Get ready for an ‘old-man-yells-at-sky’ moment.
The gaming industry has changed drastically over the last ten years, with games as a service becoming more predominate. Keeping up with the likes of Fortnite and FIFA is almost a full-time job, with seasons, timed events and continual updates designed not only draw in new players but keep ‘em playing. It’s perfectly possible to put hundreds upon hundreds of hours into games like Destiny, never getting bored with the evolving and shifting nature of the game. For 50 quid, it’s great value per hour, but it does mean that a small number of mega-games have increasingly sucked up all the energy in the room, with the unfortunate consequence that mid-budget games have become increasingly rare.
Quick burst experiences like F-Zero, Crazy Taxi, and Super Monkey Ball are slowly becoming extinct, held on life support by mobile spin-offs and HD remasters of older games. It’s a shame because they have provided us with some of our most fond gaming memories.
Enter Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, a game that reminded us of the PS2 era.
And yes, that is a compliment.
This superhero scrapper sees you take charge of four heroes, running through corridors and button-bashing bad guys to oblivion, Gauntlet style. As you fight, you upgrade your heroes, giving them new skills and abilities. Most of the fighting is confined to two buttons – used for light and heavy attacks – with the added bonus of two special abilities.
Firstly, there’s a small special ability. If you’re playing the drop-in-drop-out cooperative mode, you can combine special attacks to deal out even more damage, leaving solo players to call up a menu to force a teammate to combine with you. ‘Ultimate’ attacks can only be used rarely, meanwhile. These fill the screen with effects and deal big damage. Again, combining these attacks will significantly up the damage factor.
There’s a pool of over 30 characters, including some lesser-knowns, and each has an individual move set and unique animations. I got a real kick out of seeing the entire Marvel universe in one game, and the writing is witty and fun with some lovely little true-to-character dialogue lines that gleam with the typical Marvel irreverence. Those unfamiliar with the deeper cuts in Marvel lore won’t be left behind, so worry not – title cards pop up when a new character is introduced, with an occasionally amusing description of who they are.
The surprisingly lengthy (15-hour, approx.) campaign acts as a tour of various locations in the Marvel universe, each stuffed with unique boss fights featuring a smorgasbord of classic villains. It’s just a shame that beyond the cosmetics, all locations boil down to small rooms and tight corridors.
Given Team Ninja’s expertise, what surprised me most was how unrefined it all feels. There’s a lot of enemy repetition, some areas and levels feel a bit unfinished and the combat is mostly of the button-bashing variety. I was also surprised by how little I cared about any of this. I had a bucketload of fun with MUA3. I loved seeing all the characters interact. The button-bashing reminded me of the brainless but awesome carnage of EDF and it was lovely to sit down on the same couch as another person and just wade through enemies.
It all makes MUA3 rather hard to score. I really should mark it down. It has weird difficulty jumps, the camera is often laughably terrible, and sometimes it’s a bit technically wonky with a little bit of slowdown rearing its ugly head.
And yet I loved it from the perspective of a Marvel fan. It’s a celebration of these characters, and it filled me with pangs of nostalgia for when games were content to simply be fun. Maybe that’s enough for you. It was for me.