I grew up playing Capcom's seemingly forgotten Marvel-themed fighting games from X-men: Children of the Atom to Marvel Super Heroes and the vs. Street Fighter follow-up. I loved them all, mostly because I was a huge X-men fan and Cyclops’ super move was a beam that filled the screen and as a young boy that was all I could ask for. Yeah, I'm a Cyclops fanboy, so what?
Now, over two decades after Children of the Atom's release, the fourth game in the Marvel vs. Capcom series is releasing into a world filled with tons of competitive fighters, including the popular DC Comics-based Injustice series made by the creators of Mortal Kombat. Does Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite do enough to stand out in an already crowded genre?
I think so.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is an ugly game, let's just get that out of the way. The character models are less than impressive with faces that resemble knockoff Halloween masks of popular comic book and video game characters. Mega Man X has what I'd call 'dead eyes' that stare off into the distance and Ryu has a permanently scrunched up nose like a dog growling at something. Basically, every human character just looks off. This fact is highlighted by lengthy cutscenes in the story mode that often show close-ups of characters speaking where, at times, the words don't even remotely sync up to their mouths.
Once you accept that and move on, there is a pretty decent fighting game here.
The story mode took me around three-and-a-half hours, which I'd say was split nearly evenly between cutscenes, fighting, and loading screens. The cutscenes feature all the heroic characters from both Marvel Comics and Capcom games joining forces to stop a common enemy that has used the Infinity Stones to converge their universes together. Cutscenes seem to vary in quality depending on whether or not they are pre-rendered or using the in-game models, which isn't so bad (unless you're looking for it).
The voice acting is hit and miss, with characters like Chris Redfield of Resident Evil, Frank West of Dead Rising, and Iron Man faring pretty well. Iron Man's voice actor does a pretty good Robert Downey Jr. impression, which helps, even if the character isn't written nearly as witty as he has been in recent Marvel films. Other characters are bland or just plain bad such as Morrigan, the Scottish succubus who either has a voice actress that does a terrible attempt at an accent or I've just become used to overstated Duck Tales-like Scottish accents.
The selection of characters here includes those that are popular in the Marvel cinematic universe right now and a hodgepodge of Capcom characters, many of which the company itself seems to have forgotten. The Devil May Cry 3 version of Dante is in, as well as the “hot dog armed” Spencer from the remake of Bionic Commando—for some reason. Also in the game are Arthur and Firebrand from the Ghosts N' Goblins series, a series that hasn’t seen a proper console release in over a decade. While the character choices are strange, as a fan of old-school Capcom games I can appreciate including lesser known characters.
Sadly, many of the characters in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite are played and acted in a very serious manner which doesn't mesh well with a game where characters include a talking raccoon that rides a tree person and a shirtless mayor that beats people with steel pipes and throws metal barrels. However, there are a few times where characters get downright campy which are the best moments of the entire story. The narrative would have been so much better off if it wasn't played so straight-faced for the most part.
While I enjoyed the story, it wasn't anything all that impressive (especially when compared to some recent offerings from NetherRealm Studios) and mostly consists of the heroes splitting up and flying or teleporting to areas where the Infinity Stones are while also engaging in some witty banter. Perhaps unsurprisingly the female characters mostly take a back seat to their male counterparts, on whom the spotlight is heavily focused. However, the developers did find time to give a lot of screen time to the scantily clad Morrigan, because of course they did. That said Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite may have some of the best and most well-defined male butts in a game, which I quite enjoyed. Captain America clearly does not skip squat day at the gym.
I'd estimate the battles in story mode consist of 50 percent fighting boring Ultron Drones and 50 percent fighting the few villains in the game. I don't understand why Capcom would make you fight such dull basic robots so many times when it has such a colourful cast of characters at its disposal. It wouldn't be so bad if the drones didn't have rather basic move sets that make these fights feel more like a beat 'em up brawl instead of a match in a fighting game. At least the final boss is enjoyable, foregoing the steep difficulty fighting game bosses are known for.
When it comes to the fighting Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has something for both casual players and pros alike, although I don't know if the latter will adopt it as heavily as past games. The story teaches players the basics of the game without being a boring tutorial (there is a separate Missions mode for that) including how to tag between your two characters, perform an auto-combo that just requires mashing the low punch button over and over again, as well as the use of the Infinity Stones.
One of six Infinity Stones is selected before each match outside of story mode, each with their own special move and mode to activate with added effects. One stone lets players dash back and forth quickly, another shoots a ball of energy just in front of them, while others quickly fill up your super meter's energy or allow you to temporarily fight with both of your characters at once. While some stones feel stronger than others, none of them felt overpowered. However, it is still early for the full competitive metagame to develop.
Most of the special moves are done via a quarter circle followed by an attack button, with supers pulled off by doing a quarter circle and pressing both low and high attack buttons at once. Alternatively, for the less savvy players, there is the ability to simple press high punch and kick at the same time to activate one of their character’s supers.
In a world with so many fighting games that require split-second reflexes, it is nice to see Capcom include options for new players (or aging players with failing reflexes) to be able to enjoy Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Auto-comboing will make anyone feel like they are kicking ass, even if the combo each character does is nearly identical in execution. Being able to pull off a super move without doing half circles is welcome as well. I do wonder, however, if the accessibility will drive some competitive players away, perhaps dismissing it as a fighting game for casuals. I suppose only the future will tell.
I attempted to play online via matchmaking without success on the release night of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, as every search for a game came up empty-handed. It is unclear if this means there is something wrong on the technical side of things, or if players just opted to get the game on platforms other than Xbox One. I was eventually able to search for and find a lobby with seven other players in it. The fights were smooth and it felt like I was sitting in the room with the other player—aside from one match where my connection to the other player wasn't the best. That match was basically unplayable thanks to constant stuttering, hitching, and lagging.
Results may vary.
Otherwise, from a technical standpoint Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has a couple niggling issues. One being the aforementioned load times, which can range anywhere from 30 seconds to around a minute in story mode, usually when switching from a cutscene to a fight. While this might not seem like a lot of time, I don't feel like I was exaggerating when I said it made up close to a third of my time in the story mode. The other issue was a smidgen of framerate stability issues during the slow motion, last hit of the fight. Thankfully it doesn't impact gameplay.
If you're one of those people annoyed by DLC characters being included with the base game “on the disc” then prepare to be… annoyed. The story mode has a section with both Black Panther and a lady Monster Hunter character, both of which are to be released as DLC, as well as Ultron Sigma as the main villain, who is also part of the season pass. Surprise! It's a AAA video game in 2017 with a season pass for content seemingly on the disk (at the very least partially).
I went into Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite bracing for the worst, but once I got past the ugly character models I discovered a rather decent fighting game that is approachable for old players and newcomers alike. While it doesn't reinvent the wheel or do anything all that original, it's still a fun romp and one that I could see kids absolutely loving like I loved the video game forefathers of this series. Oh, and you can play as Nemesis from Resident Evil, who takes up the whole screen and shoots a rocket launcher, so there is that.
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