These keep the game fresh and new without pulling you from a location to soon or leaving you there too long. It’s a good balance.
Without getting into spoiler territory for those of you that haven’t beaten the game yet, the story itself features the likes of Ebony Maw, Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Obsidian Cull, and the lesser known Supergiant using their power and might to track down each Infinity Stone and retrieve them from our heroes. The good guys run into countless Marvel villains along the way — Red Skull, Loki, Magneto, Juggernaut , M.O.D.O.K. and plenty of others battle the Ultimate Alliance along the way to stopping Thanos. The good thing is, Team Ninja and Koei Techmo didn’t have to dig too deep to find villains for players to battle. The Marvel Universe has such a vast well of characters, it would be almost harder to find a character NOT to use.
The game has quite a few new features. One of these are the new trial based Infinity Rifts. Certain rifts can be found throughout the game in different levels while others are unlocked by simply playing the game. The trials can be played upon finding them or after in a stand-alone menu and feature things such as defeating a certain amount of enemies within a certain time or defeating a boss as a certain character. It adds loads of replayability and variety to the game.
These rifts give rewards which he’ll level up your characters or team as a whole, another new feature in the game. Using crystals called ISO-8 found in Infinity Trials or by defeating enemies in the main game, you can equip them to upgrade your character’s stats and abilities. Your team as a whole can also use certain rewards to level up their synergy attacks. This comes in handy immensely in the late game.
Now, I haven’t played the game in multiplayer for more than 5 or 10 minutes but the drop in, drop out style of play makes things incredibly easy to do with friends, whether online or local. The season pass content is also on the way, with expansions featuring Marvel Knights, X-Men, and Fantastic Four. All in all, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order was an absolute blast to play and whether you’re looking for a good game to sit down and play with your fellow heroes or something to pass the time while you’re headed to Avenger training, I highly recommend this one.