Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 isn't just for superhero fans

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Mon July 22, 2019

Story highlights

  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is available now for $59.99
  • Play as your favorite Marvel heroes across the Avengers, X-Men and more

When you imagine the ultimate, most epic Marvel video game, there are likely a few things that come to mind. Number one, you want access to all the heroes. Number two, you want to fight all the villains. Number three, you want to look and feel super doing it. The good news is that Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 for the Nintendo Switch packs all of the above in an action-packed brawler.

For $59.99, or $49.99 if you're an Amazon Prime member, you get to build off the Marvel universe, both cinematic and comic book. You pick your heroes and battle through a story where you face off against The Black Order. You'll fight all sorts of villains with your four-pack of Marvel heroes.

I've beaten the full game, at least for the main story, and I've tried multiplayer. Here's the full scoop on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3.

A trip through the universe that's filled with twist and turns

You're likely familiar with the Marvel cinematic universe and, no surprise, you'll be playing as heroes from across that universe, set on stopping The Black Order, a team of villains led by Thanos, which is planning to do some serious damage to the universe.

You start off on a space cruiser with the Guardians of the Galaxy crew including Starlord, Rocket, Gamora and of course Groot. You can never forget about Groot. And you're quickly thrown into the story, which revolves around tracking down Infinity Stones, which you may remember from the cinematic universe.

The six Infinity Stones deliver an immense amount of power, something that you don't want to fall into bad hands. And of course, Thanos wants those stones. Fans of the series (even those who only saw the big ones) will be right at home with this plot.

The Guardians of the Galaxy are the first line of defense you get access to, and from there the rest of the heroes pile on, from the Avengers to the X-Men and all those in between.

A true action brawler

That's the gist of the story. Now let's talk about what the gameplay is like. Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order feels a bit nostalgic, as at times it's a scroller and other times a bit open world, with your choice of paths. So it's your typical action game that kind of feels like Nintendo's Super Smash Bros., but infused with Marvel.

You'll get to pick your four favorite heroes, and you get core control over one of them at a time. The other three with be computer-controlled, but you can switch on the fly between the four. As you build your Marvel superhero team, you can go a classic Avengers route with Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man and Thor together. Or you can swap in Spiderman, Black Widow, Deadpool, Cyclops, Wolverine and even Venom.

The choice is yours, and the cast of characters to choose from is massive. Nearly all of the heroes are playable, and you get more as you progress in the game. At least three packs of downloadable content will be available in the future. The first DLC pack drops in the fall, and you can unlock a pass for all of them via a $19.99 purchase from the Nintendo E-Shop.

In terms of gameplay, you'll start by using your four heroes to battle minor foes, which eventually leads to a big boss fight -- a battle against a major villain who has to be defeated to complete the level. Along the way, you'll unlock new characters and gain valuable points as you defeat enemies. More on these points in a bit, but there is a large upgrade process that lets you customize the experience.

And as you might expect, fighting small enemy after small enemy, along with boss fight after boss fight, can get a bit repetitive. It's a common flaw with these action games, but I think Ultimate Alliance 3 has an advantage here, as you can swap out the heroes you're playing with. Each hero has his or her own attack methods. With Iron Man, you can fire out rockets or a superpowerful laser beam. Thor gets an epic hammer and the power of electricity. Captain Marvel gives you access to her super powerful moves like an energy beam and all-powerful charge. By mixing and matching your team of four, you can keep the game feeling fresh even on the 15th boss fight.

An all-around enjoyable experience with few setbacks

Since it's been 10 years since Ultimate Alliance 2, there are likely many new players jumping into Ultimate Alliance 3. From that first mission with the Guardians of the Galaxy, you'll start to learn the moves. And the game will walk you through the first couple of kick, punch, and super moves.

Tapping -- or more like smashing -- the Y button in combat will result in a quick hit, while X can be a more basic power move. Holding in both left and right bumpers with either a single tap of Y, X, A or B will deliver a powerful attack. Even cooler, you'll eventually be able to team up with one, two or the other three of your heroes for an epic attack. It also brings up an awesome graphic.

Along with using the arrow buttons to switch between characters, those are the core mechanics. And these are in play whether you're in a scroller or more 3D world effect. Truth be told, when you're playing as four main heroes and confronting countless opponents, along with objects, it can be a lot to follow all on one screen. This applies especially to handheld mode on the Switch, but it's also an issue when you're on the TV.

In addition to the core boss fights, you'll also find some puzzles, like escaping a hallway by figuring out the right combination to unlock the different gates. It adds a layer to the experience and lets you take a breather from fight after fight.

At times the camera angles can get in your way, and you won't be able to see the opponent in the easiest way. It can be a little convoluted and frustrating, especially in the heat of battle. There's also an issue when you zoom in on the hero you're playing, because it may show your character from the back, or from the inside. You'll need to swivel the camera back and forth to find the best angle. It doesn't ruin the game, but I hope there is some way to fix this in the future.

Asides from that, I didn't experience any crashes or freezes while playing the main campaign. It performed really well on the Nintendo Switch, and the load times between different levels were minimal. While there are plenty of cool things about Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, the coolest is that you can do four-player co-op locally or via online multiplayer.

A little more on characters and abilities

We've established that you can choose from tons of characters across the Marvel universe, and more will be arriving in the form of expansion packs through DLC in the future, with the first one arriving in the fall. As you move through the game, you'll unlock different characters and move along with boss fights.

In addition, those battles will result in your gaining ability skills. These can be used to upgrade vitality, strength and health among others. You'll be able to improve your whole team. If you've played any other games, this skill wheel and the unlock process will be familiar. If you decide to use the same four characters throughout most of the game, you'll be upgrading and leveling them up along the way.

All in all, it results in a gameplay experience that lets each character get stronger along the way and lets you improve your whole team.

Bottom line

Buying Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order for the Nintendo Switch is a no-brainer for any fan of any of the movies. It's also a good choice for anyone looking for a comfortable brawler action game that is pure fun. Two levels of difficulty, and a variety of bosses along the way (each with his or her own quirks), make for a fun experience. I think you'll have a blast with it, especially considering it performs well in handheld or docked into a TV.

And if you need more reason, it's already on sale, just a few days after launch. Amazon has Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order for just $49.99 for Prime members, $10 down from the $59.99 list price.

Plus you can pick your ultimate four to defeat Thanos. I'm using Iron Man, Thor, Captain Marvel and Hulk. But the choice is yours for how you want to defeat Thanos and stop him from collecting those six crucial stones.

Note: The price above reflects the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.