Crossovers are funny old things. Done well, they can bring fans together in mutual enjoyment and create a unique and rewarding experience. If done poorly however, they can have the complete opposite effect and alienate the very audiences the fusion of worlds was intended for. Marvel and Capcom have had a long and fruitful relationship when it comes to merging their universes, giving nerds everywhere the chance to create fighting dream teams made up of their most beloved comic book and video game characters. Their latest instalment in the fan favourite franchise, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite, aims to shake things up by changing the core mechanics of the game, making it more accessible and adding some interesting new features.
In a first for the series, MVC:I includes a cinematic story mode, in which villains from both universes have exploited the power of the Infinity Stones to merge their respective dimensions and enact a plan to destroy all organic life. Various heroes from Marvel comics and Capcom games must join forces to find the remaining stones, take the fight back to Ultron Sigma and ultimately save their worlds. Sadly, the campaign isn’t as exciting as it sounds and what could have been an engaging and interesting story is let down by poor writing, questionable voice acting and less than impressive character models. I often found myself totally confused as the narrative meandered through five hours of random beat downs and bad dialogue, trying desperately to create scenes in which Sir Arthur (Ghosts ‘n Goblins) and Megaman look as threatening as Ghost Rider and the Incredible Hulk.
Captain America: Civil War – 2016
Compared to games with a similar premise, MVC:I falls drastically short of the mark and plays more like an amateur fan fiction rather than an epic crossover tale from two powerhouses of storytelling. I would have preferred to see something more like Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe where the story was told differently from each side of the divide but weaved characters and arcs from both into a cohesive adventure. Not to mention the fact that there are some insane difficulty spikes as you progress, switching from almost too easy to soul-crushing and then back again in as many fights, completely ejecting you from an already flimsy experience.
With Soul Calibur 3 being the exception, I rarely play fighting games for a rich, engaging story and thankfully MVC:I is still an arcade style brawler at heart. Fans of the series or similar games will be familiar with the gameplay and newcomers will find a more accessible experience than previous titles, with plenty of easy to use combos and abilities. While returning players may find the change from three fighters to two a bit disappointing, I found that it made me think more about crafting my team to be able to deal with whatever the game threw at me. The inclusion of the Infinity Stone mechanic is also new and can completely turn the tide of a battle if used correctly. At the start of each match, players select an infinity stone, each of which has a unique effect on the field. For instance, the space stone gives you the ability to draw your opponent closer to you, the time stone grants an instant dash across the map and the soul stone lets you steal back a portion of your health. If you charge your Infinity stones by using them during a match you can unleash their ultimate abilities, which give you huge boons like unlimited super attacks or greatly increased damage output. While they could be a bit overpowered in online fights, using them against the CPU is a lot of fun.
“I’m in a glass case of emotion!”
The bulk of your time with the game will be spent in one of the four Battle modes; Online (against other players), Arcade mode, Versus against a second local player or Versus against an adjustable CPU character. If you choose to play online, you can engage in casual, ranked or beginner matches depending on how confident you feel in your fighting prowess. There are also several character-specific challenges if you want to hone your skills and master the combos and super moves of your favourite heroes, plus an unlockable lexicon of information on all the characters and locations within the game.
The roster includes 30 characters (15 from each franchise) with varying sizes to use depending on your play style. You’ve got your small scrappers like Rocket Racoon or Firebrand, your mid-size humanoid fighters such as Ryu and Iron man and then your big, heavy hitters like Hulk, Thanos and NEMESIS from Resident Evil 3. Although decent in size, the parade of pugilists does include some obscure names and I would have loved to see some more easily recognisable faces like Albert Wesker or Deadpool, but perhaps they’ll make an appearance in the future via DLC. There are also 16 different levels to duke it out in, each one a fusion of notable locations within the Marvel and Capcom universes, which allows for some cute references to both (A.I.M.brella Corp being a personal favourite).
Well, one of us is going to have to change
Disappointing character models aside, I do feel that Capcom missed an opportunity to give the game a striking and distinct art style. If you look at Street Fighter IV or even previous entries in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series a deliberate aesthetic can lend unity to a game with characters as different and unique as those found in this kind of crossover game.
Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite is a passable fighting game. Although the series has made a few changes to be structured for playing at home, it still feels like it’s better suited to a coin-op cabinet in a flashy arcade somewhere. The attempt at a cinematic story mode is half-baked at best and the visuals look like they belong in a last generation release. That being said, I could definitely see myself playing this with my nine-year-old nephew and both of us having a good time, or firing it up for a few rounds with friends after watching the latest Marvel film. If you’re willing to overlook its flaws, MVC:I can be fun, and while it’s a tough sell in a popular genre, fans of the series will no doubt find something to love.
Reviewed on PS4