We shouldn't need to read a game's manual to understand its premise, but beyond the tagline "Fate of Two Worlds", Marvel vs Capcom 3's storyline is mostly unclear. It appears to be this: a selection of fighters from the Marvel and Capcom universes form teams of three and fight each other until a common enemy turns up at the end of the line and makes things very difficult for whichever team (but really, controlled by you) is unfortunate enough to face ultimate evil.
About 16 years after Capcom brought Marvel into its 2D fighting family with X-Men: Children of the Atom, the formula has changed very little. Attack like a maniac, unleash your hyper combo finish and watch the enemy fall with a satisfying thud. If that doesn't work, tag in one of your two teammates (or, even cooler, both at once) and unleash more fury. The all-new X Factor damage reducer can make unfair fights into a complete walkover, but since you get an achievement for using it, why ignore the opportunity?
The classic six-button configuration has been changed for MvC3, with attacks now being mapped to the four main controller buttons. This uncomplicated approach helps new players - and lapsed fans - into the action.
The fighter line-up is not as broad as in previous titles (less than 40, down from 56 in 2000's MvC2) but the focus shifts to unique characters, with a variety of combat techniques, rather than having four slightly different versions of Ryu. Also, going online is as thrilling as waiting for a bus, because of the ill-conceived queue system that leaves players waiting for several minutes to be matched up with an opponent. A pity, given the game's achievement system relies fairly heavily on online play.
Verdict: Considering the detail-rich nature of comic books, the skimpy plot disappoints - but this is as perfect an arcade-style game as you're likely to find. The pulse-pounding soundtrack, combo opportunities and short completion time are well-suited to the neon halls in town. As a home experience, it's likely to keep only hardcore fighter fans hooked for long.
Classification: Xbox 360