The first two Marvel Ultimate Alliance games, and their predecessors in the X-Men Legends series, felt like love letters to Marvel Comics. They had a wide variety of characters who you could team up in different ways – with special modifiers based on characters shared history, and a variety of costumes and side missions that played off with that history. With Team Ninja developing MUA3, I had a hope that they would keep with that experience, and combine it with Team Ninja’s background with presenting stylish action. Instead, they just did the bare minimum.
Ripped Straight From The Marquee
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is inspired by the big things going on in Marvel Comics and the MCU around the time the game entered development – The Infinity Stones and the various installments of the Infinity Gauntlet storyline. Thanos and the Black Order are after the Infinity Stones – due to a mix-up with the Space Stone all of them end up on Earth (and a few other places), with the Guardians following after. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (and anti-heroes) must team up to stop Thanos from wiping out creation.
That’s all fair enough on paper, and the moment to moment beats in the game are okay. The fights in The Raft, The Kingpin and The Hand’s lair (Shadowland – based on the storyline), and The Dark Dimension are very well done and in the latter two cases the levels have some interesting navigation puzzles in their design.
Also, a handful of the boss fights in Marvel Ultimate Alliance are particularly well done, when it comes to various wielders of Infinity Stones. The Time Stone’s wielder uses the Stone basically like Dio’s Stand from Stardust Crusaders, and the Space Stone slips some teleportation into the combat arena. The problem is that’s about where they stopped caring.
They Just Didn’t Care
What made the first two Marvel Ultimate Alliance games work is how they went the extra mile. Do you want to have Luke Cage dressed up in his Silver Age costume? You’re good. Do you want Black Widow in her original unitard, mask, and fishnets? You’re set. Want Spidey in the Symbiote Costume – or even his Scarlet Spider costume? No problem? This game, on the other hand, only gives a handful of characters unlockable costumes, and they’re often single pallet swaps.
Similarly, other games gave you unique dialog options when you’d pair off two different characters that had a history during the downtime sequences. Have Blade talk with Jessica Jones, you’ll get the stock dialog option. Have Luke Cage or Daredevil talk to her, and you’ll get something else entirely – as you should, as those characters have a history. Here, everyone gives the same stock dialog option.
Finally, the Ultimate Alliance attacks in the earlier installments would play into the characters’ powers in ways beyond team-up attacks. Here, everyone just cuts loose with their attacks and they generally do a lot of damage.
Even the team-up attacks here don’t really play into the characters’ power-sets. You know that bit from the Avengers movies where Tony shoots his Repulsor Beam into Cap’s shield and he reflects it into a bunch of enemies? That was a team-up move in the first couple of Marvel Ultimate Alliance games. Can they do that move here? No.
Finally, the earlier games had a bunch of special unlockable bonus missions that played into the history of these characters, and in some cases events that were currently ongoing. For example, the first game had a side mission where Cap flashed back to the first time he faced The Winter Soldier and learned it was Bucky – a storyline that was still ongoing when the game came out. Instead, here the bonus missions basically have you replaying chunks of earlier levels with a modifier of some form attached.
Perhaps the final frustration of all of this is that the season-pass only DLC expansions are just made up of more of the bonus missions from earlier games, with a little extra voice-over dialog. Even adding a whole bunch of new unlockable characters feels half-assed, since we get no unique interactions in-game if, for example, Logan and Jean Grey were to talk.
Consequently, I can’t recommend this game. It squanders its potential and puts in the bare effort required. It’s clear that outside of a handful of encounters that they thought were interesting, they just didn’t care.