The Marvel Cinematic Universe dictates the very finite nature of Infinite.
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: September 19, 2017
Copy provided by publisher
As someone who has been following Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite since it was announced, it’d be fair to say I’ve been a little dubious of it. The character models in preview footage looked very middle of the road, there were some major lacking spots in early roster reveals, and I’ve ended up coming to the game wanting to be impressed by a game I was at least a little worried about.
While neither of those aspects ended up ruining the core of the game, MVC Infinite does feel oddly subpar compared to previous series entries. New mechanical additions help keep the formula alive, but it’s hard to ignore the weird downgrades that consistently exist at the surface.
Let’s start with what works. Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite switches back to a true 2V2 tag fighting system, where you pick two fully fledged fighters and can switch between them at any time. You can tag out mid-air, you can tag out mid-attack as a form of animation canceling, you can quickly tag out your characters instantaneously in most situations which adds a really frantic element to combat.
At a moments notice you might have to switch up your playstyle mid combo, and that sense of constant change really helps to keep an already fast paced fighting game feeling incredibly pacey.
Moving to a six button fighting system, MVCI feels surprisingly at home on a gamepad. Your four face buttons act as light and heavy punches and kicks, with the only other two buttons being character tagging and activating infinity stones which we will get to a bit later.
Much like previous MVC entries, much of the focus is on stringing juggle combos using dashes, launchers, air dashes, and now smart use of partner tagging to keep a combo going as long as possible. I have to give Infinite credit for how accessible it has made those core fundamentals, primarily through the use of easy beginner combos and a universal combo system.
Any character can repeatedly press light punch for a basic combo, ending in a launcher, allowing them to start the combo juggle chain that is the basis of most of the gameplay. If any character wants to do a screen filling hyper combo, it’s just heavy punch and heavy kick pressed together.
There are several other combos that are, while more complex to learn, still universal across characters. This means that if you manage to learn a combo as your favourite character, you’re instantly opened up to a world of other characters you can jump in and be competent with. It’s a really nice way of making higher end gameplay more accessible to new players
While this may sound to longtime fans like a dumbing down of the formula, I personally disagree. The more time I sink in, the more thankful I am for the change. Making entry level combos easier to learn has raised the level of challenge posed by my non gamer friends, and forced me to up my game when using top end techniques. A rising tide raises all ships, and this entry simplification has pushed me to get better at the nitty gritty of the system.
The biggest change to combat, and one I’ve been really enjoying, is the addition of Infinity Stones to the character selection setup.
Alongside picking your pair of fighters, before a match you’ll need to pick one of six powerups which offer both a unique standard attack and special attack themed around a specific Stone. The Power stone offers a strong launcher, or with a full meter drastically raises your attack power and causes every attack to have knockback.
Space draws the opponent nearer to you or can drastically restrict enemy movement, while Time either allows for an impossibly fast warp dash or a significant increase in player speed.
Due to the naming conventions involved, it’s easy to remember the functions of each Stone at a glance during character selection, and Stones themselves add a really nice mix up to the fighting game formula. The decision between picking a Stone that detracts from your character’s weaknesses, or exaggerating their existing strengths, is a constant balancing act of confidence as a player, and I’ve really enjoyed finding that balance.
Currently no pairing of character and Stone seems obviously overpowered, but combinations are bound to pop up over time that are more effective than others. Only time will tell if that’ll be handled when it arises.
Also, the stage designs are gorgeous, smashing Marvel and Capcom properties together in beautifully twisted ways. The stage designs do successfully capitalise on the charm of these two behemoths.
Right, now it’s time for the other foot to drop.
Firstly, the art in MVCI is a real undeniable step down from past entries. Every character has this weird uniform look that seems to be slightly too realistic for its own good. Every character ends up uncanny, slightly plastic, and way too gruff and chiseled. My suspicion is that this is a result of trying to accurately recreate MCU movie actors in game, but it just doesn’t land. Considering how gorgeous previous MVC games were, it’s a real downgrade.
It doesn’t look terrible, but it’s looking noticeably worse than past entries. The hit sparks are nice and shiny, but that hardly makes up for the issue.
Another area that feels notably worse than previous entries is the character roster, which has dropped drastically over time. Past MVC games have featured nearly 60 character rosters, but Infinite only features 30, which is not very infinite in my book.
The Capcom side of the roster is almost entirely returning fighters with very few surprises. There are maybe 5 new fighters across both Marvel and Capcom’s sides combined.
The Marvel side of the roster is where the issues are most notable, and where the reason for this drastic cutback probably lies. The Marvel side of the roster is exclusively Marvel Cinematic Universe characters, either existing or upcoming, based on their movie portrayals. I get that this was likely a part of the agreement that led to this game existing, but it also feels like the root of a lot of the game’s problems.
Due to this adherence to MCU fighters only, many of MVC’s most iconic fighters are missing. No Dr Doom, no Wolverine, no Venom, no X-Men, a huge number of fighters just not present. I highly suspect the reason we have a 30 character roster is that there were only 15 MCU characters available to add to the game, and they wanted to keep both sides of the roster equal in size. It also seems to be the reason for the weird visual style, which to me suggests it caused a lot of my complaints.
At launch, Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite features an arcade mode, but it’s simply a number of fights in a row with no narrative context attached. Story mode is 3-4 hours of silly and campy fun, more coherent than the plot of Tekken 7 but less polished than that of Injustice 2.
Online play seems stable, with a very standard expected set of modes and features that neither disappoint or hugely impress.
Overall, the core of Marvel vs Capcom Infinite is there, but it feels significantly held back by its adherence to only use MCU marvel characters. It hampered the roster and character design, two constant elements of the experience, and it’s hard to overlook those and see the strong fighting system underneath.