Let’s go crazy
It’s a phrase you hear all too often. Like Smash it’s worked its way into the vernacular of fighting game fanatics and has earned its place into the annals of FGC history. But it’s not just all memes and hype — one of the first games I ever watched grainy videos for and competed at regionally was Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
It’s always had an endearing, dedicated place in my heart, but I fear it’s been slowly losing favor for a while.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)
Release Date: September 19, 2017
I’m not entirely sure the fangasm narrative for Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite works as well as Capcom would have hoped. Years back, when Mega Man was more relevant, the idea of Sigma teaming up with a Marvel villain would have been pretty damn explosive. But with so many crossovers, a complete and utter lack of X-Men, and a basic story that mostly just involves a clash with a big bad isn’t as impressive.
It lasts a few hours, and will keep you engaged throughout, but there’s a few hangups I had with the campaign. For one, they should have gone a little harder on some of the Marvel characterizations if they so desperately wanted to incorporate MCU elements. They went full RDJ knockoff for Iron Man but many others are more forgettable, including meat-head Thor.
The art style is a crime against humanity. Capcom basically went “what if we took the Disney Infinity Marvel look, then made it more realistic, and didn’t make any adjustments beyond that?” Cartoony characters like the ones from the Mega Man stable, or robots like Ultron mostly look fine, but others, like Tony Stark with his helmet off, are garish.
Infinite‘s story does try to mix things up a little when you’re actually fighting, to its credit. There’s some accounting for 1v2 fights, a remnant of Street Fighter experiments, and some battles are just fodder with the same few “infected” NPCs or Ultron Drones. Then there’s a really cool fight with Ultron Sigma! Then there’s more fodder. They tried. And hey, hey, at least it has a real story mode at launch (and an arcade mode, trials, online lobbies, plus tons of challenges).
But, as most people know, as a long term fighting game player I’m more concerned about the guts than the pageantry, and these guts are good. Infinite is an amalgam of multiple iterations, as it brings back the (working) four-button system from the second game. In terms of the fundamental shift from 3v3, I actually like the 2v2 conceit better.
It’s more intimate, and although many would argue that the more characters there are that are out at any given time the more complex the game is, the original Marvel vs. Capcom worked just fine with 2v2. The lack of traditional assists (it’s all tag-based now) also cuts down on spam from a casual perspective, as you now need to tag to meaningfully combo with your partner.
The Infinity Stones (you can choose one per match), which folks feared would be another Gem-like Street Fighter X Tekken gimmick, have been reigned in. All six of them are manageable in that they give small buffs or powers, but they need to be accounted for with each individual combatant. Players can take rushdown characters and min-max them with the Time gem that allows you to dash through projectiles, a strategy that you’ll need to both master and counter when any opponent picks a specific stone. You can also proc them to initiate Infinity Storm, a much more balanced form of X-Factor that operates as another super.
Let’s break the roster down, because these Versus games can get out of hand. There’s 30 characters, and seven are new (at launch). Having played all of them, there really isn’t a face I don’t like (well, figuratively, because some of the faces are mutated). I know people are going to get up in arms that the roster doesn’t hold a candle to [x] Versus game, but for me, it’s right on the money. I have at least 10 that I really dig, and I was willing to try out everyone without groaning or feeling like any of them were inadvertent joke characters.
No Wolverine (who is practically the Versus poster boy) still stings but you have heavy-hitters like Strider and Morrigan, as well as Captain America and Spider-Man — and even Dante from Marvel 3, who has earned his place. Combos are intuitive, rushdowns are quick and frenetic, and keep away characters have plenty of tools in their toolkit. The only real complaint I have against the movesets is a petty one — most of the ultimates (level 3 hyper combos) aren’t flashy enough.
Although it didn’t directly impact this review as it’s content yet to come, Capcom is dangerously flirting with DLC. We have a Season Pass of characters on top of multiple pre-order bonuses, which is typical Capcom fare. But this is in a post Street Fighter V world, where sales were lower than expected and a lot of the good will from IV has been evaporated. I hope they cool it and let people focus on Infinite where it counts.
I feel like Capcom was finally able to settle on a formula that doesn’t feel too experimental, while at the same time not being so safe that it’s a bore. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is sterile on the surface, but a functional as hell fighter. I’m fine with that. Are you?
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]