This isn’t the first fighter featuring characters from the Marvel series of comics and game characters from Capcom’s videogame titles as might already have been guessed from the name of the game. A couple of years back MvC2, a port of the Xbox and PS2 game originally released late 2002, was made available on PSN and XBLA. Although it had a little spit-and-polish to spruce it up, it was still a bit ragged around the edges but not without its charm. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on the other hand is a total makeover, the vs. series equivalent of Super Street Fighter IV.
MvC3 uses a very similar character modelling and engine to its Street Fighter brother. If anything it’s even punchier in colour and style flamboyance. The on-screen avatars are absolutely huge with some being nearly the full height of the screen, and the speed of it all is quite mesmerizing the first time you get to fisticuffs, especially once the specials and hyper combos kick in. It seems like mayhem, but your eyes soon adjust to the pace and flow. Backgrounds too are artistic wonders with a number of recognisable zones, along with their appropriate musical accompaniment; there’s lots of little detail throughout the game and it all looks so wonderful that sometimes it would be nice if things slowed down to take in the view.
Along with the flashy moves and over-the-top animations, the character roster to choose from is quite substantial. The selection is evenly split across Marvel and Capcom fighters and there will certain to be some of your favourites there. Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine and Magneto being in the former group and Dante, Viewtiful Joe, Ryu and Chun-Li are amongst the latter. In all there are just shy of forty different move-sheets to learn and digest, with more to be available as DLC in the future (paid for unfortunately).
From the menu, the different modes available in the game are somewhat limited both on and offline. For the single player there’s arcade, local vs, practice and challenge. For the multiplayer side of things there are ranked and unranked matches. Aside from the gallery (this displays your unlockables), that’s pretty much it - unless going through the options is considered videogame entertainment. It’s a shame that not even a basic story mode is there to work through, and as such it falls a little short compared to its peers.
The action in arcade, which could probably be considered the main single player aspect, plays out across several stages mounting up to the final boss battle. Your gang of three will work through the opposing teams pulling off awesome moves, blocks, air attacks and supers attacks - you do feel like a demon ninja god playing the game, it’s quite breathtaking at times. This is available across five difficulties from very easy to very hard; if you fancy a laidback time, stick this on very easy and just enjoy the scenery - when it comes to the final boss it’s a tough challenge on all but this setting.
After the end of each stage, and at the final result, the player is ranked on stability, basic and advance defence and basic and advance attack skills - this tallies up to a final score and gives you player-points opening the unlockables in the gallery. From there you’ll be awed by the artwork, character models, soundtracks and character endings that are viewable time and again. There’s a fair bit already unlocked and plenty more to work though, so despite the lack of modes there’s an oozing of replayability until you can truly master the title at its hardest.
Controlling your characters comes in two flavours; standard configuration requires the player to learn the character move list and string the combos together with the right buttons and timings (which is actually very fast and needs a bit, if not a lot, of practice). The challenge mode of single player will help teach these as that’s essentially what it consists of, with ten of them for each character. Although each of the stars has their own style, once you’ve got one character down it’s not too difficult to adapt to the others. As rounds are played with tag-teams of three it’s inevitable you’ll be learning a few move-sets and finding the right team that play well together is also a must. However, it must be noted that even the standard setup has been dumbed down a little compared to MvC2, whether you think this is a good or bad thing will very much depend on how much of a hardcore fighter fan you are.
For those who lack the ability to stream combos together there is the simple control scheme, this takes away the complexities of timing and hooking up super-combos and the like by reducing it to a single button press or two. This can be a killer online as pretty much everyone seems to pick simple and spams supers over-and-over, and there doesn’t appear to be a way of fixing the scheme type on the lobbies, even on ranked matches. This is a real shame because although it makes things easier for the newbie, it takes away all the skill and finesse associated with the genre a little. Okay, so MvC3 is more about the flashy graphics and big bang-for-your-buck style, but an option to disable it on multiplayer would have been preferable.
Online generally is lag free and there were plenty of games available in both ranked and unranked matches. When creating a lobby it’s possible to state next to it the type of fight you’re after, whether that be open to all, expert players only or just beginners – be aware on the latter that these usually turn out to be one person with fifty odd consecutive wins just kicking noob ass for giggles, which isn’t so much fun, although you are able to sit back and watch healthbars decrease until your turn comes around. Things are fairly sans-idiot free on the whole though and there are definitely good games to be had if the simple control setup can be avoided.
Whilst there may not be a huge amount of content available in MvC3, it doesn’t seem to suffer too badly for it. There’s still a lot to the game, such as learning to play each and every character to perfection, or if that’s not you thing, then sticking the game on very easy along with the simple control system and just enjoying the amazing and impressive animation and artwork on offer. For the game to work at its best though, a couple of arcade sticks and an equally eager mate playing on or offline vs. mode is where the most joy is to be had. MvC3 is a technically and visually striking title and might even be enough to convert the SSFIV die hard. Well worth checking out.