Marvel vs Capcom 3Let’s get this out the way now.

Marvel vs Capcom 3 is the most mental, colourful, eyeball-meltingly orgasmically insane 2.5D fighter you’re ever likely to play – but whether it manages to best its decade old (and still insanely popular) predecessor is another thing.

MVC fans have had to endure a wait almost as long as Chinese frickin’ Democracy, and now after 11 years of fevered, sporadically giddy, anticipation, Marvel vs Capcom is back. The original Marvel vs Capcom 2 was still being played by die-hard fans even before 2009’s PS3/Xbox 360 port, partly due to its massive 56 character line-up but predominately due to the surprising depth of gameplay modes, fighting styles and combos on offer.

We have a feeling the obsessives will gripe (but don’t they ever), but for everyone else it’s hard to find serious fault with this new entry to the series.

The plot (what there is of it) involves some paper thin guff about how Marvel’s uber villain Doctor Doom (if you’ve only seen him in the Fantastic Four films, you’ve been missing out) has teamed up with Resident Evil loon Albert Wesker to take over their respective worlds. Obviously things have gone more than a little FUBAR and now everyone has to team up to destroy an evil older than time and blah blah blah.

Less waffling, more kicking.

Marvel vs Capcom 3

There are 36 gorgeously rendered characters to play from the off, although a couple more have been confirmed (and even more hinted at) for DLC further down the line. Sure, that’s a whopping 20 less than its predecessor, but considering most of them were rush job reskins of other characters, that’s no bad thing. The line-up here – as massive as it is – is remarkably balanced and wonderfully realised.

The age-old gripe of ill-balanced powersets (shoving action man Chris Redfield up against the planet destroying Hulk in a fist fight for example) is entertainingly and simply addressed by merely arming every single character with such preposterously screen-conquering, OTT moves that you don’t really have time to notice the illogicality. When Chris Redfield cranks out a weapon the size of a car and proceeds to unleash all manner of elemental hell on whoever’s stood before him, it feels weighty and – most importantly – tactile.

In short, with a wealth of fighting styles and combos to experiment with, almost all of the characters have been built with substance.

Of course, the characters aren’t completely faithful to their comic/game counterparts – Phoenix doesn’t munch down on any planets, and Wolverine doesn’t happen to eviscerate Chun-Li while she’s preoccupied with flapping her leg up and down, but when it’s this much fun, who cares?

Each battle – which, as per MVC2, puts you in charge of a 3-person/monster team – is guaranteed to quicken your heart and vibrate your eyeballs. If you didn’t have ADHD before, you probably will now.

So, the fanboy should be sated, but what about the non-geeky gamer?

Marvel vs Capcom 3

Well, for one thing the control mechanic has changed. Gone is the four-button attack (two hard, two light attack) system of old, replaced with a three-button control system of light, medium and hard attacks which opens the game up a little more for noobs looking to get in on the combo fun. You can now also launch players into the air with one button press, and switch characters during a combo. What initially appears to be a simplification actually opens up a whole world of possibilities, and we guarantee it’ll take you some time to get on top of the aerial tag combos, utilise hyper combo attacks and make the most of the new X Factor mode. No- while we’re as keen as anyone to beat seven shades of hell out of Simon Cowell, it’s a nifty new trigger wherein pressing all four buttons at once regains a little health and increases your damage output. The natch (as ever) is that this gets far more powerful when you have less tagteam characters on the sidelines.

There’s also a Mission Mode, Shadow Mode, standard Arcade mode, two-player versus and challenge mode, and while there’s more than enough to sink your teeth into it’s not quite up to scratch with some of its uber mode filled competitiors – not that that’s a bad thing.

Marvel vs Capcom 3

It’s not entirely flawless though. The end-times end boss Galactus is controller-bashingly difficult in his annoyingness. Once you’ve got over the spectacle of battling a world-munching megaboss, you’ll continually be thrown back to the Continue menu after being taken down by a number of his unblockable moves – including, maddeningly, a 200 hit move that kills you outright irrespective of health.

There are a couple of characters that prove the bane of any gamer’s life too, with Arthur and MODOK near unbeatable when put in the hands of a petty pillock of a friend content to sit over one side of the screen and merely lob long-range attacks at you.

Still, with utterly smooth gameplay (aside from online which is still suffering from teething problems), gorgeous visuals, depth of character and skillsets, and a brilliant team fighting dynamic, we’re finding it hard to find not only another fighter that’s proved as replayable, but that’s managed to live up to expectations.