We had our concerns about Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, but there’s one general rule to keep in mind when it comes to understanding what Infinite is all about: this isn’t Marvel vs. Capcom 4.
More than likely, in order to get a new deal made at all, Capcom had to compromise with Marvel on a number of things, but most importantly, the developer likely wanted to make sure that it was a game that still stayed true to both universes. That’s a tricky tightrope to walk.
And yet, Capcom pulled it off. While Infinite has some slight inconsistencies that may annoy a few players at first, it feels like the most complete package that the publisher has released in some time.
It’s not only loaded on the versus front, but it also has one of the better story modes you’ll come across in any Marvel game, packed as it is with originality and humorous moments. Injustice 2 it’s not, but Injustice 2 it wasn’t trying to be. Infinite scores on its own levels.
This is vintage Marvel vs. Capcom through and through, even without the craziness of a 3-on-3 setup. It’s down to 2-on-2, but that’s where the series grew up anyway, so we’re fine with learning the basics for a duo, calling them in for quick attacks, and teaming up to level opponents. The tag system feels better than it ever has, and allows you to really mix up an offense in the best way possible.
The gameplay actually feels a little bit more focused this time around. Special moves are easier to execute and, better yet, can be chained together into some wonderful combos with very slight effort. Watching Doctor Strange fire off beams to keep an opponent in the air before calling in Mega Man to deliver a few quick punches is gratifying to say the least. Or, better yet, having my favorite new tag team, Ghost Rider and Morrigan, team up to go ham against Thanos and Ultron; it's a spectacle.
Infinite seems custom built to help out newcomers. They can walk in and actually create combos that almost look as solid as the pros, and master turn-around moves in a matter of matches. Considering most fighting games these days shut out rookies, with the exception of those with in-depth training modes, this is a welcome feature.
But it’s no pushover, either. There are still plenty of nuances and combos to learn here, and it’s a great system that lets you set up some truly sick moves. There are still plenty of juggles, so you can still trap someone in a corner pretty well, even without the presence of series favorite Magneto. All you have to do is take the time to invest. The super moves are still amazingly fun, and some provide a callback to the old school, like Iron Man’s ridiculously oversized cannon. It’s Tony, being Tony.
The Infinity Stones make a big difference. Each one offers a quick move that you can pull off, helping you chain together combos or giving you a defensive technique to get you out of harm’s way long enough to strike back, depending on their effects.
You can also fully activate them for even more of a boost, like trapping your opponent in an invisible box to let them have it, or becoming a more devastating force with a temporary surge of power. It depends on what kind of gem you pick in versus, and they’re all worth trying out. We’ve missed these since the good ol’ days of Marvel Superheroes, so we’re happy they’re back.
Story Mode may be the truly prized asset of Infinite. While it doesn’t nearly take itself as seriously as Injustice 2’s story mode, that’s kind of the point. It follows the fun nature of the MCU films, while at the same time serving up some great cornball moments that are vintage Capcom.
The mode blends together Marvel and Capcom characters inexplicably -- I just have a feeling that Bionic Commando’s Spencer and Iron Man’s Tony Stark met in a bar and started talking about robotics -- but it puts them to good use as Sigma Ultron forms and wreaks havoc upon the Earth, forcing them into action. And other opposition soon rises, along with new faces that join the crew.
It’s great seeing black-suited Spidey pop up for a temporary villainous turn, and to see what Mike Haggar is made of, even if we’re trying to figure out how he got into an A.I.M.Brella (a combination of A.I.M. and Umbrella) underground facility in the first place. The game is filled with moments like this, where you’re either facing off against drones or a character hell-bent on recapturing the Stones for themselves, like Darkstalkers’ Jedah, who has become a remarkable villain in the midst of all this. He deserves the exposure.
Also, the Story Mode sets up some great “dream” matches that you'd never consider. Who would expect Morrigan from Darkstalkers to be fighting Ghost Rider on a faraway planet? Or Thanos mixing it up with Jedah to prove who’s the more unstoppable force? Or Frank West teaming up with Spider-Man, who calls in his tag action by singing, “Fraaaaaank!” It’s pretty damn hilarious, and a lot of fun for the three-something hours it lasts.
I do wish there were some bigger boss battles – why don’t characters ever mix it up with that weird symbiote giant in a match instead of just the big baddie at the end? – and the loading times can be inconsistent, but as a whole, Infinite’s Story Mode is bigger and better than originally teased.
Arcade Mode is vintage beat-'em-up fun where you challenge a number of opponents and get the most out of your fighting skills, even if, again, loading can take a bit longer than expected. Versus is pretty much the backbone of any good fighting game, since you can mix it up with players online and off.
Online will accommodate players with a number of modes, ranked and casual included, as well as a beginner’s league that will serve as a comfort to rookie players – again, an audience that Capcom is wisely playing up to this time around. The matches we took part in handled very smoothly, with nary a spot of lag, but that doesn’t quite count for the public action. We’ll revisit in a follow-up should we encounter any problems, but it seems to be holding up just as well as other Capcom fighters with online features.
Overall, the modes are about what you’d expect from a Capcom game, and unlike Street Fighter V, they're all available right off the bat.
Probably the biggest thing that will throw off some players with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is its appearance. It’s consistent, but it does take some getting used to.
For example, some of the character models are a bit lacking. For every one that Capcom gets right, like the awesome Dormammu and the devoted design of Firebrand, there’s one that appears a bit unfinished, like Dante from Devil May Cry. These characters are still recognizable, but are lacking some of the polish they had with the cel-shaded Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. That’s not to say the game looks terrible, but a few more touch-ups certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing if Capcom is patching things up.
That said, the rest of the game looks dazzling. The combined locations from the Marvel and Capcom universes are a real surprise, and the stage designs are literally out of this world, from space stations to a destroyed Avengers facility to a freakin’ planet with a symbiote chamber in the background, teeth and all. They have imaginative designs, just like other stages in the game.
Also, the game’s speed is right on the money. It moves at a very consistent 60 frames per second, like previous MVC games, and speed counts for everything when it comes to executing moves properly. While Capcom came up short in some areas, it doesn't in this one. The game just screams during matches, even online.
As for audio, the music cues are vintage Capcom, with plenty of great character introduction songs and in-game rock music that fits the tone of the series perfectly. The sound effects are standard kick-and-punch fare; nothing to write home about.
Then there are the character voices. Like the story, they too can be cheesy at times, but sometimes they just fit the characters. While Captain America doesn't sound like Chris Evans, he does sound zealously patriotic, and that works. Dante still sounds like a sly dog whenever he speaks, and Rocket Raccoon, of course, packs plenty of one-liners. It’s not a star-studded affair like Injustice 2 was, but we're pleased with how well they turned out.
I’ll just say it right now – Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite isn’t the best in the series. It doesn’t have the character variety of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, nor the sheer craziness of my favorite game in the series, Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
No, it’s not a perfect game. The visuals need some polish, the Story Mode could’ve gone on just a little bit longer, and there’s no sign of a playable Black Panther – yet, anyway. Something tells me he’d be a dynamite fill-in to the missing Wolverine, which would make a few players breathe a little easier once they pull off a few slashes with him.
But the point is this: Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is fun. A lot of fun. Its story has heart and, more importantly, a few chuckles that fans of both universes will get. The fighting feels natural and exciting, with a lot to master between the regular basics and the Infinity Stones. The multiplayer aspects are wide open and should really open up a community for fans if they haven’t gone running to the Dragon Ball FighterZ camp already.
Just accept the fact that it’s more celebration than evolution, and you’ll feel right at home with Infinite. It’s a lot better than we’d thought it be, and that’s saying something.
RATING: Four out of five stars.
Disclaimer: A PlayStation 4 review code was provided by the publisher.