Almost 10 years after the last game in the series, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order comes to Nintendo Switch this week. It feels like a throwback to the simple style of combat that I remember from games like X-Men Legends on the PlayStation 2. Having it on Switch makes for that same kind of couch co-op action on the go or at home.
Watch the video to see the game in action or read the transcript below:
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 starts with a re-introduction to the Guardians of the Galaxy, influenced by a blend of the comics, TV shows, and movies. It’s nice to see an alternate version of the characters I’ve come to love. Some of the characters have a lot of fun dialogue to chew through, and some voices sound like their silver screen counterparts. Each scene feels like a self-aware Saturday morning cartoon.
The game follows a constant rotation of super heroes as they track down those pesky infinity stones and prevent all of Marvel’s most infamous villains from getting their hands on them.
Combat is fairly straightforward. The Y button handles your light attack, while the X button is for more deliberate heavy attacks that can be switched up depending on whether you’re airborne or on the ground. Knowing when to go for quick attacks and dodge out of the way or flank an enemy is part of the constant hectic action.
Higher level enemies and villains have a purple stun meter that goes down with each attack you land. When the meter fully depletes, they’ll be temporarily stunned and you can go to town on them with your beefier attacks.
Attacks break down into four categories: light, heavy, special, and extreme. Special and Extreme Attacks have meters that fill up based on how much damage you deal. They dole out slightly more damage than regular attacks and can be paired up with other players for a Synergy Link where you can double up your attacks on an enemy.
Extreme Attacks are your most powerful attack and come with a huge blast of damage that can also be stacked with fellow players.
Characters have different strengths and moves. Ranged characters like Starlord can fire guns from a distance, while Captain America has good old fisticuffs and a nice combination of bashing with his shield and launching it at enemies.
Movement also changes depending who you’re playing as. If you’re playing as a more grounded character, you’ll get access to a handy double jump. Unless you’re a big boy like The Hulk, who just gets one hefty leap instead.
If you’re playing as someone like Iron Man or Captain Marvel, double-tapping your jump button lets you fly around the room, just out of reach of most enemies. My personal favourite, Miles Morales as Spider-Man, lets you swing around until you decide to slam the ground with one of your attacks. This also works for Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen.
Characters feel slightly different based on their abilities, but all handle pretty similarly. Their main attacks and ranged attacks don’t always feel too different, but there are still enough options to find a character that fits your playstyle, even if they might not be your actual favourite hero.
The game does a great job of giving you steady drip feed of Marvel super heroes to choose from as you progress through the story. It’s fan-service tapas, and there’s plenty to go around.
Along the way, you’ll find some pretty basic switch puzzles or the occasional blocks to push into place. These slow down the action and can be pretty boring, but sometimes the game throws in some baddies for you to pummel while you figure the puzzles out.
Forming your team of up to four players is a fun puzzle in team composition. Could this upcoming boss use a ranged attacker? Are their attacks easy to avoid if you can fly?
The game’s team selection menu also provides certain stat bonuses based on who you combine to form your team. Each hero comes with handy key phrases paired with icons for stats like health and defence. Selecting Captain America will give you an “Original Avengers” tag that gives everyone a special attack boost if others pick a fellow Avenger with the same corresponding tag, like Iron Man. This helps you know who to pair together for added bonuses, which you’ll need for challenging boss fights.
Playing solo is fine, but gathering actual humans in real life to play alongside you makes certain fights not only more fun, but easier to handle. The computer-controlled characters don’t always do what you want. It’s easier to tell a buddy to fall back or revive someone than hope the computer will finally get it.
The camera can be your greatest enemy when it decides to randomly point in the opposite direction of incoming attacks or enemies. It sometimes gets stuck on parts of the geometry until you move everyone into a different part of the room.
After a few hours of play, I’m really enjoying my time with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. It’s a goofy celebration of my favourite heroes that combines the cool parts of the comics, movies, and TV shows that’s wrapped in the simple mechanics of an action role-playing game that reminds me of huddling around an arcade cabinet with friends. And having it on Switch makes it easy to jump into co-op action on the go or at home.
We’re still testing out the online portion and we’ll have a review up on Kotaku soon.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order comes out on July 19 for Nintendo Switch.