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Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Review

Here come 12 new challengers! Is it enough for a return match?

UMvC3 - Vergil vs Iron Fist
Devil May Cry 3's Vergil v. Hero for Hire Iron Fist

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 raises a lot of questions from the get go. Are 12 new characters, additional modes and updates enough to justify a $40 disc release 10 months after its predecessor? Is this “expandalone” any different from a $60-$70 yearly sports or military FPS franchise? How will the changes to the previous characters affect the high-level tournament scene? And what the hell is a raccoon doing with a repeater cannon?

So the skinny goes something like this: UMvC3 adds 12 new characters, six each from the Marvel and Capcom sides to the 3-on-3 inter-franchise battle royale. If we were to add up each character’s worth as $5 a piece (the price for DLC fighters Jill and Shuma-Gorath last time around), we would already have broken the price tag for Ultimate. This doesn’t take into account the remixed backgrounds, updated Arcade Mode ending vignettes, menus, improved online play and tweaks for all the returning fighters.

12 characters is a big addition, and every one is substantially different from the next. The list of newcomers hits most of the right notes, from Marvel vs Capcom 2 favourite Strider Hiryu to Marvel characters enjoying some recent spotlight, like Ghost Rider and Rocket Raccoon. Each brings something different to the table – Ghost Rider feels like the an exceptional keep-away character with his *chortle* chain combos, whipping the enemy into submission from afar, while Iron Fist brings an incredibly complex ground game in stark (pun) contrast to flyers like Iron Man, Storm and Sentinel.

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UMvC3 - Phoenix Wright vs Nova
Phoenix Wright's "Objection!" move is the beginning of the end for the opposition.

It would be foolish to ignore newcomer Phoenix Wright, from Capcom’s Ace Attorney series of games. Wright isn’t a fighter in the literal sense: he’s a lawyer, and that philosophy carries over to his appearance here wonderfully. The dapper attorney instead searches for pieces of evidence – such as a cellphone or potted plant – hopefully gathering enough to find the opponent guilty in the most damaging “Hyper Combo” in the game. Nothing really compares to the look on Doctor Doom’s face while Wright presents the utterly mundane miscellanea to convict him of an unnamed crime, sentencing him to a penalty of 600,000 health points.

There have been numerous other changes under the hood (and including the HUD). X-factor, a last-ditch desperation mode, has been toned down making uncanny come-from-behind victories with a single character slightly less brain-dead to pull off. Every character has been tweaked, some with subtle changes to their properties while others gained new moves. The result is a mixed bag: She-Hulk moves slowly and has trouble hitting combos that she relied on before, while powerhouses Spencer and Albert Wesker have inexplicably become even stronger.

UMvC3 - Rocket Raccoon vs Frank West
Yes, this is exactly what it looks like.

The spectator mode has been added to lobbies, so players can finally watch matches while waiting in the queue like in Super Street Fighter 4. It’s the most significant update to the online element of the game, allowing you to sit back and actually watch two other players face off, learning playstyles and strategies without actually being in the frantic thick of it.

It’s the only real way to “learn” how to play the game, though, because as usual Capcom has made an incredibly opaque fighting game here. “Training Mode” doesn’t actually teach you anything, and the simplified command lists say nothing about how or when to use a certain move while in play. The only way to really learn anything is to jump online and get your faced smashed in until you figure out how to stop it.

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And make no mistake, UmvC3 online is the Wild West. For your first few hours, you will lose, you will lose quickly, there will be nothing you can do about it and you won’t understand why you lost. Complete newbies will run into 10-month veterans with clean slates, since win-loss records from MvC3 don’t carry over. At its worst, UMvC3 is 5,000-page encyclopedia written in a foreign language in invisible ink.

On the other hand, it can be one of the most fun and spectacular games this year. I can’t fully convey in words the joy it is to see your perfectly placed game plan pay off, with your assists working in just the right way to extend the murderous combos that you’ve practiced getting right in the Training Mode for hours, that you’ve lost more than a dozen ranked matches trying to get into position to attempt them in a live situation to begin with.

UMvC3 - Hawkeye vs Chun-Li
Hawkeye joins the game's ranks of Marvel's rotating crew of Avengers.

Perforating the opponent with smarmy newcomer Hawkeye’s his heat-seeking guided missile of an arrow, followed by Taskmaster firing a volley of more arrows, hits the enlarged pleasure centres of the gamer’s brain like no other online experience.

But despite the predilection for gandiose speeches and flashy effects that make fights look like an explosion in a fireworks factory, UMvC3 bucks the trend of over-directed, over-scripted blockbuster games by allowing the players to create their own set pieces. It’s a blank slate for players to master the combos, mix-ups and mind games used in international tournaments, or come up with your own wacky tactics.

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Much like how a measure of gin transforms an old-hat Americano into a Negroni, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3‘s changes, both large and small, make a fresh experience for newcomers and veterans alike. It’s just as beautiful, manic, and painful as it was before, and is absolutely worth the price tag – especially to those who plunked down for the original.

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