Licensing can be a pain in this era of digital distribution. Most games you can expect to remain on the marvel for ages but when licensing wears out, that sometimes mean a game can go missing in action. Most of the time, this is obscure stuff, but the complex Marvel game licensing has meant that certain popular titles vanished from the market, such as Marvel vs. Capcom 3. While the physical version remained available, the digital version was delisted in 2014, making it a lot harder to find a copy to play. Fortunately, with the announcement of the upcoming Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, Capcom had a chance to bring Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to the PS4. What's new about this release? Not a ton, except for the fact that you can actually buy it.
UMvC3 doesn't have much of a plot. Heroes from both sides join up to fight, and at the end, they fight Galactus for vague reasons. There are a lot of references, but this is a fighting game from an era when fighting games having plots was considered a curiosity. As such, there isn't a ton of single-player content; you can run through an arcade mode or some training missions, and that is about it. UMvC3 includes the gimmicky "Heroes vs. Heralds" mode, where you can equip special cards to boost your characters, but this mode isn't much of a draw on its own. This isn't a fighting game where you can get a ton of value out of the single-player portion. Expect to play it online a bunch to get your value from the game.
UMvC3 is built around three-on-three fights, so you select three characters and are dropped into a battle. The main character is the one fighting, and the other two can be called in to perform Assist Attacks. You can also swap characters at any time, but doing so leaves you vulnerable unless you pick a wise moment to do it. The goal is for one side to take out all three of an opponent's characters before they take you out. All characters are vulnerable as long as they're on-screen, which means a well-timed super move can also hit an assist character for brutal damage. It's a game where death can be swift, and damage numbers are high across the board.
The basic controls are very smooth and responsive. You can do almost everything in the game with a handful of presses and simple movements. This does make it a fairly accessible game from a gameplay perspective, so anyone can pick up the game and pull off some flashy and cool-looking combos. There's even a Simple mode that automates some of the combos if you're not comfortable with them, though this mode can leave you critically vulnerable if you're not careful. It's not a bad game to pick up if you want to get into fighting games, but it requires significantly faster twitch responses than most modern Street Fighter titles.
One of the biggest and most controversial features is the handicap "X-Factor." Every team has a single use of X-Factor during a match. When an X-Factor is popped (by pressing all of your attack buttons), you can cancel any currently ongoing action and then act. In addition, it powers up your character significantly, both in terms of a damage increase and in providing health regeneration and reducing the damage you take. X-Factor's limitation is that it begins weak and becomes absurd when characters on your team are defeated. Level 3 X-Factor can turn around a match while Level 1 allows you to capitalize on an opportunity. It means that the fight isn't over until it's over. Even if you have three characters to your opponent's one, a strong X-Factor character can be worth three fighters on his/her own.
UMvC3 has a huge cast, with 25 fighters from each side, including both well-known as well as incredibly obscure characters. What is considered incredibly obscure varies a bit. For example, Rocket Raccoon from "The Guardians of the Galaxy" was an obscure choice when the game was initially released, but he's a natural add-in now. There are some odd absences, such Capcom's iconic Blue Bomber Mega-Man or Spider-Man's nemesis Venom, but they don't drag down the experience. With such a diverse show of characters, it was natural someone would get overlooked.
UMvC3's cast is incredibly diverse, which is both a plus and a negative. There's something in the game for almost everyone, and most players will probably find at least one character who fits their combat niche. Unfortunately, there is also a fairly poor sense of balance, and several characters have complex gimmicks or poor move sets. Phoenix Wright requires a ton of effort to reach his most powerful form, and once he reaches it, he isn't a particularly exceptional character. The result is that everyone's favorite defense attorney is more likely to be benched than on the field. In comparison, The Phoenix, his Marvel counterpart, has a similar gimmick that slots more easily into the game. She isn't the best character, but at least she feels reasonable for the team.
This problem will probably stand out more if you decide to play online. The majority of people playing UMvC3 these days have had literal years to master and perfect characters and combos. UMvC3's high damage shenanigans mean that a lot of characters can take you from zero to dead in one extended combo, especially if they're willing to pop their X-Factor to do it. While this makes the game rather tense, a single mistake can have tragic consequences. On the other hand, it means that it's a fairly brutal game to get into when compared to most other fighting games on the market, so it'll be tough for newcomers.
Not a ton has changed for the PS4 port of UMvC3. A nice feature is that the majority of the bonus DLC is now built directly into the game, including the two bonus fighters (Jill Valentine and Shuma-Gorath) and all of the bonus DLC costumes. The latter is nice, since it includes popular alternate looks (Mohawk Storm) and even other characters you can overlay (Mega Man X as an alternate skin for Zero.) Considering how costly the DLC was for the original version, it's a nice money saver. Otherwise, the only really new content is an art gallery that includes Marvel vs. Capcom: Complete Works artwork. It's not the biggest thing in the world, but considering the book costs basically as much as the game, it is a nice value if you don't mind getting a digital version.
Visually, UMvC3 is a nice-looking game. The PS4 version hasn't change significantly from the previous generation, but the last generation has a lot of flash and style. In fact, arguably the biggest flaw is that perhaps it has too much flash and style. The game is fast and furious, and most combat effects have auras or particles or other screen-filling nonsense that can make the actual combat difficult to read unless you have the reflexes and practice to keep up. The game runs at 1080p/60FPS, which is a nice boost. The soundtrack is great and contains a number of excellent remixes and new original songs. Some are rather inexplicable, such as X-23's poppy vocal song, but by and large, they're quite good. Voice actors do the best they can with the role, and there are even some great cameos from older Marvel character actors.
Honestly, all you need to know to determine whether the PS4 version of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is for you, is that it's still Marvel vs Capcom 3. The strengths and flaws are well documented, and nothing has really changed from the HD re-release. If you're eager to get back into the fray and take Doom, Wesker and Zero for a ride, then you're going to enjoy this port. If you were hoping for any major changes to the gameplay, then you won't find them here. Those new to the game might want to be warned that they're jumping into a deep pool. If you're looking to get a feel for the franchise before the upcoming Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, there's no better place to start than UMvC3.
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