The Marvel vs Capcom series has always been dear to my heart.
In the past, I have loved nothing more than belting out combos with my favourite comic and videogame characters.
After the release of Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 in 2011 many thought that we may never see an MvC title again.
Time has since passed and the MvC series, much like a Marvel or Capcom character, never stays dead for long.
Finally, after six long years of waiting, Mahvel is BACK with Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Marvel Vs Capcom is a tag team fighting game series that stars a variety of iconic Capcom and Marvel characters.
These characters go head to head in epic battles filled with flashy super moves and ridiculous combos.
Sticks and Stones
Unlike previous games in the series which saw teams of three, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite (or MvC: I) has players fighting in a 2 vs 2 format. The players’ team is customised further with the choice of one of six Infinity Stones to take into the fight. Each adds wildly unique abilities to your team.
Now let’s just address the elephant in the room right; MvC: I is not a pretty game. The character models are a real a mixed bag. Some characters such as Captain Marvel look great while others like Dante look tired and weird. The user interface is underwhelming too. The character portraits and on-screen gauges are bland and reminiscent of a mobile game and many of the character voices are poorly done.
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I’m looking at you Morrigan, geez.
While the inconsistent character models and boring UI bug me, my main gripe with MvC: I’s appearance is that it lacks a unique visual identity. Other fighting games put a lot of work into their art direction. You look at Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 and you can see that every element of the game is made with a unique style in mind.
However, MvC: I just looks uninspired and samey, especially when compared to the striking comic book art style of its predecessor, Marvel Vs Capcom 3. The best word to describe the artistic direction of this game is ‘safe.’ It’s vanilla with nothing new to offer and as a fan of the Marvel vs Capcom series, I find that very disappointing.
Have you got big enough Stones?
Even though looks are important to a fighting game, the gameplay is king. I am happy to report that in this respect MvC: I is working very hard to make up for its visual shortcomings by being crazy fun to play. As soon as you start fighting, the game instantly becomes fun. Special moves and tag combos are easy to pull off and fun to execute and then there is the extra gameplay quirk of the Infinity Stones.
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The Infinity Stones — Power, Time, Space, Reality, Mind and Soul — each grant unique abilities that can drastically affect the way your team plays. Having trouble getting the Hulk up close to your opponent? Equip a Time stone and instant dash across the screen. Want to stop the opponent from playing keep away? Unleash the Space stone to lock them in place within a cosmic prison.
While the Infinity Stones add a unique twist to the game, it’s the open nature of MvC: I’s combo and tag mechanics that makes the gameplay shine.
Combos in MvC: I operate so that as long as attacks chain from light to heavy, they will work as a combo. Meaning that as long your attacks link up you can make whatever kind of combo you like. You can add some special moves here and there, add a launcher, continue the combo in the air; whatever suits your mood and playstyle.
This freedom is expanded upon with the ability to tag in your partner whenever you like to continue the combo. Whether you are on the ground, in the air, or even performing a super attack, just hit the tag button and your other character will jump in and continue the fight. Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite will have you spending hours of time in training mode. Making up combos to see what works means there is freedom for self-expression. The sheer amount is staggering.
To Infinity and Beyond
MvC: I is designed to be both accessible for newcomers and complex for experts. The problem is that it leaves players who want to step up from a casual to an intermediate level and beyond amidst a very steep learning curve with little to no support.
MvC: I does offer a tutorial mode, but it is extremely basic and does little to explain how to actually play the game. You are shown how to move around, perform attacks and pull off combos. There’s no explanation about the why and when the player would want to be doing any of this. Those wanting to learn more have no choice but to search forums and websites to fully understand.
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A glaring example is the defensive ‘Counter Switch’, that isn’t even explained in-game. If a player is stuck being hit with a combo they can hold the tag button to spend some meter and bring in your second character. This defensive option is essential for intermediate players and higher, yet the only mention you can find of this mechanic is hidden on the second panel of the ‘controls guide’ within the game settings. It’s a strange thing for the tutorial to forget to mention and shows how little help players who want learn can expect.
Let’s take this fight to the mean streets
Alongside the basic tutorial MvC: I offers a standard variety of game modes that you’d expect to find in any fighting game. Arcade mode, versus (both offline and online), a training mode, a gallery for viewing characters and concept art, as well as a mission mode for teaching character combos.
Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite’s story campaign mimics the style found in Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter V. A cinematic plays then you fight. Rinse and repeat. There are a few extra gameplay wrinkles thrown in here and there to make it different though. Some battles require you to defeat a series of enemies in a set time limit for example. Though largely, story mode plays it pretty safe.
The storyline itself has a few cool moments here and there, but overall it is nothing to write home about. It’s cool to see some of the interactions between certain characters but by the time you’re through the roughly 4-hour campaign you won’t be wanting to go back to it anytime soon.
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When taking the game online I was impressed with how solid MvC: I‘s netcode is, I played over ten matches online and not a single one showed any signs of lag or connection issues. Considering other fighting game launches have been marred by major online issues, it was a pleasant surprise to see MvC: I’s online working great right out of the box.
Online matches were quick to find from the game’s casual and ranked matchmaking modes, and the extra option of a Beginners League allowing novice players to cut their teeth online is a nice touch that new players will appreciate.
The game’s online lobby system is surprisingly robust as well, with lobbies able to host multiple fights at once so players can get straight into a fight or spectate the matches at their leisure.
Overall Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite has left me with mixed emotions. The presentation is lacklustre, but the gameplay is very solid and a hell of a lot of fun. If you’re the type of player who just wants to have a few casual matches with their favourite heroes, you’ll have fun here and the story mode should keep you entertained for a few hours.
However, if you’re the type of player who likes to pick up a game and really dig into it and learn its intricacies, the game’s open combo and tag system will keep you experimenting in the training and versus modes for a very, very long time. If you want to see yourself improve and play online with the experts you’ll have to be prepared to do the research yourself, and put in a LOT of hard work.
There’s a fantastic game in there, but you have to be willing to dig past its flaws to really appreciate it.
Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite was reviewed on PS4 using a digital promotional copy provided to PowerUp! by Capcom.
Game Title: Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite
Game Description: Fight it out with your favourite heroes and villains as the legendary fighting game crossover returns.