Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order Review

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order Review

It’s been about a decade since fans have seen a new entry in the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series. But leave it to Nintendo and Team Ninja to surprise with the best one yet, a game loaded with fan service and fun moments. It could use a little polish in spots, particularly with online play. But Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order for Nintendo Switch delivers as needed.

The game follows a handful of characters – over 30 in all – as they take on Thanos and his Black Order, along with a handful of other villains. It’s a well-conceived story that has a few good turns which won’t be spoiled here. But comic book fans are in for a treat, especially as some favorite characters – like Spider-Gwen! – join the cast.

As it continues onward, players can choose their team of four characters however they please, balancing between brawlers, distance shooters and combinations of the two. The better they keep things straightened out, the more of a chance they stand against bosses and groups of enemies.

Over the course of the game, more moves can be unlocked, along with bonus skins and even more characters. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 provides a wealth of stuff to unlock. On top of that, Nintendo has a huge amount of DLC on the way, including paid packs (like the recently announced Marvel Knights collection) and free content. So this party doesn’t look to end anytime soon.

What’s great about Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is that it doesn’t miss a beat from the previous games. It’s a fun, arcade-style brawler at its heart, with each character bringing something to the table. What’s more, the developers at Team Ninja keep throwing curves at players. One minute, it’s playing around with some switch-flipping ideas to reach locked areas in a prison. The next, there’s a fun boss fight taking place with Venom and Electro combining their powers. This game offers up a lot of new things to the Ultimate Alliance formula.

However, there are some things that could use some polish. The visuals aren’t the greatest, as the frame rate drops in some areas. And the online multiplayer can take a bit to connect. Some patches would go a long way to clean things up.

Overall, it’s nice to have this series back after nearly a decade off. Nintendo came out of left field by announcing its return last year. And the game surprised us even more by making it feel like it’s never missed a beat.

Presentation

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3’s visuals can be somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand, the level design is pretty fantastic. Team Ninja put a lot of effort into the design of the Marvel Universe here, from the return of familiar locales (The Raft!) to throwing in some new ones. And the characters look great, with distinctive touches that make them stand out. (Just watch Deadpool for a few seconds and you’ll see what we mean.)

On the other hand, the frame rate drops down quite frequently. Not to the point that the game doesn’t run, but it does slow up a bit often. This is especially true if you play Ultimate Alliance in handheld mode. It goes down to about 20-25 frames per second. It’s not unplayable, but it can be easy to lose your character in the fracas.

As for audio, the characters sound good, in terms of sound-alikes for Hollywood counterparts. And the music is good, with Marvel themes that bring everything together pretty nicely. In short, it’s a great, but not fantastic, package that really brings together the Marvel Ultimate Alliance motif in just the right way. It just needs a little more polish.

RATING: 3.5/5

Gameplay

Here’s where Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 really earns its keep. As mentioned above, it feels just like the classic entries in the series, but still fresh and new. That’s because Team Ninja incorporates a lot into the game’s overall design, while keeping its general principles in tow. It’s a neat trick that really works.

First off, it’s fun to experiment with different teams. You may feel tempted to try out an all-Avengers squad (or a Spider-verse team with Venom). But it never hurts to try out Wolverine with Deadpool, and a little Captain Marvel on the side, just to go, “Hey, what if?” Or a number of combinations. Who knows, you might just find something that clicks.

The gameplay is a blast. Even though the beat-em-up tactics can be repetitive to some, it’s a joy mowing down opponents with special moves and combos. Unlocking new moves is a plus; and the bonus team-up super moves – particularly on bosses – are a sight to behold. (That is, if you can make out what’s happening – sometimes it’s a bit much.)

You can play the game solo, and it’s not bad with AI opponents. But a game like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is built with multiplayer in mind. “Couch” multiplayer, or playing locally with buddies, is the best way to go. There’s nothing like having allies join up with you and teaming up to take down opponents with local tactics. It’s a lot of fun.

Online play is all right, too. But as mentioned above, it can take a while to connect with sessions. The feature did just go live on the game’s first day of release, so it’s still going through some hitches. It’s not bad, but there are still some kinks to work out. If you can, stick with local for the time being…unless you don’t have any friends around.

RATING: 4/5

Replay Value

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 has abundant replay value. The story mode will take you several hours to get through; and there are time trials where you can unlock bonus goodies and challenge others as well. Not to mention being able to go through the game with additional teams to see if something works better in the long run.

And that’s not to mention what Nintendo will bring to the table with DLC. The Marvel Knights DLC will debut soon, along with packs featuring the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Free DLC is also on the way, including Colossus and Cyclops, along with extra characters. (Howard the Duck, maybe? Fingers crossed?) And who knows what else could be added to the story?

It seems like Nintendo has good long-term plans for the game. And considering its popularity, that’s excellent news, as it’ll keep players around for the long haul. This Alliance could last for a good while.

RATING: 4.5/5

Final Thoughts

Even though it could use a little more work in the visual and online components, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a welcome return for the franchise. It keeps all its gameplay fundamentals intact, while introducing new ideas and a truly packed roster. And it’s only going to grow bigger with more additions as time goes on. As long as it patches things up and continues to expand upon its positives, there’s no telling where this Marvel universe can go on Nintendo Switch.

Overall Rating: 4/5

(A review code was provided by Nintendo.)