Capcom it seems has started a new E3 tradition by shadow dropping a playable demo for an upcoming game: last year they surprised viewers of the Sony press conference that a playable demo of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was available on PSN, and this year they revealed a demo for the story campaign of the soon to be released Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite for both PlayStation 4 as well as Xbox One owners. Like many I assume I downloaded the demo yesterday and played through it, and while I feel there’s a lot to like, the small slice of the game also has me very worried about the finished product that is only a little over three months away from release, especially after last month’s Injustice 2.
For those who haven’t been following the trailers for Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite, the story revolves around Ultron from the Marvel Universe merging with Sigma, the big bad from the Mega Man X series, with the goal of purging all biological life from existence. They plan to do so through the power of the Infinity Stones and colliding the Marvel Universe and various Capcom worlds together. The story is clearly not taking itself as seriously as that of Injustice and that’s probably for the best. I think the last thing Infinite really needs is an emotional, gut-wrenching scene with Nathan “Rad” Spencer from Bionic Commando having to sacrifice his wife-arm (it’s a thing, look it up) to save Doctor Strange from an army of Ultron-Sigma infected Asgardian soldiers. The tone clearly suits the universe that Capcom has crafted for this new chapter in the Vs. Series, however even with its tongue firmly planted in cheek, Infinite still feels….off.
We’re used to seeing Marvel characters crossover in comics, films and TV shows, but there isn’t one unified Capcom universe. I’ve been playing Capcom games since 1989, and to my knowledge unless they exist in some Captain N like world, things like Street Fighter and Resident Evil don’t talk to one another. Time stamps throughout the demo place this portion of Infinite as taking place many months into the universal merger with relationships between Dante from Devil May Cry, Captain America, Chris Redfield from Resident Evil and Captain Marvel firmly established, and I hope there’s a portion of the story dedicated to these characters meeting up with one another and forming the rebellion against Ultron-Sigma. What Capcom also really hasn’t mastered is Netherrealm’s seamless transition from story into combat. The opponents you face are not other characters from the roster, but rather random Ultron drones and Ultron-Sigma controlled Asgardians and whereas in something like the Injustice series you’ll see a stand-off between two characters develop into a fight, things here just sort of happen, then the game stops to load and you’re in battle which is disappointing after two Injustice games.
What does work best in the story is the humor that’s mined from these characters mashing up, in particular that of Thor and Arthur from the Ghouls N’Ghosts/Ghosts N’Goblins series. I laughed a lot when the two were sharing screen time together with Thor calling Arthur “tiny knight”. It’s also great to hear actors like Brian Bloom and Eric Loomis reprise their roles as Captain America and Iron Man respectively having not done so since Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and before that the spectacular and sorely missed Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series. I guess it would be very awkward, but also a nice Easter Egg, had they gone with the Disney XD voice cast and have Roger Craig Smith voice both Captain America and Chris Redfield.
Without knowing what build of the game this demo is taken from, it’s also worrisome that this is maybe the least visually interesting Marvel Vs. Capcom game despite being developed on the current generation of hardware. There’s some good-looking characters in the roster, namely more cartoonishly proportioned ones like Arthur and robotic characters like Mega Man X, Zero and Iron Man, but they just make some of the other characters look downright hideous. A lot of talk online is how Chun-Li’s model make her character look bizarre, and even after seeing Captain America in trailers for this game going back to last December, I was not prepared for seeing him blown up on my TV while getting hands-on with the game. Cap for one looks like he’s crafted out of clay with top-heavy, bulging muscles not seen since the awful design choices seen in Captain America: Super Soldier on the Wii.
Things like story and graphics can be forgiven if Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite’s fight mechanics are solid and they very much are. To best describe the controls and design, it feels like the simplified control scheme of two punches and kicks, both light and heavy, from Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 and the two-on-two fights from the first Marvel Vs. Capcom and other games before it. I for one am happy that the series has gone back to two-on-two, though I feel I’m in a minority, as it makes this game feel much more streamlined, easier to pick up and far less chaotic. The standout characters for me at least in the demo were X and Arthur, the former because Mega Man is one of my favorite series and I had a huge smile on my face when I saw boomerang cutter as one of X’s specials and the latter because his movements are almost taken one-for-one from the series in which he comes from, as are his special moves.
One aspect I hope gets fixed though is the way the move list is laid out in the pause menu. It’s been some time since I’ve played a Vs. title and needed a refresher on character moves as well as seeing those of the new fighters like Captain Marvel for the first time. I take for granted just how clean the menus are Injustice 2 where you can easily page through combos, special moves and others things to find exactly what you’re looking for, because here everything is just presented in one giant menu and it’s a mess to navigate. It’s been like that since Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and I’m sure more seasoned players won’t mind that much, but I missed how easy it was to find things in a game like Injustice 2 for someone who just wanted to get a feel for these characters. Who knows how the whole story will play out, but in the demo you’re jumping between characters which I feel is good for a demo because you get to try new characters and see how the old ones have been changed, but the way Injustice handles this by having a few rounds dedicated to one fighter to let you get a feel for them before going online should be the standard now for these type of games.
After downloading and playing the Resident Evil 7: Biohazard demo last year, my mind exploded with the possibilities of what the final game would be and when I saw that Capcom had done the same for Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite, I very much thought I was going to have similar emotions. Having played Infinite’s story demo however, I find myself more nervous than anything about the game, especially as it’s only a few months away. Not nervous enough to cancel my pre-order mind you, but far less excited to get the final game than I was before I played it. I wrote in my review for Injustice 2 that I didn’t even the team putting Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite together and that statement holds more weight now. There are those I’m sure that far prefer Capcom’s more improvisational mechanics as opposed to Netherealm’s which even now have that rigid, dial-a-combo feel, but no one can deny that after Injustice 2, players are now expecting more from a fighting game feature wise and I don’t think that Infinite can deliver that, at least from whats been shown off here.