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Game Review

Since the Avengers: Endgame film just became the biggest money maker ever to hit the silver screen—drawing close to three billion box office bucks worldwide at this point—it would appear that nearly everybody knows the story of the villain Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet superweapon.

But as any comic book fan will tell you, there's more than one way to spin an origin story or recount a tale of mass destruction. So the new Switch game Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order has stepped up to take its own unique shot at this snap-ocalyptic yarn.

This version of the story starts off with the pre-Endgame Guardians of the Galaxy—Starlord, Gamora, Rocket, Drax and the uniquely loquacious Groot—stumbling upon a group called the Black Order. This band of über-powerful baddies is seeking a stash of even more über-powerful gemstones for its mad titan boss, Thanos, who has über-carnage in mind.

Amid a subsequent battle, Starlord accidentally uses the Space Stone to scatter the other supercharged gems far and wide. And that unleashes a galaxy-wide race against time as the Guardians team up with Earth's other superheroes and set off to retrieve the Time, Power, Soul, Reality and Mind Stones before Thanos and his Black Order lackeys can grab them.

"Avengers … Brawl!"

The Guardians of the Galaxy, then, are Alliance 3's first line of defense, as well as your first team of battling heroes here. But of course, this game is designed to let you leverage a whole universe of Marvel heroes.

Over the course of 10 chapters, you unlock and convince some 30 other playable Marvel characters to join your Alliance—including classic Avengers such as Captain America, Black Widow, Iron Man and the Hulk; solo and teamed supers ranging from Spider-Man, Wolverine and Luke Cage to Black Panther and Doctor Strange; lesser-known heroes such as Elsa Bloodstone, Miles Morales and Ms. Marvel; and even some villainous supers such as Venom and Loki.

You'll get control of one combatant per battle in single-player mode, and you can swap on the fly between others on your four-hero team. Or you can play co-op with up to three friends, each manning their own favorite super. In every battle, swarms of powered-up baddies flood your way and must be beaten down. Each level ultimately leads to a big boss that requires some concentrated effort and teamwork to overcome.

When building a team, the natural tendency will be to lean toward your favorite squad of four, such as the classic Avengers quartet of Cap, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk—all pounding away with their own signature attacks. Stick with just a couple of heroes, and you'll likely level up your chosen group more quickly.

That said, the game really encourages players to sub in as many of the many heroes as possible and evenly distribute acquired stat-boosting items and bonuses. That way you can get the joy of trying out all the many diverse attacks, while keeping a larger group stronger and ready for the times when their special skill sets are most suited for a specific foe. You never know when a Doc Strange magical blast or a Ghost Rider hellfire burst will be just the right thing to set a boss back on its heels.

Deadpool Detritus?

As far as flinch-worthy content issues are concerned, this version of Thanos' tale won't leave young fans quaking or tearful. Sure, there are plenty of evil schemes and explosive brawls to go 'round. Other than a few puzzles in need of solving, the whole game is a constant stream of group zapping and pounding. But defeated foes simply fall over or disappear, and exhausted Alliance members just take a knee until a teammate can revive them.

We see magical blasts aplenty. And there are certain baddies, such as the giant and demonic-looking Dormmamu, ruler of the Dark Dimension, to deal with. But things never really stray into the occult, nor do we hear the verbal use of any magical spells. And speaking of verbal choices, the language here is always worthy of a hero, too. Even the typically potty-mouthed Deadpool stays on his best behavior in this T-rated Nintendo game.

In truth, the biggest drawback of the latest Marvel Ultimate Alliance entry could well be the fact that it's a repetitive, sometimes grinding brawler of a game. But the fairly well-written story still keeps things moving by shifting the action between exotic Marvel locations ranging from Wakanda to Asgard.

Like a lot of Hollywood actioners, then, there's some fun to be had here. Just don't expect any deep heroic lessons.

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Nintendo Switch




July 19, 2019

On Video

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Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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