Review: Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds

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The ultimate crossover fighting series is back after a ten-year hiatus. So, was it worth the wait? You bet your ass it was! That doesn’t mean it escapes the battle without a bloody nose and a black eye, but it still lands a knock-out punch of fan service and scores a decisive victory in the war to be the true champ of the fighting game genre.

Flashy is the most fitting word I can think of to describe Marvel vs. Capcom 3, as every aspect of the game is in your face and over the top. The core of the game remains true to series tradition, pitting Marvel superheroes and villains like Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, Hulk, Doctor Doom, Deadpool, Magneto and Sentinel against iconic Capcom mascots like Ryu, Chris Redfield, Dante, Wesker, Chun-Li, Viewtiful Joe, Nathan Spencer, Amaterasu and Arthur in three-on-three tag-team showdowns of pure, unadulterated fan service brawlin’.

Fights still take place on a two-dimensional plane, but for the first time, the characters are polygonal instead of sprite-based, and jump off the screen with stunning three-dimensional depth and detail that displays their signature moves and powers more gaudily than ever before. The graphics are eye-searingly bright, bursting with over-saturated colors that really pop on a nice HD display, and every fight plays out like a spectacular light show of screen-filling energy splashes, lasers, explosions, spider webs, slash marks and dust plums set to a cacophonic concert of familiar Capcom tunes, identifiable one-liners, and booming sound effects you almost expect to be accompanied by ‘WHAM’ and ‘POW’ text bubbles as seen in the pages of a comic. It verges on sensory overload at times, but ultimately settles into a happy middle ground between beauty and chaos.

To an extent, Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s style does outweigh the substance of its gameplay, but that’s only because the style goes so ridiculously over the top. It is true that Capcom streamlined the gameplay from previous installments to bring greater accessibility to a wider audience of gamers, shrinking the old four-button fighting mechanics down to three main attack buttons (light, medium and heavy) and an all-purpose special attack that is used for launching opponents into the air and subbing in reserve characters mid-combo. There’s also a new ‘Simple’ control configuration that allows beginners to pull off crazy combos with single button presses — and even with the standard control scheme it seems much easier to pile up 50-hit combos.

This simplification may be considered “dumbing down” by veterans of the old arcade games, but to say that is a gross exaggeration, if you ask me. Yes, the game is much easier for ‘casual’ players to dive into and button mash to victory. But Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is still very much a game that rewards assembling a balanced team, mastering techniques like counters, hyper combos, aerial combos, tag assists and crossover attacks, and learning the diverse play styles of the deep and varied character roster. The game is properly balanced to ensure skill and know-how trump spam no matter what, and the gameplay runs so fast and so smooth and controls so well that most gamers will be too busy kicking ass to care about whether or not the game is as ‘hardcore’ as previous installments.

Where Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s substance falters is in the shallowness of its overall content. The usual offering of offline modes like Arcade, Versus and Training are available, along with a Mission mode with 10 individual challenges per character, each teaching a more advanced combo sequence. But unfortunately, the Arcade mode’s character-specific endings are woefully unrewarding, treating you to comic book stills and a scant few lines of meaningless text, which is disappointing in contrast to the game’s amazing intro and that insane launch trailer Capcom put out (watch it below). It’s still fun to play through with different characters and unlock new characters and all sorts of collectibles (sound samples, movies, bios, concept art, 3D models, etc.) – and the final battle against Galactus is an intense challenge, rather than the frustratingly cheap end boss bout most fighting games close with. But I was saddened that the ultimate pay-off was so unsatisfying, and overall felt the offline content to be lacking the spark of inspiration I expected from a sequel so long in the making.

As for Mission mode, it’s a nice teaching tool, but it’s really only a mode that veteran players are going to be able to appreciate, as the combos eventually become too complicated for the average player to master. I can get through around six or seven missions each time, but then I just hit a wall where I simply can’t get my fingers to move fast enough.

The selection of arenas left me wanting as well. Perhaps there are more to unlock that I have yet to see, but by my count there are only eight stages, and only a few of those stand out. The Daily Bugle stage with a giant Spider-Man balloon floating in the background is pretty damn epic, and I enjoyed the Ghouls ‘N Ghosts theme and the Tricell Laboratory. But I couldn’t help but lament the lack of a hand-painted Okami level and at least one throwback stage from Street Fighter.

Online play is where the game leaves its mark, though. You can engage one other player in random player or ranked quick matches or hop into lobbies of 2, 4, 6 or 8 players and play in a group rotation like in the arcades, the champ fighting on until someone can knock him off. The online performance is as smooth as butter too, preserving the integrity of every outcome thanks to a lag-free fighting environment. And I also like the way Capcom set up the ranking system – you have a player license card that keeps track of all your stats, experience points and fighting styles for other players to see, and as you progress through each mode you unlock new profile emblems and titles so you can show off your accomplishments. The only shortcoming is the lack of a spectator mode during lobby play. The players waiting their turn are forced to sit in a plain lobby and watch health bars on the side of the screen update as the current fight persists, and it’s a painfully boring process to sit through, even in a small four-player lobby.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3 does disappoint in the outlined areas, but fortunately it excels in other areas that matter most: it’s outrageously fun to play, performs well online and off, controls like a dream, looks and sounds spectacular, and is properly balanced to reward dedicated players without scaring off ‘newbies.’ Simply put, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a treat of a fighting game for all challengers, and a flattering love letter to comic geeks and admirers of Capcom’s trademark retro camp.

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Pros:
+ Fun, flashy and smooth fighting engine
+ Eye-popping visual effects
+ Deep roster of favorite Marvel heroes/villains and Capcom icons
+ Streamlined fighting engine makes room for all challengers
+ Properly balanced to reward skillful play over button-mashing spam tactics
+ Rock-solid online performance

Cons:
– Lame Arcade mode character endings
– No spectator mode in online lobbies
– Too few stage environments
– Mission mode is too demanding for average players

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also available for Xbox 360
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 2/15/2011
Genre: Fighting
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-2 (offline and online; also supports 8-player lobbies)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!