I came into E3 2019 very excited for the chance to finally see Square Enix' take on Avengers. But between the trailer and behind-the-scenes demo of the gameplay, I found myself a little lukewarm. Without a full hands-on, I don't know exactly how Avengers would play, and starting roster felt a bit limited. It's not the outright disappointment some have called it, but my excitement is muted.
There's another Marvel game on the E3 2019 showfloor though. Hidden in the Nintendo booth, I found a playable demo of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. And while the booth for Marvel's Avengers is packed with fans wanting to catch a glimpse of gameplay, not many people were playing on the four demo stations for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. So I just walked up and took it for a spin. I had a fantastic time with it.
While the final game boasts a roster of over 30 characters, the demo only allowed me to choose from a limited team. I went with Black Panther, Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Captain Marvel, and Wolverine. Even in single-player, you're always joined by a full squad of four heroes, and you can switch between them at any time with a press of the directional pad. If you have friends though, there's local and online mutliplayer for up to four people.
While Black Panther and Wolverine felt a little similar in terms of play, with both heroes using claws for quick strikes, Captain Marvel and Spider-Man had a little more flavor to them. The good Captain uses energy blasts to soften up foes, but she can also fly at the press of a button. Miles is an agile character, but all of his webs carry an electrical charge based on his Venom Strike ability. Like Captain Marvel, Miles can switch from ground travel to web-swinging and back again quite easily.
The flow of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is a little different compared to the older games; I'd say it's a bit more frantic. In fact, combat is a bit hard to read sometimes, especially when every character is using their special abilities at once. There's a full team attack that can be unleashed when your super bar is full and I honestly couldn't tell you who I was hitting when it was active. There's also some jank to the overall presentation, with some low-resolution textures and definite frame dips during gameplay.
Despite those problems, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 bleeds with love for the Marvel Universe. The roster includes mainstays like Wolverine, Captain America, and Captain Marvel, but there are also characters like Elsa Bloodstone, Crystal, and Nightcrawler. (With more characters coming as DLC in the future.) There's a host of villains too, including the Black Order, Magneto, Sutur, and the Green Goblin.
It also looks like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 will feature a handful of iconic locations from the Marvel Universe as well. In the demo level I played, Jessica Jones was your contact for entering Shadowland, the Kingpin's base of operations and home of the Hand ninja clan. As the level progressed, the camera would slowly pan out in places in order to sell the scope of the massive Shadowland castle over the New York skyline.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 lacks the presentation and spectacle of Marvel's Avengers, but makes up for it in a hearty reverence for the comics. Crystal Dynamics still needs to sell me on its version of the Avengers, while this is a ton of the Marvel toybox crammed into a single cart. We've only seen a fraction of either game, and I'm sure both will continue to grow after release, but Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is fun, frantic, and full of the vibrant color of the Marvel Universe. I don't think I could ask for much more from it, and I'm definitely looking forward to getting my hands on it for Nintendo Switch again on July 19, 2019.