Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Jennifer makes us an ultimatum..

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 courted controversy the moment it was announced in July 2011, a mere 5 months after the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Wait 11 years for a new Marvel vs. Capcom game and two come along at once? Not quite. While fighting fans will appreciate the subtle differences between regular Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and the ultimate version, more casual players won't see any need to purchase this edition.

Offering 12 new characters to play with, new stages, improved online functionality, a more balanced experience and even a new mode sounds thrilling on the surface. Given the budget price of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, at first it sounds like tremendous value. Yet somehow, it still doesn't feel quite as complete as the name suggests.

The plentiful supply of new characters brings the full roster up to 48 (with 2 other characters as DLC: Jill Valentine and Shuma-Gorath) covering mostly anyone you could possibly think of from the Capcom and Marvel universe, excluding the quite extraordinary omission of Mega Man. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 adds 6 characters from the Capcom universe: Frank West, Strider, Nemesis, Firebrand, Phoenix Wright and Vergil, with the Marvel universe providing Nova, Rocket Raccoon, Iron Fist, Hawkeye, Dr Strange and Ghost Rider. It's a varied mix of different characters with the bulk of fan service coming from the addition of Phoenix Wright and Frank West.

Both West and Wright are fantastic interpretations of their roles in Dead Rising and Ace Attorney. In the case of everyone's favourite zombie hunter, West uses numerous Dead Rising style moves in his fighting style with golf clubs, spiked bats and even shopping trolleys featuring prominently. A further nod to the series comes from a levelling up system incorporating photography that improves West's abilities throughout the fight.

A similar piece of fan service is provided with Phoenix Wright, a primarily defensive fighter who uses evidence that's accumulated by avoiding attacks. Once enough evidence is acquired, Wright can then unleash 'Objection' and thus a powerful attack. Requiring some strategy to fully take advantage of Wright's potential, it's a nice move to change away from the temptation of button mashing.

The other new additions provide less obvious delights but are still a pretty solid bunch with their own unique skills. Rocket Raccoon for instance can deploy traps but also has the considerable advantage of being small and often hard to pin down and attack.

In terms of the original roster of fighters, there are clear signs that Capcom have put some effort into making the overall experience more balanced. Anyone who played the original Marvel vs. Capcom 3 will have figured out by now which characters are overpowered and which characters were worth giving a miss. They've all been balanced now with subtle differences such as Ryu now having a wider range of attacks and Captain America being able to double jump. It's not all positive as characters like Magneto now seem to be weaker and more sluggish but it does provide a more varied experience. The excessively powerful X-Factor move has now been toned down with a shorter duration and lower damage boost making it no longer the be all and end all of turning a fight around. It is now possible to activate in the air however which changes up many tactics. This does all unfortunately lead to an experience that, on the surface, to casual players seems like more of the same. They're all subtle changes that come about after spending many hours mastering every nuance within the two titles. For those just picking up and playing, the difference is much less noticeable.

More noticeable is that of the improved online functionality. There's the near essential addition of a spectator mode, something that Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was heavily criticised for not originally including. Matchmaking appears faster and less error prone also, making for a more satisfying experience overall. It's not all positive though. There's still no ability to view replays of matches or save them for later consultation which regular online gamers would no doubt lap up enthusiastically.

Arcade mode is still pretty weak with storylines for each character feeling very much like afterthoughts. The Training mode is also inferior compared to other games in the genre such as the BlazBlue series which demonstrates precisely how well a fighting title can train its players. The Mission mode does go some way to rectify this but it's just not as intuitive as it could be.

The only other new mode is that of Galactus mode, unlocked for those who previously played Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Players take control of Galactus in a series of fights against the CPU but it's an underwhelming experience that ends all too swiftly.

While Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 promises the addition of a more exciting mode involving card collecting, Heroes and Heralds, this isn't yet available but is set to be released at some point soon in the form of free DLC.

This is perhaps the greatest problem with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It doesn't feel quite worthy of the title Ultimate. Sure, it's the definitive version compared to the original game but that doesn't make it complete. Just the prospect of waiting for Heroes and Heralds stops that in its tracks and the fact that there's a huge wealth of costume packs to purchase separately to have the full variety of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

Fighting wise, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is quite unbeatable. It's an extremely enjoyable experience that offers enough tactical play to entice fighting fans while still being welcoming to casual players. There's just enough here to feel like an improved title over February's release and it's the ideal beat em up purchase for those who didn't play it back then. However, it doesn't take much of a cynic to question why Capcom couldn't have delayed Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for a few months and released this in its place. It's the game we all deserved, just a little late.

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