Price: £39.99
Format: Xbox 360 (tested), PS3
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

If you could only use one word to describe the Marvel vs. Capcom series, it would probably be ‘ridiculous’. It’s an inescapable barrage of light and sound that still manages to contain one of the deepest, most nuanced combat systems that has ever graced a side-on brawler. It’s been less than a year since MvC 3 first smashed its way onto consoles, but we’re now being treated to a new edition, with new characters and stages, and a few tweaks under the bonnet.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a spectacular piece of fan service, a beautifully put together thank you note to the people who’ve aided the resurgence of the 2D fighter. Trading on the comic book roots of half of its roster of bruisers, new menus flip like pages, revealing fantastic art – enough to set series aficionados drooling.

Capcom know their market, and what they’ve built here is a perfectly tailored product, catnip to fighter fans and a starting point for those who’ve never entered the ring before. Bouts are three-on-three tag team affairs. You select your trio from a roster of 48 characters – 12 of them exclusive to this release – and take on all-comers in what’s best described as ‘structured mayhem’.

Four buttons control your attacks, delivering light, medium and heavy damage, the fourth launching your opponent into the air. Once airborne, you can crossover between your characters to deliver devastating amounts of carnage to your opposite number’s health gauge.

The new fighters are expertly balanced, and slot well into proceedings, with Iron Fist on the Marvel side bringing an interesting new style of kung-fu foot play to the game, and Nemesis on the Capcom side redefining ‘hulking’ with his stomping, rocket launching long game.

Picking the perfect team is all about creating balance, making sure you’re using complimentary fighting styles, and that the assists – special moves that off-screen characters can jump in to perform – gel together. After a few rounds you’ll be digging deeper into the fighting system; working out the intricacies of the X-factor mechanic to increase damage, the advancing guard, hyper combos and other, more difficult aspects, of the game. Stay dedicated and this addictive drip feed of accumulating knowledge will turn even newcomers into super combo-performing veterans.

Multiplayer – so often a bugbear of Capcom’s fighting games – is handled brilliantly, with lobbies and game modes built around a variety of different play styles. The online learning curve is steep, and if you’re new to the game you will be severely beaten before you get the hang of things. However, being able to spectate, a new addition to Ultimate, is especially useful if you want to learn some tricks of the trade before your rush headlong into someone’s fist.

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 is everything you’d expect from a game with that title. In fact, tt’s a definitive edition of one of this generation’s finest 2D fighters. Its release so soon after the original iteration may provoke naysayers, but its raft of refinements will appeal to battle hardened hands and callous-free newcomers alike.