When Nintendo announced that they had secured Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order as a Switch-exclusive, it was seen as quite the coup. After all, Marvel is probably the hottest franchise in entertainment right now (you’ve only got to look at the box office success of Endgame to see that), whilst it’s also full to the brim with iconic faces that even those who aren’t interested in the movies or comics would be able to recognise. Add to that the fact that a top-quality developer in Team Ninja was at the helm and the recipe was in place for the game to be something special.
In many ways it is too, with the abundance of playable heroes and the impressive showdowns with villains proving absolutely thrilling throughout. However, it is guilty of feeling a little repetitive in design at times too, with the gameplay feeling a little bit samey and button-mashy in-between its more spectacular moments.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order’s narrative follows familiar territory by focusing on the Infinity Stones and Thanos’ quest to find them all – I’m sure that’s something we ALL know about now, right? However, whilst the big purple baddie is still seen as the biggest threat to humanity, there are also a horde of different villains looking to seek the ultimate power offered by the colourful stones this time around. Fortunately, there are plenty of heroes at hand that are ready to take down each evil threat, and it’s up to you to assemble a team that best suits you and send them into the action.
It’s a pretty conventional tale as far as the Marvel ethos is concerned, with the epic scale of the battle at hand proving pretty common in both the comic books and the movies. Still, with thirty-six heroes to play as in the game (that are all brilliantly represented with a fantastic look and voice-work) and a heck of a lot of bosses to take down, there’s no doubting that the bar has truly been raised as far as the cast size is concerned. With plenty of familiar faces as well as some you may have never even seen before mingling together, every Marvel fan is sure to find something they love in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order’s tale.
From a gameplay perspective, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order actually feels quite old-school in design. You’ll beat up enemies by mashing together light and heavy combos, moving from room to room as you clear each area of your foes whilst switching between members of your four-person party on the fly. There’ll be the occasional puzzle and platforming section in between it all as well as some collectibles to find, whilst you’re never too far away from a boss fight where you’ll really have your skills tested. In all though, it feels a lot like one of the old-school beat ‘em ups you might have played before, but with a modern lick of paint and some additional mechanics.
The big feature of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is the cast of super heroes at your disposal, with an impressive thirty-six characters available at launch (and additional ones coming soon via free and paid DLC). There are a lot of familiar faces to be seen, with the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, Deadpool and Venom available to play as, though some unfamiliar faces like Ms. Marvel and Crystal show up too. Iconic villains will also join your ranks, with both Magneto and Loki joining your side as you look to save humanity. Basically, players are INCREDIBLY spoilt for choice.
What’s most impressive is that the characters themselves do feel unique to use and embrace the characteristics of their counterparts. Iron Man can fly around whilst blasting out lasers for example, whilst Spider-Man is able to swing around and shoot web. The Incredible Hulk on the other hand can cause plenty of destruction with his smashes, whilst Captain Marvel is able to fly towards enemies and blast through them with a powerful punch. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order does a great job of actually making you feel like the heroes you’re playing as, and with multiple abilities and even the option to team up together to blast out more powerful attacks available, you’ll REALLY feel like you’re taking on the role of a super hero.
As you take down foes you’ll level up, with the player able to improve existing abilities as well as unlock new ones as they go along. In fairness, the XP system is quite generous, so you’ll see yourself level up quite often. This is something I particularly appreciated, because the way the game is designed to constantly let you shuffle your party around encourages you to play around with different characters often – knowing that you’ll never be too under-levelled to do this with characters you hadn’t tried yet ensured that I never felt like I should just stick with my higher-level party. In fairness though, new characters you unlock typically come in at a high enough level to suit the area you’re at, so you should never feel too overwhelmed by your foes.
That being said, it should be noted that Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order isn’t necessarily an easy game. You’ll face off against a ton of enemies at a time, whilst the brilliant boss battles will really push your skills to the limit by challenging you to play a little differently – the encounter with Sandman requires you to solidify him by blasting him with a liquid-shooting gun first for example, whilst when battling Venom you need to lure him into hitting some electrical wires before you can hurt him. These creative encounters really show the best side of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order and it was always exciting to see what villain would reveal themselves next; just know that your battle with them will be tough if you go in unprepared and don’t think outside of the box.
It all comes together to make for an enjoyable experience, though there are some aspects of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order’s design that felt underwhelming. For one, the level design could be a little bland – whilst you do visit a myriad of different locales that’ll be familiar to Marvel fans, they’re often broken down into repetitive rooms and corridors that challenge you to do the same things over and over. It’s fun to use the heroes and their powers, but when you’re mashing buttons for minutes on end just to clear out yet another group of enemies, it’s hard not to feel a little underwhelmed. It just felt like a formality at times to build up to the more enjoyable boss fights, which is a bit of a shame given how many goons you’ve got to get through to get to them – it just felt like it lacked the imagination of more modern beat ‘em ups.
Another area in which Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order falters is with the in-game camera, with it often struggling to keep up with the action or even completely obscuring your view at times. There are two camera options in place though, with the ‘Heroic’ camera giving the viewpoint of a more traditional third-person adventure, but even that isn’t able to mask how hectic and unpredictable the camera will actually be. It’s something you do get used to the more you play the game, but just be warned that you’ll encounter more than a few frustrating instances of a shoddy viewpoint throughout your adventure.
These are problems most Marvel fans will be able to overlook though, especially when playing in multiplayer. I went through the entirety of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order with a friend in local co-op and we had a hell of a good time, with the constant switching of heroes and focus on team work making for some grand encounter with our vicious foes. The Marvel franchise as a whole has always been one that’s easy to enjoy and discuss in depth with friends, so being able to be a part of an adventure together was a whole lot of fun. Want to know the best part of all? There’s the option in place for four-player co-op, so if you’ve got a few of your friends together you can really go all-out Avenger-style on your quest to beat Thanos. It’s good stuff.
Developer: Team Ninja
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch