Disclosure ‐ A copy of Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite was provided by Capcom for the purpose of this review.
It’s been six years since the last Marvel Vs. Capcom game, and in that time we’ve seen both franchises struggle to appease fans old and new. With their cinematic universe becoming one of the most profitable franchises ever, Marvel Comics have become malcontent with dishing up subpar licensed games. Deciding instead to hire industry leading developers to produce games based on their properties. On the other hand, Capcom have grappled with a couple changes in direction. Because while 2013’s Devil May Cry reboot appeared as a ‘middle finger’ to their most loyal fans, we also received their love letter to traditional survival horror with the release of Resident Evil 7 earlier this year.
Regardless of all that, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite looks to re-establish the franchise as a powerful force in the fighting game community. But some distractingly awful character models, and a hokey story mode aping Netherrealm’s (more polished) titles, have kept me from returning to Infinite’s compelling gameplay.
Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite has all the options you’ve come to expect from a modern fighting game.It includes Arcade, Training, Multiplayer, and for the first time in the series: a cinematic story mode that’s….. Not so good. The story follows both Marvel and Capcom characters teaming up in order to take down the being that brought their worlds together. If you happen to be unfamiliar with this style of fighting game story which was popularised by Mortal Kombat 2009, it’s essentially a bunch of encounters sprinkled in between cutscenes, with the occasional unique win condition eg. Survive for this long or protect that building.
The story mode could have been Infinite’s most exciting addition — to breathe life into the series. Though, having completed it, it feels like a missed opportunity. Aside from a few standout voice actors, dialogue is stilted, which makes what should have been exciting interactions feel lifeless and boring, with most of the conversations amounting to little more than lame quips.
The stylish presentation of Marvel has always set itself apart from competitors. Even once the series began to move away from gorgeous sprite work in favour of 3D models in the third game, the cel-shaded art style and kinetic animations they introduced was able to inject an even greater dose of personality into the series. This time around however, Capcom has opted for a very generic look. They chose to ditch the cel-shaders for a style that’s more in line with Street Fighter V. Except, at least in that game, models have a certain water colour scheme that — in combination with the lighting — create a pleasing and almost flowing look. In comparison, Infinite’s characters look similar, but some horrendously sculpted models and lack of the distinctive inky shadows leave the game looking flat. Considering the series’ legacy, it really is a shame to see a Marvel game looking this bland.
Though, what I found most disappointing was the music. The toe-tapping tunes from earlier titles (I wanna take you for a riiiiide) have been replaced with their best imitation of an “epic action movie score”. I can admit that there are a few new songs that I don’t mind, but when the real standouts are the character themes returning from the last game, you have a problem. It’s not even a bad soundtrack, just one that pales in comparison to what has come before.
For what it lacks in style, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite makes up for in its simple and responsive gameplay. Battles take place on a 2D-plane (think Street Fighter, not Tekken) with teams of 2 heroes duking it out in a tag team style match. Infinite decides to ditch the 3 on 3 battles of the last couple of releases. Opting instead for the more focussed 2v2 fights seen in the original title. The controls have also been simplified from previous incarnations, with each character built around a light punch, light kick, heavy punch and heavy kick. Infinite plays it simple and that’s its greatest strength. Every single special attack in the game is executed using the same quarter-circle motions, so any fighting game novice will be able to pick up and play with very little difficulty.
What makes the game even more accessible for newcomers is the returning ‘auto combo’: A completely optional setting that allows combos to be executed by simply mashing your light punch. Hardcore fighting game fans have expressed disappointment with the auto combo showing up in more titles, however I believe they’re a good idea for a game with as much mass appeal as Marvel. If you’re a new player learning the ropes, the auto combo lets you feel like you’re on the same playing field as your more experienced friends. But if you do happen to know your way around a fightstick, a quick auto combo (while not ideal) can buy you just enough time to think up your next move, and this is particularly important in a game that moves as fast as Marvel.
Before heading into battle, players are able to equip one of six Infinity Stones. Each lends two unique abilities to the character’s moveset, one that’s used with a button press and an “Infinity Storm” technique that can be executed once the dedicated Infinity Stone gauge is filled throughout battle. For example, the Time stone will allow players to do a quick dash at any stage, and after filling the gauge, players can crank up their attack speed and execute combos in half the normal time.
In terms of characters, I found myself disappointed with Infinite’s selection. The roster we got seems random and with the total count coming in at 30 playable characters at launch, it seems cheap when compared to the 50 in Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. Characters from Marvel’s X-Men franchise are jarringly absent, with a greater emphasis placed on characters who appear in their cinematic universe.
The promise of DLC doesn’t bode well either, with six additional characters already confirmed for release in 2017. Monster Hunter and Black Panther even appear in the story mode but we’re expected to shell out cash to play as them in the next few months. Adding insult to injury is the inability to earn the additional characters through gameplay, à la Street Fighter V.
Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite can be a lot of fun to play, however everything that surrounds the actual gameplay feels cheap and rushed. Character models are eyesores, and the music that fans fell in love with is nowhere to be found. Throw in a significantly reduced roster of fighters that feels like DLC bait, and you have the latest entry in a beloved franchise.