Nintendo review Switch

Review: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 – The Black Order for Nintendo Switch

Saving the world from total annihilation takes guts, a steady hand and real determination. And with the Avengers on your side, anything is possible in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. With 30+ characters available to play and some of Marvel’s biggest and best supervillains sharing the limelight, The Black Order should be an MCU fan’s dream. But with an overenthusiastic camera, ill-thought-out puzzles and nonsensical story pacing, this alliance isn’t as ultimate after all.

Marvel Studios may have broken box office records with Avengers: Endgame after reaching a gargantuan $2.78 billion worldwide, but after showcasing its up-and-coming projects at San Diego’s Comic Con, it’s clear the studio has some exciting twists and turns in store. While Avengers merchandise has been flying off the shelves in Disney stores for the past decade, fans have also been able to capture some of the Marvel magic and form their own dream teams through the videogame series, Marvel Ultimate Alliance.

Appearing on consoles for the first time back in 2006, the Ultimate Alliance series is an action ‘hack and slash’ RPG built for co-operative play. While the first scored favourably amongst fans and critics alike, its 2009 sequel lacked the same gusto. Now, the makers of Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem Warriors – Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo – have taken the reigns of the titular series to help bring back the vigour of the first with a soft reboot.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Featuring 36 unlockable characters in the base game (excluding DLC), Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order has the most playable superheroes and supervillains in the series’ history. You’ll find everyone’s favourite merc-with-a-mouth Deadpool, the original X-Men characters Storm and Wolverine, the full Avengers team, the Guardians of the Galaxy and more. On the flip side, Venom, Magneto and Loki all join the alliance too. So, if they’re in a MCU cinematic film, they’re almost guaranteed a spot.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Ultimate Alliance 3 is played with a team of four roster characters, all of which have their own unique special abilities that can be levelled up throughout gameplay. While it’s best played as a co-operative game, Story Mode and Infinity Trials can be played easily in single player mode with three CPUs. Plus, you’ll also have the option from the get-go to start the storyline on either ‘Friendly’ or ‘Mighty’ difficulty, with ‘Superior’ difficulty unlocking only after you’ve beaten the story.

Segmented into 10 distinct chapters, story mode takes anywhere between 10-12 hours to complete, largely banking on the classic cat-and-mouse chase sequence as the Alliance tracks down six Infinity Stones to stop Thanos from destroying the entire eco-system. It relies heavily on the player’s foreknowledge of the world, making the player – rather than the script – do all the legwork. Pacing is an issue here, too. Character introductions within chapters are awkwardly thrown together (although, as a bonus, they are unlocked quickly), with many of them making very little sense mid-scene. Then there are the cringe-worthy cutscenes that ‘forget’ to match up with your current team. Lastly, there’s no staging scenes to weave each chapter together. It’s a hot mess of portal jumping – and that doesn’t sit well on the stomach.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Story mode does have its moments though. The voice acting – while not from the stellar cast of the films – is well executed, plus there’s some visually interesting scenery on display during the Dark Dimension and Wakanda chapters to break up the hack-n-slash vibe. You’ll also be able to discover and unlock Infinity Rifts, which offer up a nice change of pace with a fresh set of trials and challenges in ‘Infinity’ mode. These are, perhaps, the most enjoyable aspect of the third instalment and are certainly the most riveting to play. And if you’re good enough to beat them, you’ll be able to unlock some nifty character outfits and additional characters as rewards too.

Unfortunately, the game’s main flaws reside in its overall playability. While the combat is simplistic enough and is more than just ‘button bashing’, it does lack depth and customisability. No matter which character you play, they all feel very similar when in battle. Flying characters often control elemental attacks from a distance, brute strength characters like to get up close and personal, and finally sword and gun wielding characters get a mixture of both. Though each of their four special attacks are unique to the character, there’s no real way to discern if one ability is more critical to a boss than another. Ultimate Alliance 3 hinges on one main skill; whittle down the boss’s stun gauge then hit them where it hurts with a Synergy combo attack and Extreme group attack. Luckily, it’s still fun and there’s some customisation available with ISO-8 crystals and the Alliance Enhancement hexagonal grids to buff up your character’s stats and traits.

Combat aside, Ultimate Alliance 3 is plagued with camera issues. While the Heroic camera style is the lesser of two evils, both Classic and Heroic styles suffer from juddering and real-time framerate drops. In co-op mode, you don’t even have the option to lock-on to enemies either, resulting in a swinging, overenthusiastic camera that likes to put baby in the corner (literally). And if we thought the camera issues were a nightmare during boss fights, they’re also off-putting while in exploration mode too. From bizarre top-down angles on puzzles (which can be hilariously avoided in Shadowland by just flying through them) to weird looping when switching characters, the camera feels like the real villain here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you can keep the camera in focus for long enough, boss fights are outrageously fun to play. With an over-saturation of effects on screen, you’ll hardly know whether you’re coming or going during each wave of enemies and, while it can be tempting to ‘button bash’ your way to victory, it’s all about making Synergy with your fellow teammates to really take these supervillains to town. It’s a real shame when boss fights from Chapter 6 onwards feel repetitive with overused patterns and they begin to break out unfair tactics; many of which you can’t even dodge in time.

For those who want to play Ultimate Alliance 3 with online friends, there’s an opportunity to do so. Encouragingly, you can join up with friends online instantly and either search for a room or create one yourself. Both story mode and infinity rifts are available to play together, so there’s no qualms with the multiplayer search functionality.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a standard, run-of-the-mill, hack and slash action RPG. Its shining moment squarely falls on the shoulders of its Infinity mode, with boss fights flying by in a close second. But its lack of polish and attention to detail means gameplay falls by the wayside, leaving a gaping, sore wound that no ultimate alliance can solely heal. Nothing more than a fun beat ‘em up that’s best played with friends, not CPUs.

6/10

A review copy of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.

11 comments

  1. “With many of them making very little sense; why is Wolverine introduced with the Avengers”

    Because Wolverine is an Avenger. Maybe not in the MCU but this is a game that while it takes a lot of inspiration from the MCU, there is a ton of stuff in it for the Comic Book fans. Can obviously tell this reviewer has only ever seen the Marvel Films

    Like

  2. Such a shame from the technical aspects, but I guess it’s always been the game it’s greatest weakness.
    Wolverine is definitely an Avenger, Luke Cage and Spiderman (and basicly most Marvel heroes) both live in New York and have met a few times, there is even a fairly modern spiderman cartoon where Spiderman and Powerman (Cage) more the regularly teamed up. This is not an MCU game, the Square Avengers game would be closer to that.

    Also should this game not be closer to a beat em up rather than a Hack and Slash? Regardless I feel you might be a bit hard on it’s genre being something detremental. Both Hack and Slash and Beat em ups are kinda known to be repetive., so to me it kinda feels the same like marking down Pokémon for being a turn based RPG.
    If I buy Tetris, I want to puzzle, , if I buy Pokémon, I want to do static battles, if I buy Ultimate Alliance I wanna beat up a lot of enemies with flashy visuals.

    Shame that it’s so limited customisation wise though, could have been fun to flesh out your characters more.Will wait till it goes on sale.

    Like

  3. A lot in this game feels like it could be more developed. Level design more complex, more variety in combos, larger selection of specials, and maybe a bit more polish to the physics and graphics. But that being said, look at the roster and scope of this game. There’s so many characters in this game and they all genuinely feel unique and have their own play-style. Its a shame that everything isn’t deeper, but with the sheer amount of content in this game I give it a pass for not having that development and polish. I think this is a great game, and I’m having a blast playing it. If there is a next game, and they do take the time to develop all these things deeper, then they’ll have one heck of a game on their hands.

    Like

  4. Frame… rate… drops… it’s the worst!
    Awesome review as always. I kind of was on the fence with this one, but I guess I’ll leave it for now. It’s not like we’re not getting any new Switch games this Friday ;D
    Keep it up C!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m almost through the games story and have only seen very minor frame drops a couple of times. I do not think this is a game that suffers from frame rate issues to any large degree and therefore I feel it is wrong to bring this up in a review unless it really affects the game. I can already see that some people in the comments have been put off the game based on that. These days if you even mention that there might be a hint of frame rate problems it puts people right off and I think that’s a shame.

    Like

  6. i’ve been playing this game for the last couple of days and have not encoutnered any framerate issues at all. i will say though that the storyline and how you put your teams together to unlock different status buffs make more sense and is easier to do if you are a bit of comic nerd(which i am) and will make this game far more enjoyable.

    Like

    1. Thanks for the constructive feedback. I’ll take this on board for any reviews going forward.
      For me on single player (download directly to the Switch console, not on SD card or physical), and my friends and family in co-op, we all experienced issues with framerate drops when playing, this was tied primarily to the camera angles. For us, this was how we lost health during the boss battles so it affected our ability to play the game well. I’m very glad you haven’t experienced this and perhaps it just depends on where player 1 is in battle arena. Thanks for reading and commenting either way. :)

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: