Released less than a year after Marvel vs Capcom 3 found its way onto shelves, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 has had a somewhat understandably rough ride from consumers in the build up to its release. Capcom are no strangers to wringing a product for every penny its worth, but even by their standards, Ultimate’s surprisingly early appearance as a full retail product did initially reek of a cash grab opportunity taken too far. Still, since its release and the subsequent fan backlash, Capcom have been of a bit of a charm offensive in an attempt to justify Ultimate’s release as a full retail product rather than a downloadable update. With the game now in hand, I can honestly say that Capcom’s argument is at least partly justified by some very impressive additions to the already notable character roster and a host of well implemented tweaks to the core gameplay, but for those hoping for anything even resembling an overhaul, it’s probably best you steer clear. If you’re asking me whether there is enough new content to justify Ultimate’s place on the shelf though, I’d have to answer yes….but only just.
If you’ve spent any amount of time with the original, you’ll be immediately at home with the Ultimate upgrade. The original cast all return along with all of the stages and game modes available last time around. It’s still an epicly OTT 3-on-3 fighter with fantastic art direction and a truly spectacular set of moves to learn and enjoy. Sure, even with the tweaks, this isn’t what you’d call a classically balanced fighter, but given the extremely varied cast, Capcom has done an admirable job of making most characters a plausible option for competitive play. If anything, thanks to the tweaks, the online world of Marvel vs Capcom should be a much more varied place than it has been for the last 12 months. Phoenix has been mercifully powered down while some of the lesser characters have been given a much needed boost. The favourites will inevitable still dominate, but thanks to some much needed and largely successful tweaks to the games balance, Ultimate should prove a more interesting online arena this time around.
So, to get straight to the point: Marvel vs Capcom 3 was great and Ultimate is even better. If you’ve never tried the original, Ultimate is the game you want to be picking up, and at a bargain price at retail, if you have even a passing interest in 2D fighters, Ultimate really is worth picking up. The real question, however, is whether it’s worth picking up if you already own, or have owned, the original. That’s a trickier question to answer. If you’re a casual player, the kind happy to stick with the same characters and only occasionally dip a toe into the world of highly competitive online play, then I would suggest no. Unless you’re a particularly massive fan of one of the new fighters, then I would advise that you stick with the original. Don’t get me wrong, all th additions made are welcome ones, but unless you’re a serious player, it’s probably not worth the asking price.
If, however, you are the type to take the fight online and enjoy mastering a host of new fighters and techniques then, yes, I strongly suggest you give Ultimate a go. The 12 new fighters are almost all brilliant, the new stages are visually impressive and the tweaks and changes to online play consistently successful. Ultimate may well provide the same core experience as its predecessor, but high level players would find it very hard to go back to the original after spending some time with the new and improved Ultimate edition.
Of the new cast members, 6 come from the Marvel side with another 6 coming from the Capcom universe. The characters are varied, well balanced and all realistic options for online play. Like anything in life though, there are inevitably a few that rise to the top. Ghost Rider and Phoenix Wright will likely prove at least temporarily popular simply on the basis of them both looking awesome, while the likes of Iron Fist and Nova are likely to get a long term say thanks to their brawl-centric credentials. What’s really interesting about the new characters, however, is the emphasis on long range fighters. Of the 12, nearly half are projectile-based combatants, with Capcom clearly trying to ingratiate a second playing style into the single minded online battlefield.
You see, at time of writing, if you were to spend some considerable time with Marvel vs Capcom 3 online, you’d soon find a pattern emerging – nearly everyone plays the melee game. Almost every fighter wants to get in up close and personal as soon as possible to start up a quick fire combo – hence the huge popularity of the likes of Wesker and Wolverine. By introducing a host of projectile-centric characters in the mould of the impressive Doctor Strange, Capcom are clearly attempting to add a bit of tactical diversity in a long term attempt to shift the now imbedded focus on close range combat. Whether it will be successful remains to be seen, but you have to commend Capcom for their effort to freshen up the scene.
Regardless of your approach though, you will certainly find a set of characters to match your tastes. With 48 characters now available straight out of the box and 50+ if you take into account the additional DLC characters, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 has a roster that can finally compete in terms of sheer numbers with the epic Marvel vs Capcom 2 while arguably delivering a finer sense of character balance than ever before.
Beyond bringing some of the weaker fighters up to scratch, there have been a few minor changes to the core gamplay for Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. There is now a stronger emphasis on air combos thanks to the additional Super Meter bonuses that come from their completion (which is great news for someone like me who is hugely reliant upon aerial attacks) while the controversial X-Factor has now been generally scaled back, but, interestingly, can now be activated mid-air.
Behind the scenes, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 still feels a tad on the slight side. The new menus are cleaner and the rosters are now conveniently separated into Marvel and Capcom cast members. If there was an award for best intro movie, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 would probably win it (I must have watched it 6 times already) and the returning Mission Mode has been updated to take into consideration existing characters new move sets and, of course, to include the 12 new playable characters in all their flash glory. Galactus Mode allows you to take on Arcade Mode as the supersized, planet eating boss man, but other than providing a mildly entertaining diversion, it isn’t likely to deliver long term appeal. In fairness, the free Heroes and Heralds Mode does look like it might be pretty awesome addition but, as it stands, this isn’t available for download yet and thus is still something of a mystery.
So, with many of the new game mode additions not really adding up to all that much, it’s down to the inclusion of Spectator Mode for online play to deliver the one genuinely must have new feature. The problem with this is that, despite its addition being a hugely welcome one, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it really should have been included first time around. Souring its inclusion further is the continued lack of a replay mode akin to that found in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. Given the fact that Mission Mode once again fails to deliver an adequate learning tool for newcomers, the lack of replays proves a hugely disappointing omission as they would have certainly been extremely helpful to both newcomers and pros alike.
There’s no doubting that Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 is a great game. Its fantastic visuals, extremely varied cast of characters and immediately gratifying gameplay hide a deceptively deep and surprisingly balanced fighter underneath. It was great when it was released last year and it’s even better now. If you’re a newcomer, I have no problem at all recommending this game. As a returning customer though, you may want to consider what kind of gamer you are. The new game modes currently available don’t add up to much, but the new characters and locations are universally brilliant and the tweaks under the hood make Ultimate far and away the definitive version of this extremely enjoyable crossover fighter. Could it have been delivered as DLC? Probably. The fact is though, Capcom are clearly trying to push the focus of the game in a new direction and there’s little doubt that releasing Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 as a retail product is the right way to do it.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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