It’s been a decade since the last Marvel vs Capcom game. In video game terms, that's almost on a par with Duke Nukem; an obscene amount of time. So, surely this next title should be a battle-hardened, super-slick fighting machine in comparison to the previous titles? Even if it can’t manage that, however, all it would need to do is replicate the enormous 50-character roster and the ludicrous special moves to remain a solid beat-'em-up.
Sadly, it’s the latter route that Capcom seems to have favoured – the old formula with prettier pictures, rather than something altogether new. There's nothing wrong with that (it has been ten years, after all), but the visual evolution comes at an unfortunate price.
As with all beat-'em-ups, Marvel vs Capcom 3 is all about knocking your opponent’s health to zero. There are three health bars to deal with this time, as all fights are fought three-on-three, but it’s still just a case of clobbering until one of you hits zero. Most of the complexity above this comes from calling in your allies, switching to new characters or combining attacks to make new combos. Simply pressing the bumpers is all it takes to summon aid, which keeps a potentially complex idea very accessible, and most of the game's tactical depth now involves choosing which fighters to form your team.
That seems a bit unfair...
There are two control systems from which to choose before you select a character - Simple and Normal. Simple lets you pull off a variety of special moves or combos by pressing a single button. For beginners or casual players, this system is both satisfying and accessible, but it isn't long before the greater depth of Normal beckons.
It's here that you'll need to use the D-pad to pull of Ryu's famous Dragon Punch or Chun Li's spinning kicks. We have to be honest; nothing can beat the six-button control system of old from the original Street Fighter games et al, but Marvel vs Capcom 3 comes as close as we’ve seen. Purists may complain it's been dumbed-down, but to us it's merely refined. It still takes immense skill, timing and dexterity to pull off lengthy combos, as well as huge dedication to learn how to react to every attack. A good player will make you feel like you can't get a look-in, and going from six buttons to four does little to diminish that.
Our money is on the girl who turns into a fire-bird, frankly.
Marvel vs Capcom 3 is graphically impressive too and, from the gung-ho intro that sees Dante and Deadpool clash in a moment of spectacular gun play, Capcom seems determined to do the comic books justice. A mixture of cel-shading and slick character animation overlays brilliant, animated 3D backdrops. You really feel the power behind every laser blast, dragon punch or fireball, helping to make every battle as epic as the last.
The character list has been sadly downsized, but Capcom has compensated for this by introducing a greater variety of characters, with new faces such as Marvel’s X-23 representing a departure from the second game. This helps to provide an exaggerated level of tactical depth; Dante’s lightning-quick attacks and gun-play make him almost the polar-opposite of the Incredible Hulk’s slow, Zangief-like style, for example.
As these two characters show, though, Marvel vs Capcom 3 makes no attempt to be subtle. The special moves are all gloriously hyperbolic, with lasers, steel and psychic energies rippling across the screen at the merest opportunity. Most of the explosions are so big they have their own postcodes – which brings real impact to the game at the expense of clarity. It’s wonderful to watch this chaos unfurl, but it’s also possible to lose yourself in the confusion.