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MultiVersus Review

A melee mash-up

In these modern times where we’re seeing intellectual properties come together left right and centre in movies, TV shows and games, I find myself awake at night, pondering scenarios like who would win in a knock-down-drag-out between LeBron James and Jake the Dog from Adventure Time. Alright, that might not be 100% true, I know King James wouldn’t stand a chance against Jake, but you get my point. Looking at the current crossover landscape, Warner Bros. and Player First Games have decided to throw their hat in the ring with MultiVersus, a free-to-play platform brawler that brings together a roster of WB-owned characters. Sharing plenty of DNA with other games in the genre, is MultiVersus a Melee masterpiece or an All-Star stinker?

I’ll get the reductive comparison out of the way now so you don’t have to put up with any more of those awful, punny nods; MultiVersus is, in many ways, very similar to Smash Bros. Just as in the beloved Nintendo fighter, you win matches by damaging your opponent and blasting them off the screen, with the more punishment they receive making the ring-out more likely. This will feel immediately familiar to Smash players, but to say that MultiVersus is a clone would be doing it a severe disservice.

Combat, while easy enough to wrap your head around if you’re just picking up the controller to have a bash at the game with some mates, has a decent amount of depth. Alongside a jump and a dodge, each character has a standard and special attack. Both have four variations that are executed by moving the left stick while hitting the corresponding face button: neutral, up, down and side. Stringing together a combo of attacks not only whacks your opponent around, but it feels satisfying and heavy, not unlike a classic 2D fighter. The move variation is impressive enough on a singular level, but when combined with a teammate, the creative combative options grow massively.

That’s cute, LeBron thinks he can jam with Batman

Setting itself apart even further from the competition, MultiVersus has a strong focus on cooperation, with its primary (and best) mode being 2v2. All of the characters on the launch roster have attacks or abilities that directly or indirectly synergise with other fighters, sometimes in very unorthodox and surprising ways. Bugs Bunny, for instance, can dig a tunnel under the stage that he can travel between, but this also creates a perfect and unexpected path for Batman’s Batarang to fly through and thwack their opponents with. Other characters, like Wonder Woman, have more overt co-op abilities, such as her shield protecting her and her ally from incoming damage. Another example is Reindog, the character made for the game, being able to tether to their partner and instantly drag them to their position if they fall off the stage. This focus on cooperation not only deepens the gameplay possibilities, it actively incentivises experimentation, giving players more of a reason to play with friends they can communicate with and create strategies.

It’s worth noting that MultiVersus also offers 1v1 and free-for-all modes that can also be a spot of fun, but it’s very clear that the primary focus is on those tense 2v2 matches.

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C’mon Bugs and Shaggy, show me what you got!

The current roster is made up of 17 characters from across the various WB properties. Classics like Bugs Bunny, Batman and Superman are mixed in with more modern characters like Arya Stark, Harley Quinn and Steven Universe. Split into five roles – tank, support, bruiser, assassin and mage – not all fighters will seem immediately useful, with Velma being a particularly weird choice on the surface. Surprisingly though, every character’s move set not only works but feels unique and (importantly) faithful to the fighter. For instance, the aforementioned orange sweater fanatic and perpetual spectacle misplacer deals damage with speech bubbles and ah ha-moment lightbulbs that appear over her head, which is on-brand and pretty damn creative.

While the characters and their move sets are filled to the brim with personality, the stages themselves fall behind a bit. The Scooby-Doo haunted mansion and the Batcave levels stand out as being slightly more visually interesting, but every stage is comprised of very vanilla layouts, usually consisting of one long platform and maybe two smaller ones floating above it. I know you want to keep the attention on the fight and introducing too many elements could make matches messy, but the lack of depth in this aspect is very noticeable.

Why does this excellent Batman skin need to be $30?

You would think that gritty characters like Arya Stark standing next to zany cartoons like Taz the Tasmanian Devil would feel out of place, but the gorgeous animated art style does a great job of bringing everything together into one world. All of the character models have clearly been created with a lot of thought and love for the source material, which is made even more clear when you hear the insane voice cast that brings the characters to life. Hearing Matthew Lillard’s Shaggy talk smack to Kevin Conroy’s Batman was incredible and it goes a long way to making MultiVersus feel like a true love letter to these franchises.

Now, being a free-to-play game, we need to talk about monetisation. Loading up the game you’ll have immediate access to four characters for free, with Wonder Woman being unlocked after you complete the extensive tutorial. By playing matches and completing challenges you earn gold, the game’s free currency that can be used to permanently unlock new characters. At first, you’ll be rolling in gold, as the onboarding challenges are easy and provide you with a more than ample reward, but after a few hours, you’ll quickly see your in-game salary dwindle. A single match often awards you with around 100–200 gold, with a character unlock costing around 3000. The premium currency called Gleamium can be purchased with real-world cash and used to unlock characters, or you can buy a Founder’s Pack that comes with character tickets, Gleamium and various other cosmetic items.

Taz getting the flowers that he deserves

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While I do think that the Founder’s Packs get eye-wateringly expensive (with the Premium pack setting you back $150.95), I don’t find the character unlocks to be too offensive if you manage to find a fighter you vibe with and stick to them. Luckily, you can try your hand at all of their roster in the offline training mode, so you don’t need to buy blind. All of the other progression systems, however, are chock full of grind. The game’s primary battle pass crawls along at a snail’s pace, making your efforts to unlock an item of interest halfway through the list seem like a journey that would make Frodo and Sam cry.

Final Thoughts

While it would’ve been easy enough for Player First Games to pop a WB-themed platform brawler out of a Smash Brother mould, MultiVersus has carved out its own niche in the genre. A diverse and expanding roster of faithfully adapted characters facilitates skill-based gameplay that’s welcoming enough to pick up and play while being deep enough to satisfy competitive players. While the flat and uninspired stages don’t match the excitement of the roster at launch, there’s hope that they will develop over time. The free-to-play monetisation might make some wary, but the great presentation and excellent combat should balance the scales for most.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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MultiVersus Review
Warner Bros. Brawl
With a strong initial roster, great visual presence and focus on cooperative combat, MultiVersus carves out a distinct spot for itself in the platform brawler genre.
The Good
Solid combat mechanics
Great visual presentation
Incredible voice cast
Small yet impactful roster
The Bad
Stages are boring
Progression is insanely slow (unless you pay)
Menus are a bit cumbersome
8
Get Around It
  • Player First Games
  • Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / PC
  • July 26, 2022

MultiVersus Review
Warner Bros. Brawl
With a strong initial roster, great visual presence and focus on cooperative combat, MultiVersus carves out a distinct spot for itself in the platform brawler genre.
The Good
Solid combat mechanics
Great visual presentation
Incredible voice cast
Small yet impactful roster
The Bad
Stages are boring
Progression is insanely slow (unless you pay)
Menus are a bit cumbersome
8
Get Around It
Written By Adam Ryan

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal Steam: TheVacuumVandal

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