After 2011’s Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds and its subsequent Ultimate upgrade, many thought that there would be another Marvel Vs. Capcom game, but in late 2016, Capcom surprised the world with the announcement of Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite. After several controversies regarding team sizes, the exclusion of characters from the game’s roster and a demo that perhaps did more harm than good, Infinite is finally here. While a little bare bones extras wise in comparison to other fighting games that have been released in 2017, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite is a welcome addition to Capcom’s long-running series of Marvel themed brawlers that’s expertly designed in such a way that it can be played by casual fighting game fans (like myself) and those who compete seriously in tournaments.
For the first time in the series history, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite has a story explaining why characters like Morrigan from Darkstalkers are squaring off against Ghost Rider and it’s appropriately bonkers. Through the use of the Infinity Stones, Ultron from the Marvel Universe combines with Mega Man X big bad Sigma into Ultron Sigma and plot to merge their respective worlds and purge them of organic life. The duo are opposed by heroes (and villains) from both sides and desperately fight to undo the damage the collision of the universes has caused. The story in Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite is not the best one you’ll experience in a fighting game, especially in a year that has already given us Injustice 2, nor is it told that well either with it starting in what feels like the third or fourth issue of a major comics event. Putting aside the fact that this game posits that characters like Mega Man X, Chris Redfield from Resident Evil and Dante from Devil May Cry exist in the same universe, there’s still a lot to like about Infinite’s story move for the few hours it lasts. It’s dumb, but in a good way, with moments that will make you cheer like when Hulk hurls Ryu at a giant beast from Monster Hunter and laugh out loud when Chris Redfield says that no good can come from bringing the dead back with the Infinity Stones, speaking from personal experience of course.
Games like Injustice: Gods Among Us and its superior sequel have used a story mode to teach the player a game’s mechanics and to get a feel for members of their respective casts. For the most part Infinite’s story does this, but nowhere near as well as Netherrealm’s series of comic book themed fighters. Whereas in Injustice you played through a chapter with one character for a few matches, Infinite bounces around between characters far too much for you to get a true feel for anyone. Just as you get an understanding of how Rocket Raccoon works for example, you’re moving on to someone else. The inclusion of the Infinity Stones, this game’s big selling point, isn’t even introduced into the story mode until it’s nearly done.
Story modes are a new luxury for fighting games, but what matters most is the actual act of fighting, and in those respects, Infinite can easily compete with the best of the best. While the Vs. Series started off with 2-on-2 matches, the second and third iterations of the Marvel Vs. Capcom series upped that to 3-on-3. Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite returns once again to a 2-on-2 structure, and while many can understandably see that as a downgrade, it makes Infinite the most accessible the series has been in close to two decades. With lager than life characters tagging in and out, filling the screen with giant projectiles that cause the combo meter to soar into space, the Vs. Series has always been loveably chaotic, but with the last two entries, the MvC games get a little too chaotic to the point where it may have turned off people who came to love the series on the original PlayStation where you were mostly playing 1-on-1.
It’s not just the reduced team size that makes Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite more approachable, but other concessions added in by Capcom as well. A new feature called quick combo allows anyone who picks up the controller the chance to look cool, regardless of familiarity with fighting games, by simply tapping the quick punch (defaults to square) in rapid succession. A single hyper combo, moves that require you to fill up a meter and do a simple button combination that activates a flashy hands-off combo, can similarly be done by depressing the bottom triggers of the controller. Experts and those who are more intimately familiar with past entries can choose to ignore these features or turn them off entirely in the options menu, but it goes to show how considerate Capcom has been in bringing in more players into this series that may have been sitting on the side lines in the last two Marvel Vs. Capcom games.
Just because each team loses a member, it doesn’t mean that Capcom hasn’t thought of something to take their place. Returning from Marvel Super Heroes are the six Infinity Stones: Power, Reality, Space, Time, Soul and Mind. You can pick whichever you want before a mach and each come with their own perks. The Time Stone for example, gives heavy characters like Hulk and Nemesis an added boost of speed through a tap of the L1 trigger, and by building up a meter you can unleash an Infinity Storm by hitting the L and R1 triggers simultaneously. During this phase matches can really take a turn with the Space Stone sealing your opponent in a cage of sorts, the Soul Stone being used to resurrect your fallen partner at capacity and the Mind Stone continuously filling your hyper combo meter. Mixing and matching the correct Stone to the right fighter will really make for some great professional matches going forward and like some of the new simplified mechanics, make it so that even inexperienced players can turn the tide with the right Infinity Stone choice.
The roster is made up 30 characters, 15 from each camp, composed of a lot of returning characters like Strider, Zero, Nemesis, Spider-Man, Nova, and Iron Man with series new comers like Mega Man X and Captain Marvel. A lot of outrage has been pointed at Capcom for seemingly making Scarlet Witch declare “No More Mutants”, but it’s a good mix of characters for everyone’s style from heavy bruisers, fast movers and projectile hurlers. What’s disappointing most is that save a few new faces, the roster seems safe in a series that brought us a tiny Servbot and a sentient cactus. Marvel has introduced some fan favorite characters since Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 like Ms. Marvel who would be a great fit for a game like this and it would have been nice to see Capcom dig up some of their classic characters like a member from the cast of Power Stone for example. There was always the chance that some surprises would come via DLC, but Capcom has already put their cards on the table on how will be added post launch.
From the time the demo was released for Infinite this summer, Capcom faced a lot of criticism over the game’s looks, in particular the faces of characters like Chun-li of Street Fighter fame. Characters look much better than they did a few months ago and overall the characters and mashed up environments look good, but the aesthetic doesn’t quite pop either, looking a touch more realistic than the comic book style of part three. Monsters like Nemesis from Resident Evil and the reploids from Mega Man X fare best, but more realistic characters like Chris Redfield and Hawkeye just kinda look, okay. Captain America still looks a tad rubbery, but this is mostly only noticeable in the story mode. When you’re in the heat of battle, you barely notice because everything is running too smoothly and quickly for you to really sweat the small stuff.
For most people, fighting games are all about the head-to-head competition whether playing locally with friends or online. For those who don’t have like-minded friends to come over and play and also find little enjoyment getting easily beaten online, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite is sorely lacking in single-player, offline content. Injustice 2 from Netherrealm has a pile of content to play offline and modes that incentive players to keep returning months after its launch and Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite could really use some of those modes. Once your done with the story mode, which will only take a handful of hours at most, there’s arcade mode which is nice, but it’s also disappointing as there’s no type of character specific ending movies or comic style conclusion like in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. You do get new color schemes for characters by completing arcade mode as a reward which is something, but personally I would gladly trade this for any type of ending scenes. Outside of arcade mode there are missions you can do to help you learn characters, but they don’t offer the best instruction and ramp up in difficulty far too quickly to be enjoyed by any one other than hardcore fighting game players who are training to play online.
Leading up to the release of Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite, everyone had every right to be skeptical about it, and while it’s sadly less feature rich than its competitors, it’s a terrific fighting game that just about anyone can enjoy. The story mode is just the right of amount of silly, and the downgraded team size combined with concessions for less experienced players will only do more to grow the amount of players than shrink it. The inclusion of the Infinity Stones will also make it such that every character, no matter how they’re eventually ranked, can stand a chance in competition. Above all else though, what makes Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite worth picking up, shortcomings and all, is that for someone who owns and has tried all of these games, I’ve never felt more comfortable and competent with the series than what I have while playing Infinite.