After the previous games were unceremoniously wiped from digital distribution, and then Disney’s withdrawal from games publishing, it didn’t look at all likely that the Marvel vs. Capcom series would ever see the light of day again. After playing Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, I’m beginning maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea.
For those who’ve never encountered a Marvel vs. Capcom game, the idea’s pretty simple: a 2D, tag-team fighter whose emphasis on speed, flashy combos, and screen-filling special moves belies a hardcore focus on input accuracy and team composition. Infinite is much of the same in this regard, except it reduces team sizes back down from three-versus-three to the two-on-two setup last seen in the first MvC.
Infinite does have a few new tricks up its sleeve, such as the introduction of Marvel’s ultimate McGuffin, the Infinity stones. These play a slightly similar role to the character assists of yore, with each of the six stones having its own special ability. Some give your team a better dash, some can steal health, while others open up more combo capabilities… in theory.
In practice, they are so wildly unbalanced that it feels as though using one stone, the teammate-reviving Soul stone, is the only even slightly valid choice. Having more combo capabilities or greater knock-back are great, but when it’s a choice between that and resurrecting half your team in a single button press, the option is disappointingly obvious.
Coming back from the dead after a game as popular as MvC3, Infinite has to nail its fighting. It has to feel as punchy, explosive and fast as its predecessors, and, on the whole, it does manage that… sort of. The combos are bombastic, and the pace of matches is still as fast as it ever was, but it fails to pull of the basics. Simple, bog-standard punches and kicks feel sloppy and lacking in satisfying visual feedback. Where MvC3 cracked with each attack, Infinite flumps instead.
This really isn’t helped by the introduction of misguided quality-of-life features such as auto combos, which are performed by literally spamming a single button, and one-button hyper combos. The importance of perfecting complex button inputs is diminished when a perfectly usable combo is bound to pressing X over and over again. Infinite knows what made MvC3 noteworthy (flashy lights, Ryu punching Captain America etc.), but didn’t understand the minutiae of what made it great at the higher level.
It turns the Marvel cast into nothing more than advertisements for unrelated film series.
As I have previously criticised, the character roster is incredibly lacking compared to previous entries. The Capcom side is fine enough, it’s got your Frank Wests, Dantes and Chris Redfields, and finally having Megaman X join the fight is exciting. On the other hand, Marvel’s side has the simple problem of being limited to the Cinematic universe in its choices. She-hulk? Gone. Wolverine? Gone. Pheonix? Gone, and, for once, isn’t coming back. The lack of any X-Men is a shame, and Deadpool’s absence after his unforgettable presence in MvC3 is a huge let-down, but, more importantly, it turns the Marvel cast into nothing more than advertisements for unrelated film series.
Worst of all, some of the most interesting characters, including a few series debuts, are DLC. While the idea of future characters, like Venom and Sigma, are fine, Black Panther and an unnamed Monster Hunter character both feature in the single-player campaign, but can’t actually be used at launch. Having DLC is one thing we’ve all had to learn to get used to, but rubbing our noses in what we could have in the base game just feels like an unnecessarily dickish move.
To top it all off, the netcode is atrocious. MvC has always been a game that’s benefited from local play, but even MvC3’s notorious online play seems problem-free in comparison to Infinite. On the off-chance I’ve been able to find an online competitor, the match has been plagued with lag, stuttering, and sometimes even outright disconnections.
It’s not all bad, though. Infinite’s fully voice-acted, cinematic story mode blasts any of Capcom’s previous fighting game solo offerings out of the water. For starters, it actually has one, unlike Street Fighter V at launch.
It does a fantastic job of feeling like a Marvel Cinematic Universe film in its scale and environments, while adding some greater depth to the Capcom/Marvel crossovers we’ve enjoyed for years now is a total treat. Watching Dante beat the crap out of Iron-man is cool, but seeing them interact and bond in a way none of the other games have managed is something really special.
There are a few weak moments, particularly its reuse of the same generic enemies for almost every fight, but it’s still a massive step up from the useless slideshow storytelling of MvC3.
Infinite’s fully voice-acted, cinematic story mode blasts any of Capcom’s previous fighting game solo offerings out of the water.
There’s also a lot to like about its visuals. Character models aren’t one of them – everybody looks either bored or dead inside – but the stunning vistas that make up the stages are a treat none-the-less. There are some really cool mashups of well-known Marvel and Capcom locations, such as Black Panther’s Wakanda and Monster Hunter’s Val Habar to form “Valkanda”, that look amazing. MvC games have always had intense environments, and Infinite is certainly no slacker in that regard.
Sadly, nice visuals and a bit of banter isn’t enough to make Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite anything more than a blazing disappointment. It was always going to have a rough time: MvC is a beloved series, and there’s no avoiding the critical eye of series die-hards. You know that, I know that, but apparently Capcom didn’t, and it shows. This should’ve been so much more than what it is: a promotional vehicle for Disney’s Marvel films with questionable balance, muted fighting, and frustrating DLC practices.
A review copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
Platform: PC [reviewed]/PlayStation 4/Xbox One
Release date: September 19
- Beautiful stages.
- Cinematic, fleshed-out story mode.
- Severely lacking roster.
- Insulting DLC practices.
- Underwhelming, unbalanced combat basics.
- Laggy netcode.
It looks the business, but Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is ultimately a half-baked, cynical cash in that will leave a bad taste in any player’s mouth.