These heavy hitters are brought to life in a style reminiscent of the game's comic book inspirations. Each character animates smoothly and stylishly, with hard black outlines and bright colors making them pop against the slightly muted backgrounds. Every uppercut and fireball is given just the right amount of exaggeration to keep the fireworks show going without distracting from the action. The stages, though severely lacking in number, are also equally lavish. From Resident Evil's overrun test lab to the majestic realm of Asgard, each arena has been loaded with details that bring their respective worlds to life. Furthermore, these stages do an excellent job of framing the action by populating the edges of the screen and passively drawing the eye to the center stage.
HULK DOING WHAT HULK DO BEST.
The characters themselves have been filled with personality. This shines through in simple taunts and win quotes as well as in smaller details, such as how Hulk refers to Iron Man as "metal man" or how Captain America mocks Zero at the start of a match. Each character even brings his own theme music to the fight. But, for all their flair, the epic struggle of these heroes falls flat on its face. The game's story mode is a strange holdover from an older generation, and its inclusion feels more like an obligation than a product of creative spark. In practice, it follows a typical series of battles--culminating in an interesting two-part finale with a unique matchup against two simultaneous enemies. More of these unorthodox scenarios would have been appreciated. And for all your troubles, you're presented with a meager series of stills detailing the character's ending, often a non sequitur.
Outside of the story mode, there are mission and training modes. These two modes do a good job of preparing you for the many battles to come. The mission mode in particular is an easy way to get started with a new character or to expand your toolbox with an old favorite. Each character has 10 missions, which start out with simple moves and quickly ramp up into situational combos. Early missions in particular are good at highlighting small details of specific moves that may otherwise go unnoticed--such as Iron Man's shocking follow-up to his repulsor blast.
However, the later missions, which typically involve long strings of normal attacks and special moves, expose this mode's shortcomings. For starters, you have to dive into the pause menu to actually see the specific inputs for the combos, unless you know all of their names by heart. This is a small, but constant, nuisance. The other problem with the presentation of longer combos is that their timing requires a bit more finesse than simply hitting all the buttons as fast as you can. Having the ability to watch the computer run through these sequences would have been an excellent training tool, but it is unfortunately absent.
Despite its hiccups, mission mode is a good place to get started.
On the other hand, the training mode is very robust. Aside from all the standard accoutrements, you can record 10 seconds of inputs for a character and then play it back in real time. This is great if you want to study the specifics of a move or combo and perhaps find a way to slip in a counterattack. Strangely, this interesting addition is buried within the button configuration screen and goes unmentioned anywhere in the game or manual. The traditional CPU versus mode is also integrated here. Once you turn off health and special meter regeneration, combat is performed the same as in normal play. Plus, when you finish a match, the game refreshes almost instantly, letting you continue the fight without pause.
However, far and away the game's most important mode is online play. Everything else is preamble, preparation for when you finally take the fight to the masses. Thankfully, it works, and it works well, but the online play lacks several of the luxuries found in Capcom's other fighting giant, Super Street Fighter IV. In all of our testing, the online matches ran smoothly on both PS3 and 360 versions of the game. Small pockets of lag did occur, but they were so infrequent that they had no impact on the overall experience. But outside of the matches, online mode is pretty barren. This isn't as apparent in the ranked and player battles, but when you group up in a lobby with up to eight of your buddies, or total strangers, it gets real boring, real fast. When it's not your turn in the ring, you're confined to watching the contestants' health bars move up and down in lieu of the match. And should you have a particularly interesting encounter, the game's complete lack of replay support ensures that your triumphant victory, or crushing defeat, is lost forever.
Storm is still a beast, but now so is everyone else.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a blast to play, despite losing some of the high-level intricacies found in its predecessor. It's an exceptional synthesis of cohesion and chaos, and shows real improvement over its predecessor. Seeing it in motion for the first time in all its crisp, high-flying glory is an incredible sight; and thankfully, the game's controls are just as smooth as its visuals. However, when it's outside of the fight, the game stumbles and is found lacking in many of its modes. Nonetheless, this latest entry in the venerable versus series captures the spirit of the franchise and may wear the Marvel vs. Capcom title with pride.