Despite having several games already, the premise for Marvel vs. Capcom never fails to boggle the mind. It shouldn’t, because comics have a long history of crossovers. Where DC has the dark and gloomy evil Superman of the Injustice universe, Marvel has Spider-Man and Frank West making photojournalist jokes at each other. Too bad that sort of humour is few and far between.
It used to be that a proper story in a fighting game was laughable. But that was back in the 90s, and since then we’ve been treated to Injustice, Mortal Kombat X and Street Fighter V. This is the first time in any of the Marvel vs. Capcom games that we’re seeing the reason behind the merging of the two worlds. It’s not a reboot, but apparently all previous Marvel vs. Capcom lore doesn’t apply. Which means it’s not a reboot in the same way that 2016’s Ratchet and Clank wasn’t a reboot – it totally is, just no one wants to say it.
Dubbed the Cataclysm, Ultron and Sigma use the Infinity Stones to smush the Capcom and Marvel worlds together like a kid with Playdoh. Then they do the same to themselves, bringing forth the aptly named antagonist Ultron Sigma.
It’s a basic plot, but handled poorly. With Ulton Sigma in control, the last hope is to find the rest of the Infinity Stones and gain enough power to defeat him. while figuring out how Ulton Sigma managed to fuse their worlds together in the first place. The story takes two-to-three hours to complete. or more if you’re terrible at fighting games like me and get stuck when trying to defeat Hulk. I died at least twelve times and made Ryu look like a baby.
While it certainly tries for traditional Marvel humour, jokes often fall flat. Most of this comes down to heavy handed writing and the fact that the story takes place about three months after the Cataclysm, completely skipping the initial character meetings. It would have been great to see Captain America meet Mega Man X for the first time, or see how Ryu and Hulk got paired up for scientific missions. Instead we’re treated to everyone using each other's full names in an effort to make sure you know they’re all friends. Despite all this, the story is playable, but it won’t be the main draw for most people.
The most annoying issue with the story mode are the boss fights. The Infinity Stones are scattered in a variety of merged arenas, such as MODOK’s AIMbrella (AIM and Umbrella) lab. While you might assume you’ll be taking on MODOK yourself, you’ll instead be battling waves of minions with MODOK in the background occasionally using the special ability afforded to him from his Infinity Stone. While not all boss fights go this way, a fair few of them do. They’re different from the other fights for sure, but not the great battle to the death you expect from a boss fight.
Story isn’t the only mode available to you. There’s your traditional training mode that pits you against whoever you want, anywhere you want. Then there is versus mode, allowing you to fight against your friends, or against the game AI. The traditional arcade experience is back, and just as fun. There is also a missions mode which offers a combination of character specific tutorial missions and more specific and advanced missions meant to help you really learn your character.
Those are just the offline modes. There are both ranked and casual matches online, along with a beginner’s league for those below rank fourteen. Which means you won’t start up your online career and be completely wasted in the first few seconds. You can also create or join a lobby where up to eight players can fight in a mini-tournament.
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of actually playing the game. It’s awesome. The buttons have changed from Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and tend more towards the layouts of earlier games. Face buttons act as light and heavy kicks and punches, with each trigger doing a light/heavy combo. The bumpers allow you to swap between your two fighters and activate Infinity Stones.
Each stone has two effects. One is your general use, and includes abilities like a force blast and stealing an opponent's life heal your own. The second effect can only be used once you’ve filled up your infinity metre and acts on the whole arena. My favourite is the one that traps your opponents in a small box, reducing their movement.
Along with the Infinity Stones, tag teaming allows you to perform combos with your two fighting partners at almost anytime. This allows you to rapidly switch between characters in mid air in order to take advantage of each character's moveset. I’m terrible at fully utilising the ability, but when I do I feel amazing.
Each character does have a fully developed moveset, but much of the game is centered on accessibility. While accessibility often comes across as a dirty word, it really works here. Combos can be performed with rapidly tapping one button rather than needing a small bout of thumb dexterity, and hyper combos are much easier to perform, requiring only a tap of both trigger buttons. While this allows players new to fighting games an in, it also allows veteran players to fluidly create devastating combos of moves.
I find that the most important question when it comes to any sort of Marvel or fighting game is “how good is the roster?” Both Marvel and Capcom offer a wide range of potential fighters and that should theoretically allow anyone to create a dynamic duo just for them. While the Capcom roster comes across as rather strong, the Marvel roster is quite weak, missing out on several staples such as Wolverine. Where the Capcom roster tries to spread itself across a lot of different franchises, Marvel starts and end with the Avengers.
But there are a lot of new faces on the Marvel side, matching up with some of the movies. Gamora and Rocket Raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy, and the upcoming Captain Marvel are just a few. What is interesting is that none of these characters match their movie counterparts, but rather their latest comic incarnation. This is most obvious with Gamora; with a stylish green bob, orange panda eyes, and a sick suit of armour, she looks nothing like Zoe Saldana.
The Capcom roster has some interesting faces. Arthur (Ghosts n’ Goblins) joins the cast pretty much purely for comedic relief, while Nemesis (Resident Evil) turns up to make sure there’s someone who can match Hulk’s reach. Am I still mad at taking so long to beat Hulk? Maybe. Ryu, Chun-Li, and Strider Hiryu make a return as staples of the game, and thankfully so do Frank West and Mike Haggar.
While the base game comes with fifteen characters each from Marvel and Capcom, the 2017 character pack adds four new Marvel characters (Black Widow, Venom, Winter Soldier and Black Panther) and only two Capcom characters (Sigma and a female Monster Hunter). It balances things a little, but also adds in three more Avengers. I kind of feel like I’m being sold advertisement for Avengers: Infinity Wars.
I’m no expert at fighting games. I like them, but I’m terrible at them, and tend to judge them on how well they do when both players are blindfolded. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite passes that test well, making for a great party game. Most of my issues with the roster comes down to personal preference, but it’s safe to say you shouldn’t pick it up for the story mode alone.
Bronwyn received a digital copy of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite from Capcom for review.