Fans have been desperate for another entry in the Marvel vs Capcom since the third game dropped in 2011. While yes, the game mechanically takes a step forward — it’s mired in a particularly wanting package of joyless presentation that wouldn’t be worthy of holding the soul gem.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love about Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. But I think it’s going to be easier on everyone involved if we just get some of the rubbish bits out of the way first.
A particularly wanting package of joyless presentation that wouldn’t be worthy of holding the soul gem.
The presentation and visual design is somewhere between weak and horrible to look at. Where Marvel vs Capcom 3 oozed style and love — think the vibrant visual design of the characters, or the comic book styled character selection screen — Infinite is bland, and boring. It’s bare minimum.
And the character design is for the most part just ugly. It takes a pseudo-realistic approach that ends up making the characters look like weird, bad, plastic action figures. Despite releasing in 2017 at the height of Marvel movie mania, it somehow feels much more budget than the last two games in the series.
And no, I’m not done yet. The roster is disappointing, too. Not only are there notable fan favourite omissions from predecessors, but the majority are holdovers from past games, without many new additions. Though the new additions are some of the most interesting in the game.
DLC characters have already been announced, and a couple even have an awkward scene in the story mode where it seems like you might fight them, before it sort of ends up avoiding it. DLC is fine (well sort of, it actually makes me feel a bit weird in fighting games, but that’s a different kettle of fish), but dangling it in front of our noses leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
The story mode itself is only two to three hours long, though it easily feels about twice that. And not in a good way. The plot itself isn’t very interesting, but the worst thing is how the characters awkwardly interact. Disconnected one liners (mostly eye-rollingly obvious references to their series) hang in the air like awkward elephant shaped-balloons. At one point Frank of course says “I’ve covered wars, you know”. There is no reaction from anyone else. It moves slowly on.
Disconnected one liners hang in the air like awkward elephant shaped-balloons.
Many of the fights are just against “goons”. Infinity Stones, a big component of this game’s strategy and team composition, aren’t really usable in many story fights. The final boss sucks too (it’s the same as in arcade mode), and is not a fun experience. But nor is the rest of the story to be fair.
That might sound like a lot of negatives. Infinite certainly isn’t hiding its many frustrations. But here’s the twist. Mechanically there’s no doubt Infinite is a very accomplished fighter that’s taken a big step forward for the series. On a technical level, as far as the fighting itself is concerned, this is Marvel vs Capcom at its best, and shows they’ve still got what it takes to build a fighter that feels unique and exciting to play.
Working out combo strings on these vastly differently designed characters are less about what you should do, but what you can do. The possibilities are, well, infinite.
Sure, there have been some balancing issues out the gate, but that’s not uncommon when a new fighting game is released into the wild, and moreover is indicative of what made Marvel vs Capcom 3 so exciting, and what Marvel vs Capcom Infinite carries on into the future: experimentation.
For every option a more tightly designed fighting experience like, say, Street Fighter V would offer — Infinite has a dozen or so. Working out combo strings on these vastly differently designed characters are less about what you should do, but what you can do. The possibilities are, well, infinite.
It’s the sensibility behind the hypnotic displays of mastery that became the defining feature of Marvel vs Capcom 3 at pro level — mad combos that melted away health bars like butter. The feeling of discovery, of breaking new ground, is still there this time around, though the chances of absolute domination have been diminished. Air combos are very much still a big feature, but don’t always feel like the de facto way of playing. You can get out what you’re willing to put in and practice in training mode.
With no assists and a more mixed set of approaches for what characters can do and how you can mix it up, it feels like a more level playing a field.
For some characters, still expect to see some long-ass combos. The focus on the current build is very much on offense, and bouncing back is still tricky when you get caught in an opponent’s string. There is no bursting, and counter switching and push blocks can be tough to pull off and use to your advantage.
But it’s most definitely not a one-touch kill kind of game anymore, and with no assists and a more mixed set of approaches for what characters can do and how you can mix it up (you can now choose your post-death switch-in angle of approach, for instance), it feels like a more level playing a field. A blank canvas.
Finding those limits, and pushing those boundaries, is tremendous fun.
Currently it does still seem a little bit oppressive at high level play. Players have already worked out some devastating combo strings that see the damage scaling working its way down a health bar a pixel at a time. There are some staples already — as examples, the reality stone’s projectiles are a little OP, and Dormammu’s rose gardens are almost a must-have for some intense zoning.
At high-level play Infinite is just as dizzying as its predecessor.
But it’s still early days, and Capcom will likely work with players to balance it at this end of development. Seeing how players can mould the game, and then tidying it up, is a much more refreshing approach than giving every character a rigid handful of combos.
Finding those limits, and pushing those boundaries, is tremendous fun — be that cosying up at mid-level play, or watching higher level players work out new approaches. That’s just the Marvel vs Capcom way.
At high-level play Infinite is just as dizzying as its predecessor. It’s incredibly fast-paced and the tide can turn on a razor’s edge. With characters jumping in to set up secondary responses to long special moves, it can be tough to even keep track of what’s happening before falling into Dormammu’s thorny nest. But that’s not to say Marvel vs Capcom Infinite hasn’t made any changes to make the game more accessible. It definitely has.
It’s quick and easy to work out how to meld your own combos around this auto-combo foundation.
As a four button fighter, it’s pretty easy to work out as a new player how the rise from weak attacks to heavy attacks plays out, and how you can then launch opponents and follow-up with an air combo.
The auto-combo mapped to weak punch shows how this works, and it’s quick and easy to figure out how to meld your own combos around this auto-combo foundation, though it would have been nice to have a bit more auto-variety a la Dragon Ball FighterZ‘ multi-button options, or Guilty Gear‘s stylish mode. But it still does the job, and its inclusion helps accessibility a bit more than just the pretty basic tutorial mode or mission modes (that don’t actually explain very much at all).
The greatest aid to getting newcomers into the game is how move-lists have been rethought across the board to make them simpler to understand and grasp than before. Most key specials are now all mapped to quarter-circle motions. Spider-Man’s web swing move, a key element to any combo with the character, used to be mapped to a backwards dragon punch motion, but is now simply quarter-circle back.
There’s less of a barrier to entry with whether you can pull of a sequence of complex inputs, with more of a focus on how you put your ideas into motion.
There’s much less emphasis on cancelling super moves for high-end combos too. Characters now have their own, more easy to execute, special move chains — for instance Dante has an obvious period during his “million stabs” where he can cancel into a new series of moves specific to that chain. Pull off a super move and you can simply tag in your other character during it to use as you will.
There’s less of a barrier to entry with whether you can pull of a sequence of complex inputs, with more of a focus on how you put your ideas into motion, which is exactly what we love to see with fighting games of this generation. It’s an approach that fits wonderfully with Marvel vs Capcom’s mad, experimental design.
Marvel vs Capcom Infinite is a great fighting game right now, but it’s just getting started.
Yes, at the end of the day Marvel vs Capcom Infinite is a bundle of promise that feels disappointing in many facets. It’s lacking in presentation when compared to its main competitors — the similarly team-based Dragon Ball FighterZ, the other other superhero fighter Injustice 2, or even its predecessor, Marvel vs Capcom 3. In some ways it gives off the vibes of being a mid-step.
Perhaps it would have been better suited to being a smaller budget release, something akin to how Tekken Revolution laid the ground work for Tekken 7. But it’s not. It’s here, and for all the flaws in its cheap, supermarket three-piece suit, the massive bulk of a true fighter lies beneath. Marvel vs Capcom Infinite is a great fighting game right now, but it’s just getting started. We can’t wait to see how it’ll look at professional level play further down the line, and to see how it’ll be tweaked in response over time.