Games: Absolutely marvellous

After a decade of expectation, Steven Balbirnie examines what the third Marvel vs Capcom has to offer the gaming worldAfter ten years of waiting, one of the most hotly anticipated games of 2011, Marvel vs Capcom 3, was released for PS3 and Xbox 360. The game is a three-on-three crossover fighter featuring 36 of the most iconic or bizarre characters from the two franchises. The cast includes Spiderman, Captain America, Wolverine, Ryu, Viewtiful Joe, Zero and Chris Redfield to name just a few.The game’s frantic pace and awe-inspiring special moves will please fans of the genre, but they should be warned that experience from other fighters such as Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur or even Street Fighter will not transfer over. This game is a different beast, with gameplay mechanics much more complex than your average fighter. This doesn’t mean that button mashing doesn’t work; it just won’t get you very far.The learning curve is tough but ultimately rewarding. With the need to master hyper combos, assists, team air combos and x-factor, it is little wonder that Capcom have included the option of a simplified control system in addition to the normal one. Simple mode is based on the controls for Tatsunoko vs Capcom and is perfect for beginners, while normal mode is more similar to Marvel vs Capcom 2’s controls and is tailored for the more experienced player. This is clearly an attempt to integrate casual players with die-hard fans, and it adequately manages this.While the game is clearly very technical, it is also highly enjoyable. The cartoony graphics magnificently convey the game’s comic-book feel and all of the music fits perfectly, as the previous game’s unusual jazz tunes are thankfully absent. What’s really important in a game like this, though, is the character roster. Some people will be disappointed that there are only 36 characters when Marvel vs Capcom 2 had 56, especially if their favourites haven’t made the cut.But Marvel vs Capcom 3 delivers through quality rather than quantity. Each character in this game has their own distinctive fighting style, rather than effectively recreating the clones that filled up the Marvel vs Capcom 2 roster. X-23 and Akuma come close to being copies of Wolverine and Ryu respectively, but have been made sufficiently different to justify their inclusion.Another problem that Marvel vs Capcom 2 had was character balance. Some were so ridiculously overpowered that characters such as Cable could wipe out an entire team by just repeating one attack over and over. By comparison, Marvel vs Capcom 3’s characters are very well balanced; only Sentinel seems overpowered and even then not insurmountably so.The designs of the individual characters are brilliant and incredibly faithful to the source material. Dante from Devil May Cry has been superbly realised and is certain to be popular with players. Morrigan, Felicia and Hsien-Ko are all great fun to play as (if only Capcom would make a Darkstalkers 4). Deadpool is easily the most hilarious character to feature; he moonwalks, uses his health bar as a weapon and frequently talks to the player mid-fight.It is evident that one of the greatest concerns of the developers was fan service and they certainly delivered. Alternate costumes aren’t arbitrary; they have legitimate sources instead, such as Spiderman’s black symbiote suit. All the characters also have unique endings that tie in with their past and feature cameos from even more characters from the Marvel and Capcom universes.The intricate details even mean that the characters have individual dialogue exchanges to match their personal relationships. The attention dedicated towards this is quite impressive and adds to the game’s atmosphere.The game’s single player modes won’t last very long, but multiplayer will be what players will come back to. Over the next year Capcom plans to expand the game further through downloadable content (DLC). One of the first DLC announcements has been for Shadow mode, which pits you against a CPU modelled on the game’s developers. However, most attention will focus on the DLC characters. Jill Valentine and Shuma-Gorath have been announced so far, but more are sure to follow.This mode would logically include characters such as Megaman, Gambit, Strider Hiryu and Venom, due to fan demand. Also the fact that work was done on Dead Rising’s Frank West and X-Men’s Juggernaut but wasn’t completed before the game’s deadline also makes their appearance very likely. No matter what they release, expect DLC to still be appearing for this game around Christmas time.To put it simply, comic-book fans and serious gamers will love Marvel vs Capcom 3. Newcomers may find it daunting, but this entertaining fighter is one worth sticking with.