Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order Review – Switch

Review - Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

As a self proclaimed huge Marvel fan, with a healthy obsession for the movies and a love of the comics, artwork and various cartoon TV series I was surprisingly less than overly excited for this brand new Nintendo Switch exclusive initially. Developed by Team Ninja, the acclaimed makers of the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series, as well as Hyrule and Fire Emblem Warriors, the game is actually produced and published by Nintendo themselves and was announced as a Switch Exclusive in February. The Black Order is the third title in a series of games that, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve never played before. I couldn’t tell you anything about the series, and my only experience of the game before release was what I’d seen in a couple of trailers and some un-inspiringTreehouse footage from this years E3.

The story is like this. Thanos wants the Infinity stones for his fancy glove, and he’s sent his crew, the Black Order, to gather them up for him. The difference here though, when compared to recent mega hit Infinity War, is that the stones are turning up in a wide range of different places. From Marvel prison The Raft, to Professor X’s Mansion and all the way over in the Dark Dimension. The game also includes visits to Inhuman city Attilan and Knowhere. That’s right – a huge variety of locations and their respective characters are all here, and you get to play as loads of them. And this Variety is what turned out to be what I loved about this game the most; so many characters are included here, with something for every Marvel fan. I quite quickly went from un-interested to immensely excited to play more; as cool freeze frame introductions to new characters came thick and fast as I progressed through the game. It was genuinly exciting to see new familiar faces turn up, including somewhat surprise appearances from those such as Luke Cage, Spider-Gwen and the addition of Venom to the team, to name just a few. The game has a distinctive art style, with character designs that look similar to those in the movies, but clearly this isn’t designed to replicate the look and feel of that Universe; rather something like a mix between some of the cartoons and most recent comic iterations of the characters.

I began the game by choosing my preferred difficulty setting, from Friendly, for if you’re ‘new to action games’ or Mighty, if you are ‘familiar’ with action games. Having chosen the Mighty option i’m pleased to say that I haven’t found the game too difficult to play through. The difficulty curve is as you’d probably expect, with your most powered up team members needed for the biggest battles. One other option I was interested to see was that during the action I could choose a ‘Heroic’ camera which follows the currently selected character a little more closely than in the default view. It sounded good in principle, but I honestly found this a bit too close, restricting the view of the play field and location of the enemies and team members, so I quite quickly switched back. Playing on the small screen in handheld mode was also disappointing, as I felt like I was missing out on a key part of the presentation. It was frankly just too small to see what was happening, so I reverted back to big screen TV mode for most of my time with the game.

Gameplay itself is a mix of mashing buttons to punch / kick / shoot, depending on the character you’re playing as, and using L to avoid attacks. Doing so is essential as you roll, slide and dodge out of the way of persistent enemies. There are also some pretty impressive looking special moves to pull off with, what initially seem complicated, button combos. A mix of holding down R, plus A, B, X or Y to execute them by yourself, or, using ZR instead, to link up with other members of your team if they are close enough. Achieving this is even more impressive but, and pretty much the only time during the game, this is when the console suffers a little on the frame rate. When your meter is high enough you can also destroy the frame rate by another method; by activating a full on team-special-ultra-magic-super- duper-combo move in which all team members take part, joining in one after the other, on four presses of R and L together. It looks awesome, does loads of damage and really is a joy to behold that it never got tiring. Only, it was always happening just a bit slower on screen than I would have liked it to be.

During battles you have the option to switch between each of your four team members; selecting between characters is easily done by pressing one of the four directions on your d-pad / left Joy-con buttons. It’s a really nice feature to be able to do this so easily and quickly, swapping like this on the fly in order to add variety to the action. Although, i must admit, I often didn’t change until I was knocked out, because some of the characters including Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine are a particular joy to play as, I almost forgot I had the options. These characters in particular, with their range of long range, close combat and spectacular special moves felt powerful, fast and effective on the battle field.

Outside of the story mode, which averages out at around 10-15 hours or so of gameplay, depending on how good you are at it, a mode called ‘Infinity Trials’ plays out as repeat play throughs of different sections of levels from the main story mode. There may be different objectives to achieve; such as destroy 100 enemies without dying, repeat a boss battle or play through a section of the game within a set time limit, where destroying more villains rewards you with more time. These Trials let you unlock outfits for your characters, plus a tone of other items to help you level up your characters. I got the impression that these Trials should be played after you’ve finished the campaign, however, as I felt like I needed to have levelled up significantly before I would be able to achieve them. Certainly if I wanted to complete with a rank score any higher than a C grade, which, of course I did.

A few dodgy camera angles here and there, particularly when enjoying some multi-player action, and the need to keep all human controlled characters in view at all times, means it’s quite easy to lose track of where my character was on occasion. I haven’t been lucky enough to see what happens with more than two players as yet, but it’s a bit of a disappointment that does let the game down a little overall. But getting together a bunch of Marvel fans to play and enjoy this game together is a must. While I think of it, some boss battles can go on for quite a while – it’s fun to play but can get a little frustrating when you’re making slow progress and so it would be ideal to have focused, human team mates play with you at these times particularly.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is an essential game for Marvel fans everywhere. And to have it on Switch is a privilege for such Nintendo fans too. I loved the story, the interactions between characters, and building my team and levelling up at every checkpoint opportunity I came across. The variety of characters to choose, enemies to battle and locations to explore kept me hooked. With planned DLC, including more story modes, locations and characters there’ll be more to enjoy for even longer too.

Thanks to Nintendo UK for the download code.

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