Review: ‘Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3’ Is Nintendo Switch’s Superhero Smackdown


Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 on Nintendo Switch, like previous games in the series, is basically a superheroic reskin of Blizzard’s legendary action-RPG Diablo. And like many games inspired by Diablo (most infamously Destiny) you’ll either become completely addicted to the loop or question why you’re doing any of this as the numbers go up. What makes you fall into one camp or the other depends on game quality for sure but also personal preference. And it turns out fun but mostly brainless team-up action just feels so much more appropriate to me for a superhero blockbuster.

Subtitled “The Black Order,” Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3’s story mode is supposed to be about hunting down the Infinity Stones so Thanos can’t have them. But just like in the movies, that’s more of a framework for a bunch of rip-roaring self-contained adventures full of colorful but throwaway villains to vanquish and an ever expanding assemblage of superheroes to recruit. Daredevil even jokes about hallway fights. The snappy pacing and slick frequent cutscene transitions between levels make it tough to find a natural stopping point in the breezy ten-hour crossover campaign.

As I said in my preview, the roster here is quite impressive, not weirdly limited like Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite and thankfully not rendered in bootleg photorealistic art style like the upcoming Square Enix Avengers game. The story also does a good job of grouping characters in different “families” like classic Avengers Iron Man and Captain America, street-level ninja Defenders Iron Fist and Elektra, X-Men Wolverine and Nightcrawler, the Guardians of the Galaxy, mystical Midnight Sons Ghost Rider and Elsa Bloodstone, and young Spider-People Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy.

Beyond giving your team some aesthetic cohesion, characters in the same groups also receive extra team bonuses. I was going to go for an all-Black cast no matter what, like I did in the first game. But I also got a resiliency bonus for playing as members of The Crew: Black Panther, Storm, Luke Cage, and Falcon.

That’s just the start though when it comes to customizing characters. You can spend currency you earn on global team bonuses. Eventually you’ll also start gathering Infinity Stone shards called ISO-8 that buff characters you equip them to. They’re basically the game’s loot and can be enhanced or broken down into component parts. It makes the game’s downtime feel a little more involved than like a Lego Marvel Super Heroes game or something.

But ultimately Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is about smashing your way through waves of henchmen and bosses in combat encounter barely broken up by an environmental puzzle or two. It’s no Bayonetta or anything but Team Ninja’s combat does have some appreciated Japanese depth along with the Dynasty Warriors ridiculous spectacle. Characters have light, heavy, and jumping attacks that combo into each other pretty well depending on the character. You can spend energy to use four different special attacks as well you upgrade over time.

You’ll quickly fall into effective rhythms with your teammates and their skills as you swap between them. A typical tactic for me involves freezing hordes with Storm’s ice barrage, slicing through them with Black Panther’s quick light claw attacks, and using Luke Cage’s nonstop punching special on weakened bosses since his bulletproof skin shrugs off weak hits. Also Falcon flies around.

You’re supposed to sync up complementary special moves for synergy attacks but I found the controls for activating this too awkward in the heat of battle. More often I just waited for another meter to charge that lets you use an explosive screen-filling ultimate attack with all four characters at once.

The enemies aren’t geniuses but there’s a nice variety to them that makes you reconsider your approach at times. Take out lethal distant snipers before you worry about crowd control. Stagger heavy enemies by breaking their guard gauge. Toss explosive power cores back at towering Sentinel robots. Absorb and redirect dark dimension energy. And of course the generous supply of over-the-top bosses have their own gimmicks like Kingpin’s sumo charge or Doctor Octopus’s vulnerable tentacles.

By design the combat isn’t all that complicated. The varied but relatively simplistic character movesets encourage you to swap your team around more often to see something new. The nifty new zoomed-in single-player Heroic camera angle makes this look more like a third-person action game and better shows off the simple but slick levels and character models. The performance holds up even when things get wild. But you can still feel the game’s top-down roots and that’s okay. Again, this is Diablo but with all-ages superheroes instead of M-rated demons.

Fortunately, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 also realizes that messing around with buddies in the post-game is the real fun of Diablo. You can play locally with other Switch players or hop online. And the Infinity Rifts, along with extra campaign difficulties, give you plenty to do with your maxed-out team. These are collections of little gauntlets remixing content from the main game. Beat a wave of bosses. Kill enemies to replenish the timer as it runs out. Rely exclusively on special moves. They’re tough but you get great rewards for your troubles like new costumes, extra currency, and even a handful of unlockable characters. They make a part of the game that could have otherwise been a grind still feel meaningful.

So whether you want to marinade in a stylish rendition of the Marvel comic book universe or just chill out and plow through a bunch of fleeting but flashy fights with cool characters, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is pretty honest and unpretentious about what it offers. For more, here are some other cool Switch games to play and remember how Iron Man was completely right in Avengers: Endgame.

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