Game Reviews

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 Review

This third installment feels like it could be so much more.

by William Schwartz

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is so close to being one of the best Marvel games that has ever been made.  So close, yet so far.  It’s chocked full of Marvel Universe goodness, with characters that you know and love and some you may have never heard of.  It tells a captivating, albeit familiar story.  The art style makes you forget all about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the production value is top notch in terms of voice acting and music. There’s a nice amount of depth in terms of customizing and creating the ultimate group of Marvel heroes.  Holding it back, the core mechanics of the game and its rote combat and poor online experience.

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If you’re a fan of Marvel Comics, it’s hard not to love the idea of the Ultimate Alliance games.  They throw a lot of rules out of the window and allow you pair super heroes and villains with one another for some pretty incredible scenarios.  While the story you’ve likely heard before (you know the one regarding the Infinity Stones, stopping Thanos, etc) — you find yourself with much more than the Avengers to pull off the job.  Along the course of the great story in Marvel Ultimate Alliance you’ll dive into the worlds of Spider-Man, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, X-Men, Daredevil, and other more niche Marvel properties.  It’s a fantastic 12 hour jaunt all across the Marvel Universe that has you tracking down the Infinity Stones and trying to keep them out of the hands of the Black Order.  If you’re judging Marvel Ultimate Alliance on the surface elements of the presentation and story it’s really quite enjoyable.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a movie.  It’s a video game that needs to be played, and most of that gameplay is combat.  In Ultimate Alliance you are largely playing as a four hero team.  You’ll start out with a handful of heroes to choose from, and as you progress through the game you’ll unlock more and more characters to assemble your group.  Despite having a synergy system and multiple abilities for each character, the combat just feels a little bit bland.  There isn’t a mastery curve that you’ll find in other games of this type.  You’ll be mashing buttons from the beginning to the end of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and it leaves you wanting a little bit more depth.  After playing games like Marvel’s Spider-Man or the Batman Arkham series, Ultimate Alliance feels like a mindless beat ’em up where you almost dread the next wave of combat because it’s going to offer very little different than the previous one.

Playing the game solo with AI partners, the synergy system does a good job in allowing you to use your abilities in tandem with the characters you aren’t controlling.   While this is a nice feature for the player who will never play multiplayer, Ultimate Alliance 3 should be the ideal online game to get together with a group of friends, and enjoy.  The overall experience in Ultimate Alliance 3 is much better when playing with someone else.  Whether that’s a single other player in cooperative or up to three others to round-out the four person squad.  The game is just more enjoyable when tackling it with friends.  However, unless you have those friends to play with locally, you’re going to be in for some problems.

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Like many other Nintendo Switch online games, online multiplayer is a crap shoot.  Actually, we can’t even say crap shoot this time around, because every single online match that we played during our time with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 resulted in a session that had players warping all over the screen.  Due to just about everyone on the console playing via wi-fi connections, you’re going to run into the same problems that we’ve seen in other online-focused games on the platform.  Latency, disconnects, frame rates, it looks bad and it plays bad more often than it works as intended.  So much so that instead of playing this game the way that seemed like it should be more fun (or at least make the monotonous combat more bearable), resulted in something that was more frustrating than enjoyable.  Even if it worked, Nintendo’s online network is such a joke at this point.  The reliance on friend codes to play with people you know is ridiculous in 2019.  At every step, the online experience in Ultimate Alliance 3 feels more complex than it needs to be, due to the limitations of Nintendo’s online service.  There is the local co-op option though and we found this to be the most enjoyable way to play Ultimate Alliance 3.  At its core it is a game that is built for cooperative multiplayer.  If you don’t have those local friends to play with though, the other options just aren’t that good.

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Combat and online issues aside, Ultimate Alliance 3 is still enjoyable for fans of the Marvel comics or movies.  There are some great moments in the campaign.  From fighting Juggernaut as he rampages through Xavier’s Mansion to fighting Ultron atop Stark Tower.  There are some great moments in the game for sure.  What makes Ultimate Alliance 3 so disappointing is the lack of depth in the combat though, because there is a lot on the edges of this game to enjoy in terms of customization and progression that ultimately feels wasted.  There’s a whole system of upgrades, currency, materials, and collectibles that allow you to fine tune your group of heroes.  You can throw points into your Alliance stats which applies to any alliance you create.  You can fine tune characters on a per-character basis with ISO-8 crystals (and upgrade these crystals as well).  You can throw more XP into your favorite heroes by collecting XP Cubes and you’ll be managing the points you earn by slotting them into the characters you like the most (upgrading abilities and ultimately power level).   Though these systems can be as deep as the sea and still fall flat if the combat pay-off doesn’t feel any different because of it.  And that’s basically the problem here.  Regardless of the changes that were being made on the back-end of the game, combat never really feels any different.

I can fathom a player who enjoys the combat more than myself, someone that wants to get everything they can out of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3.  If that’s the case, there is plenty to do in the game. The aforementioned leveling structure has plenty to sink your teeth into and plenty to collect.  There are multiple difficulty levels to tackle, and a series of challenge rifts which allow you to further your collecting with things like custom costumes for each character.  There’s nothing to knock on Ultimate Alliance 3 when it comes to the content.  There’s a good bit here, it’s just at odds with the core gameplay.

The Verdict

The thing that I kept saying to myself when playing Ultimate Alliance 3 is that if this wasn’t a Marvel game with such beloved characters and familiar story lines it would be a bad game.  A great coat of paint does raise the average for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, but its roots are a rote beat ’em up that shows off all its tricks in the first couple of hours and wears out its welcome well before the credits roll.

"meh"
meh

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3

  • Available On: Nintendo Switch
  • Published By: Nintendo
  • Developed By: Team Ninja
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • US Release Date: July 19th, 2019
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Quote: "The thing that I kept saying to myself when playing Ultimate Alliance 3 is that if this wasn't a Marvel game with such beloved characters and familiar story lines it would be a bad game.  A great coat of paint does raise the average for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, but its roots are a rote beat 'em up that shows off all its tricks in the first couple of hours and wears out its welcome well before the credits roll.  "
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