Let’s start this off with a disclaimer of sorts, if only to make sure we’re all on the same page. Back in the beginning of this year, I reviewed Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and thought it was pretty fantastic, while operating under the assumption that we would likely see some sort of an expansion to that game something like a year or so after the fact. Instead, around nine months later we have a full expansion, dubbed Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which adds in a bunch of new characters and stages, a few new gameplay modes, and some gameplay balancing into the mix, instead of patching any of these things in or adding them as DLC. Now, I’m not the sort of person who actively resents this thing; unlike someone like Angry Joe, who has a wholly valid and utterly disdainful opinion of this move, I’m fine with it in theory because realistically, if you released the characters on their own at $5 a pop, that’d be an easy $70 for characters. Hell, even at $2.50 apiece you’d still be at $35, which is basically five bucks off of the actual asking price of this game, and with the added content, in theory, this seems like a pretty good deal. That said, I reviewed this game like nine months ago and this is basically the same game, so there is no way I’m writing a whole new review for the exact same game. As such, I’m basically bringing over a lot of the basic content from the original review and adding in new comments on the added content where applicable, as really, this is the same thing, more or less.
As such, anything italicized can be considered to be from the original review, while anything “normal”Â can be considered as new content. Cool? Cool.
The story of the game isn’t especially involved; the Marvel and Capcom universes have crossed together into one world, Galactus is coming to eat the Earth, and your chosen team of fighters has to stop him. That’s really about the size of it, and while the endings for each of the characters are fine enough, you really won’t be playing the game for its engrossing storyline. Insofar as game modes are concerned, however, you’ll get some decent mileage out of those. Offline, you can go up against the computer in Arcade Mode and plow through a series of matches to face Galactus, face friends locally in Versus play, and jump into the Training Mode to test out various combos and teams or fight with no consequences against friends. There’s also a Mission Mode where you can pull off increasingly more difficult combos and patterns to learn your characters and how they work. Online, you can take it to friends and strangers in Ranked or Player matches, and you can assemble rooms of people to take turns kicking the crap out of each other as the situation permits. There’s also a Gallery to look around in which archives artwork, endings, character profiles and models, voice samples, music, and other fun things for you to play around with. The game also allows you a profile to customize, which allows you to choose a tag and icon, view your stats, and set up three teams that can be instantly selected, complete with character color and support type, if you know who you’ll be playing as. As such, while there aren’t any weird gameplay modes like in Namco fighting games or what have you, everything that’s here is useful and worthwhile and the modes are all good fun.
Capcom has seen fit to add in a Spectator Mode to the Xbox Live play so that you can watch players beat the hell out of each other while waiting for your turn or if you want to learn tactics, as well as Galactus Mode, which does what it says on the box: it lets you play as Galactus against the CPU. Both of these modes are, honestly, fine additions to the game, but not really anything exciting on their own; Galactus Mode is a mode you’ll play a couple times for laughs, but aside from earning the ending for Galactus, it’s not like it’s a strictly competitive mode or anything and is really only there for you to humiliate the CPU. It’s also only unlocked by default if you owned Marvel vs. Capcom 3 so if you avoided that game expecting you’d end up getting the upgrade, you won’t see it for a good long time. Spectator Mode is a nice addition if you want to see what you’re up against in battles and it works perfectly fine, but some sort of an online tournament mode or something similar to what was added to the later releases of Street Fighter 4 would have likely been more amusing. You’re also losing access to the extra challenges and shadow battles that have been patched into Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, unfortunately, and while they’re not an especially big loss, it would have been smarter for Capcom to incorporate them from day one to make the product seem like it has more value by association.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is still one of the better looking fighting games on the market, both from an artistic and technical standpoint. Artistically, the character models are well rendered and look exactly as they’d be expected to, and the character animations flow very well and don’t suffer from any obvious issues. The backgrounds are also lively and show an impressive amount of attention to detail, and little touches, such as some characters having completely different costumes instead of mere palette swaps, show that Capcom really put some good effort into the experience. Technically, there is no obvious slowdown during the proceedings, even when you’re getting into massive multi-person super moves, and the framerate is stable all around. The game also makes great use of special effects and lighting, whether they be in the special moves or the environments, making for a game that is very visually impressive to watch as well as to play. This still holds true for the new stages and characters, fortunately, so bravo for that. Aurally, the music is well produced, and each character gets their own song that switches up between characters as other characters are taken out, and classic songs, such as Arthur’s theme from Ghouls and Ghosts, pop up here and there. The voice acting is also very good, with some familiar voices popping up here and there (Spider-Man’s voice actor, for instance) amidst the new ones, and the Capcom characters offer a choice between English and Japanese voices that can be set from the options menu in a nice touch. The battle sounds are fitting and compliment the on-screen action nicely, and you’ll not find a sound out of place as you’re beating the crap out of your opponents. Again, the new characters who have been added to the game get the same treatment, so there’s no real change here all in all.
For those who are fans of the Marvel vs. Capcom series, you’ll have a bit of work cut out for you, as the gameplay mechanics have been simplified significantly, though players who have played with Tatsunoko vs. Capcom will probably have a decent idea of what’s going on. Each character has a light, medium and heavy attack, rather than individual punches and kicks, which can be chained together for combos and such. There’s also a Special button now, which is primarily used for launching opponents into the air or spiking them into the ground in combos, but can also be used for other purposes with various characters, so you can think of it as a modifier as well. The game will also set up buttons for each of your two tag team partners to allow you to use them in battle. Pressing the button summons the partner to provide support with whatever action you chose for them when you started, while holding the button allows you to tag them in for battle. Each character you can play as can also perform various special moves, used by pressing some directional input series followed by one or more buttons, which allows them to throw projectiles, attack, teleport, dodge, or any one of a number of other things, depending on the character. You can also, as noted, choose the support moves your allies will used based on the team dynamic and your style of play, so you can have a character set up to throw projectiles to give you breathing room to do something, or perform an anti-air counter if your character has none, for example. These are the basics of the game, and while fans of the series and newcomers alike will want to spend some time mastering the concepts, they’re not so hard to understand and work with and you’ll likely have a pretty good idea of what you’re doing in no time.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 brings its own unique elements to the franchise, of course, while also carrying over some elements from its predecessors. The game offers your standard super moves, called Hyper Combos, which are executed by performing a directional input and pressing two attack buttons at the same time, and each character has several available. By performing the directional motions for one of your partner’s combos while you’re performing one, however, you can also bring them in to perform a Team Hyper Combo, at the cost of another super bar, and you can chain between all three of your characters for up to three Hyper Combos in one shot. You can also call all three of your characters together to perform one huge super, called a Crossover Combo, for massive damage and special effects mayhem. You can also perform large air combos, alone or with your partners as a Team Aerial Combo, or prevent said combos from being performed on you when you get launched, to give or avoid big damage. You can also employ X-Factor by pressing all of the attack buttons and the Special button at once, which jacks up your attack damage and movement speed, and can impart other effects, and can be boosted by having less team members available, meaning that the worse off you are the greater the boost. There are also various strategic moves you can employ, such as the Snap Back, which drains one super bar and knocks the present opponent out of battle, so you could knock out a healthy character and replace them with a damaged character, or the Advancing Guard, which pushes enemies back to avoid combo situations and reduce pressure when you’re locked down, for example.
The game is mostly about the strategy of how you assemble your team, as different characters work best in different combinations, and that’s the way it’s been from the beginning. You’re given thirty two characters to start with, including old favorites like Ryu, Morrigan, Spider-Man and Captain America, as well as newcomers like Albert Wesker, Mike Haggar, Thor and Deadpool, as well as four hidden characters, and you can make three person teams from them to accentuate positives and minimize weaknesses. Each character feels surprisingly solid, and characters that don’t seem obviously useful at first show their usefulness as you start experimenting with teams and options. While it’s entirely possible to build poor team combinations, none of the characters themselves seem useless or outmatched once you get used to them. Frankly, the Marvel vs. Capcom series has never really been about character balancing as much as wacky fights and crazy combinations, but the game feels quite balanced overall and the game feels forgiving without being easy. You’re even afforded a “Simple”Â mode that allows poor players the ability to string combos with one button, use special moves with another and Hyper Combos with a third to simplify things for less skilled or younger players. Even the final boss, Galactus, isn’t terribly broken, astonishingly enough; while he can be daunting at first, his attacks can largely be avoided by exploiting Super Jumps (down, up) and wiping him out on the hardest difficulty wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be. For inexperienced players he’ll likely be a hassle, but compared to Alpha-152 from Dead or Alive 4 or Azazel from Tekken 6 he’s child’s play.
The big addition to the game in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the improved roster, which features a total of forty eight characters (fifty if you downloaded Jill and Shuma Gorath), which is an absolutely massive number of characters for a fighting game in this day and age. The characters from the original release are all intact, and twelve new characters are added to the game in an even volume on each side. From the Capcom universe you get Frank West (Dead Rising), Vergil (Devil May Cry 3), Phoenix Wright (the Ace Attorney series), Strider Hiryu (Strider), Firebrand (Demon’s Crest) and Nemesis (Resident Evil 3), while on the Marvel side you get Iron Fist, Rocket Raccoon, Nova, Ghost Rider, Hawkeye, and Doctor Strange. Aside from them, however, the game has also been rebalanced a bit, as characters have had some ranges and abilities changed, and in some cases, have seen whole new moves added to their lists, such as Ryu (who got a TON of new moves), Hulk, She-Hulk, Viewtiful Joe and Nate Spencer, among others. While the game isn’t wholly different in theory, there has been a lot of rebalancing of characters done to the game, and the end result is that some characters will need to be re-learned quite a bit, especially for fans, depending on the changes made. This is a good thing, however, as several characters who felt a bit more powerful than others (Sentinel comes to mind) feel a bit more on-par with others and the game generally feels more balanced than its predecessor as a result.
The twelve additions to the roster are certainly good for filling out your options, but what’s novel is that, for the most part, they’re all pretty solid characters in their own right. Frank West, though somewhat similar to his Tatsunoko vs. Capcom version, has some mild differences to show off, and while he’s a weird character to use, he’s also very fun to fool around with and useful for more aggressive players. Vergil is somewhat less varied than Dante and less user friendly than Trish, but still manages to hold his own with some effective special moves and a combat style similar to the aforementioned characters. Phoenix Wright is kind of a joke character in theory, but in practice has some interesting moves once you change over to his alternate style and, while not likely to be a tournament favorite, is effective enough to be usable. Strider comes almost intact from Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and is a fast, interesting character with some neat moves at his disposal. Firebrand is a big aerial fighter and works well from that position, though he has some surprisingly solid ground offense as well. Nemesis basically feels like an attempt to create a Capcom version of Sentinel, and while he’s a heavy damage character with useful moves, he hits high on many of them, making him iffy against smaller characters. On the Marvel side, Iron Fist plays like Fei Long with much more variety (think Kyo Kusanagi from King of Fighters ’97 onward) and is a surprisingly awesome character for aggressive players. Rocket Raccoon is a weird keep-away character with plenty of solid punishment moves, and thanks to his small stature, really messes with larger characters. Nova is a good all-around character with some surprisingly disgusting moves at his disposal and seems like the most all-around friendly character of the lot. Ghost Rider is a strong character with a moveset reminiscent of Omega Red, but with more options thanks to his “flaming spirit of Hell”Â gimmick. Hawkeye is another keep away character with lots of tricky ranged attacks that make him excellent, but slightly limited in some respects. Finally, Doctor Strange feels like a modified Magneto with some of MODOK thrown in and he’s a more complex character all in all. Astonishingly, none of the added characters feels “rushed”Â all in all, and while some of the characters are a little weird and less than tournament friendly, they’re all pretty solid all in all.
You can beat Arcade Mode once in about thirty minutes or so, but there are a ton of things to clear out and unlock in the game just to start with. By clearing out challenges in Mission Mode you’ll unlock titles to use and artwork, and by clearing out the Arcade Mode with various characters you’ll unlock artwork, and other amusing things. There are also a sizable amount of Achievements to clear out, and many are fairly easy to unlock, asking you to get various combo levels or perform various fight combinations online and offline. Speaking of the online, it’s moderately well populated and quite a lot of fun, as you can jump into lobbies and goof around with people while playing and switching up or participate in Ranked battles to improve your online standing depending on your personal interests. It should be noted that with Spectator Mode, you can jump in as a watcher online and view other players as they take it to each other if you want to learn how to work with some characters, and that the net code for the game seems significantly improved over its predecessor, as matches seem more stable online, though less people are playing at the moment. With new Achievements to earn, new characters to play with, and some new modes or additions to modes, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a solid improvement on its predecessor and, if you’re a fan, generally worth the price without a second thought.
Having said that, let it not be said that the game is so dramatically improved that one need rush out and purchase it without a few considerations. The endings are still static images, there are really no major modes added to the game aside from the ability to watch online matches and the ability to play as Galactus, and the gameplay mechanics are still simplified when compared to other Capcom fighting games. It’s great that the net code has been improved and the game has been balanced, and the additional characters and stages make for some good additions, but it would have been nice to see some more play modes crammed in given the circumstances. Mission Mode is still as unhelpful as ever compared to that of Street Fighter 4, the online is still limited and is actually more limited than that of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at this point, and while it’s nice that the game no longer kicks you to the menu if you pick an unusable lobby, it’d be nicer if there was more to do online than watch two people play for multiple rounds before you finally get a shot at playing. Basically, it comes down to the fact that the game is good but could have been better, because at this point it’s just new characters and stages, nothing else, and while that’s great for the price (especially considering how expensive that would have been as DLC), at the end of the day it’s not a big change or addition to the formula, as the final product is basically unchanged from its predecessor, save for new characters and stages and some balancing changes and improved net code that really could have been patched in for all the difference it makes.
Really, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is Marvel vs. Capcom 3 with some patches and new characters tossed in, and while that’s great in the sense that it’s a great upgrade of a great game, it leaves the player happy for the content but sad that there’s not more to really do with it. There are a still decent amount of game modes to work with and the game is still quite stylish, both visually and aurally. The gameplay is simple enough to pick up, and while you’ll have to spend some time getting used to the game if you’re new to it, the game is structured in a way that things are simple to pick up for all types of gamers and fans will be able to jump right in. The addition of twelve new characters, eight new stages, improved net code, notable character balancing, a Galactus Mode and Spectator Mode and some new Achievements to unlock basically justifies the cost of the release, honestly, as all of these things together would easily end up being more than $40 as DLC, and the end result is a solid upgrade of a great game that fans will find to be worth owning. However, the storyline is still bare bones, the online component is still lacking in options, the simplified control scheme is still unlikely to impress more skilled players, the game still isn’t very helpful when it comes to learning the mechanics, and the game still feels like it’s lacking in options, which makes the re-release here somewhat harder to swallow. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is still worth owning if you loved the original release and want more characters or if you missed it and are interested, as it’s basically the definitive version of the game all in all, but if you were looking for more variety to the experience this might be a bit of a harder pill to swallow, as the new modes are meager and you’re basically paying for more combat option variety, not gameplay variety.
The Scores: Story/Game Modes: GOOD
Miscellaneous: MEDIOCRE FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME.
Short Attention Span Summary: Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is essentially the definitive version of the game, in that it has an absolutely massive roster, improved net code and a generally better balance to it, but it lacks in any sort of significant game mode additions, leaving it a game with more tools but less to do with them. The plot, while very bare-bones and minimally presented, is fine enough and there are some minor additions to the already acceptable amount of play modes, and the strong visuals and audio make as good of an impression as ever. The gameplay remains identical, so while newcomers may have some learning in store, experienced players will be at home, and between the character rebalancing, the addition of twelve new characters and eight new stages, and the added modes and Achievements, there’s new stuff to play with that justifies the asking price and generally makes for an easy recommendation if new characters is all you care about. However, the story is still wafer thin, there’s still a dearth of options, especially online, the simplified controls are still less than exciting for the more developed player, the game still isn’t especially helpful when teaching you the basics, and the game ultimately still feels like it’s lacking in options for things to do with the game. If you’re interested in more characters and don’t care about anything else or you’ve not invested in the game at all, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a fine purchase at a discounted price that basically makes up for the added content on its own, but if you were hoping for more things to do with the came instead of more tools to work with, you’ll find this to be a bit of a letdown in the end.
Mark B. is the Senior Editor at Diehard GameFAN, mostly because he’s been on staff for a decade. He has previously written for 411Games, InsidePulse Games, Not a True Ending, Retrograding and Beyond the Threshold, and he maintains multiple infrequent columns, as well as a Hitbox stream on Saturdays. You can check out his archives and non-game related work over at markbwriting.com, and follow him on Twitter at MarkBWriting or Facebook at MarkBWriting. (Special thanks to J. Rose for the artwork.)