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Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: Sept. 19, 2017


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PS4 Review - 'Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite'

by Thomas Wilde on Sept. 26, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Marvel and Capcom universes collide like never before as iconic characters team up for action-packed player-versus-player combat in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.

Buy Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite

The good news is that Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite actually plays very well, on- or offline. The bad news is, well, almost everything else.

Infinite has had a rough road to release. Despite being janky and somewhat broken, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 had a fervent fan base that made it a favorite on the fighting-game tournament circuit. As far as the fans were concerned, all Infinite had to do was provide more of the same. Instead, Infinite made a number of decisions intended to simplify the game and hopefully draw in new players, such as scaling back the size of players' teams from three to two, adding a number of "easy mode" features like an automatic combo, and simplifying a lot of move inputs.

Due to Marvel Studios's ongoing problems with various characters' film rights, Capcom also couldn't include any characters associated with the X-Men or Fantastic Four in Infinite. That eliminated many of the most popular characters from MVC3, such as Doctor Doom and Phoenix. Thus, Infinite is shipping with a smaller roster and simplified mechanics to a die-hard audience that's suddenly missing many of its favorites.

On top of that, the game feels like it was made on a shoestring, and in a hurry. The character models are, at best, serviceable; they move well enough, but it feels like most of them were made by quickly customizing some generic, universal model. MVC3 dodged a lot of this with judicious use of cel-shading, which fit well with the general straight-off-the-comics-pages aesthetic of the game, but Infinite replaces that with a weak stab at photorealism that ends up looking fairly ridiculous. The most notable problems come from Captain America, who has no neck whatsoever; Dante, who showed up to work with a hangover and possibly a heroin problem; and Morrigan, who looks like an inflatable date made a wish to become a real girl.

The various other elements of the game, like victory screens and the UI, are generic and serviceable. It all works, to be fair; I've never run into an issue in Infinite when I felt like the game's design was actively hindering my ability to play it. It's just not an aesthetically pleasing game, which is so weird for a product from a major publisher in 2017 that it almost feels admirable.

The story mode is occasionally fun, and the fact that it exists in the boldly plotless Marvel vs. Capcom series is kind of amazing, but it has a slapdash feel to it that reminds me of a community theater production. It works a lot like the recent Netherrealm productions, where it tells the game's story while giving you an excuse to play as or against the entire cast of the game, but Infinite seems determined to play its ridiculous premise — an alien and a robot used magic gems to mix together two wildly different parallel universes — as straight as it can. It's a no fun zone.

I keep thinking of the Project X Zone games, which feature a similar premise and even a few of the same characters, which really leaned into how ridiculous the whole thing was.  By comparison, Infinite plays it all almost painfully straight, though it's not without a few funny moments here and there.

The real shame is that the story mode begins in medias res, 88 days after the incident that combined Marvel and Capcom's universes into a single Earth. (The idea that Darkstalkers, Dead Rising, Devil May Cry, Final Fight, Mega Man X, Monster Hunter, Resident Evil, Street Fighter and Strider are all somehow contemporaneous parts of a shared universe is never really discussed or explored.) The game simply skips over the awkward meet-ups and begins at a point where most of the heroes have already met and are working as a team. It's almost the least interesting part of the story as presented, and I wonder if there was initially supposed to be a comic book that led into this.

With all that in mind, it's surprising that the actual fighting in Infinite actually isn't bad at all. I don't think it's anywhere near as accessible as Capcom was hoping it would be, but in its best moments, it's entertaining, fast-paced and flexible.

The idea behind Infinite is that tagging in your partner is now a quick and tactical decision that can be done repeatedly and at almost any time. Rather than picking a character solely for his or her assist, which was why so many UMVC3 tournament players ran with Doctor Doom, you can begin a special ability or combination and tag in your second character to act independently. You basically create your own assists on the fly.

It's a layered approach that can create absolute chaos, as one character fills the air with projectiles as cover for the other character to make an approach, or one character's gimmick serves as a setup for the other. You can also spend some meter to swap in your other character as a method of escaping a combo, but doing so thoughtlessly is a great way to get both characters hit at once. It rewards the ability to think a few moves ahead, as well as fast reactions and character experience.

Instead of a third character, you instead select one of the six Infinity Gems, which provides you with access to a new special move and a new super. The Reality Gem seems to be the odds-on favorite right now, as it creates a slow-moving homing projectile that provides a huge array of possible options, but you can also bring back a fallen teammate with the Soul Gem or lock somebody down with a cage of force (a.k.a. the "shame cube") with the Space Gem.

Characters' health has been somewhat normalized since UMVC3, which means everyone's about the same sort of glass cannon. A lot of lost health turns to "red" life, which can be regenerated while a character's off-screen, which is another way the game incentivizes rapid switching. It seems surprisingly easy to deal 50% damage or more in a single combo, but damage scaling is so high and regenerating lost health is so easy that characters somehow feel both fragile and durable at once.

Right now, we're almost a week into Infinite, which is likely to have a long run as a tournament game, so it's too early to say much about factors such as character balance or overpowered tactics. The game hasn't evolved enough to say whether a character is truly overpowered, or is just so easy to pick up and use that no one's figured out an answer yet. Dormammu seems ridiculous, especially when paired with Dante, and I'm already sick of Zero again, but it's early days. With a game like Infinite that came out of the box with a strong community of theory-crafters and professional players, it's difficult to predict how it'll develop.

For the moment, I'm confident in saying that Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite plays well, which is good, because everything that surrounds that base game is a hot mess. It deserves a lot of the initial terrible buzz it received because unless you have your hands on it, Infinite just looks like refried hell. The Vs. series has never exactly been known for its high production values, but for a major fighting game release in 2017, this borders on embarrassing. It's a fun game that's often difficult to look at, and more so than any balance patches or DLC, it could use a fresh coat of paint.

Score: 8.0/10

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