September 18, 2017 // 11:30 a.m.
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Version Reviewed: PC
Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite can be a lot to take in at first glance.
Within the first few minutes of MvC:I's story mode, Megaman has taken out a host of robots with Captain America's shield, while Street Fighter mainstay Chun-Li has leapt into battle alongside Captain Marvel, both heroes and the robots they fight spraying particle effects across the screen as they leap around impossibly, bringing the pain.
At first glance, MvC:I is pure spectacle, with fan-favourite characters from Capcom and Marvel's extensive rosters coming together to throw down as they cut loose with brightly coloured and easy to execute attacks that see them flying around the stage, trashing the place. This is a fighting universe full of several hundred hit combos and regular special moves, with the 2v2 gameplay leading to characters leaping in and out of battle, often mid-combo.
The switch to 2v2 battles here compared to the 3v3 seen in the rest of the series might seem odd, but the fluidity with the switches and the addition of several different Infinity Stones as an additional modifier means that the game hasn't really sacrificed any depth, and although I've spent a week getting to grips with it, I think we'll see some of this depth played out on the esports scene when professional players start working out the optimal way to play.
The game feels friendly to newcomers. I'm not a total newcomer, having played several fighting games and considering myself literate with the genre, but I was still holding my own in the game's arcade mode from the very first time I booted the game up. Many characters have easy combos to pull off, providing you can nail the timing, and each of the Infinity Stones offer a different advantage, meaning I went with one which gave me an easy knockback as unlimited use, using it early on to help with my zoning and give me some aggressive push to move forwards. This a game that rewards momentum, and I found that if I could start a solid combo, it wasn't difficult to push it into a win, or at least to eat half of the opponent's health bar in an explosion of punches and light.
Later on, I graduated to choosing options that let me slow time down or bring my partner in for a two-person beatdown.
The game comes during a 2017 that has been stuffed full of solid fighting games, and quickly makes itself at home with a decent chunk of single player content.
The game's story mode is where many players will start, with the narrative providing some structure around what is essentially a tutorial smattered with fan service. Want to see Rocket Racoon gunning down Ultron's robotic minions with Dante's famous Ebony and Ivory handguns or Thor fighting back-to-back with Ghosts 'n' Goblins diminutive knight Arthur? That all takes place in the opening of the story mode, and I feel safe saying that's something unique only to this franchise. I had a rude awakening during a fight pitching Ryu against Hulk, where the game suddenly became remarkably difficult, but it never felt too unfair and was a good way to help me improve as a player.
The characters all have a little bit of character, too. Thor's insistence that the assembled heroes try to fight for Asgard so that the dead might live again, for example, was met by a quip from zombie hunting Chris Redfield that maybe that might not work so well. It's a little straight-faced, seeming at times too afraid to embrace how ridiculous the setting actually is, but when I got used to the unintentional campiness of it all, I had a good time, despite spending much more of my time watching expository cutscenes instead of fighting.
Unfortunately Marvel's focus on its own cinematic universe and wanting to avoid promoting the Marvel film franchises set up by other film companies means anything with even a sniff of Fox's X-Men movies has been canned. Sadly, that means no Cyclops, no Wolverine, no Sentinel. Spider-Man, whose movie rights are currently held by Sony, has escaped the cut and appears in the game, but the loss of the X-Men characters that have been a series staple really hurts the game. Instead, they're replaced by heroes with prominent positions in the Marvel cinematic universe like Dr Strange, Captain Marvel, and Rocket Racoon.
There's also the game's Arcade mode, which is a more standard fighting game experience capped off with some ridiculous bosses I'd rather not spoil, and a challenge mode for the game which comprises the actual tutorial and some tough challenges for seasoned players. Some of these were seriously difficult, but they provide something else for players to do if they don't fancy the online mode.
I had a couple of stutters with the game in the immediate aftermath of a KO but otherwise didn't experience many hitches in performance. I also wasn't able to test out the online aspect of the game as much as I'd like because, pre-release, but again I didn't experience any technical issues.
Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite is a solid fighter, offering a unique experience in a year full of excellent fighting games. The single-player package should keep players amused, although it's not as bountiful as Injustice 2's offering. Still, the fast pace of the combat and candy-coloured presentation makes it a compelling offering and one that fighting game fans won't want to miss.