MultiVersus Hands-On Preview – A Revitalising Relaunch

Super Warner Bros. Ultimate

It’s been almost a year since MultiVersus closed down what felt like the most prolonged beta ever. It was a shame because I’ve famously advocated for its quality amongst my peers, both online and offline. While it’s always hard to make a platform fighter, especially in the shadow of games like Super Smash Bros., MultiVersus came close. A year after the closure, MultiVersus is back, building upon the strong foundation to provide a proper launch that goes from strength to strength. Having spent some time with the near-final build in a very brief preview, it’s clear that MultiVersus is now poised to be one of the better platform fighting games.

In case you’ve no idea what MultiVersus is, it’s remarkably familiar in fundamentals to Nintendo’s flashy crossover fighter, with four characters entering the arena to duke it out. The damage system in MultiVersus is lifted straight from Smash as well. Every hit increases a damage percentage, and the higher your damage percentage, the higher your character is flung when hit by an attack. Fly far enough, and you’ll be out of bounds and allow your opposing team to score. But that’s where the similarities end, as there’s much to differentiate MultiVersus from its contemporaries.

Multiversus Preview - Introduction Cutscene featuring Jason Voorhees, The Joker and Agent Smith

Arguably one of the first genres to perfect the now much-maligned games-as-a-service model, fighting games have behaved as such before the trendy moniker was coined. It seems fit to reason that MultiVersus is a free-to-play game. It’s immediately apparent that MultiVersus borrows its progression systems from similar experiences like Apex Legends, Fortnite and Fall Guys. Lots of experience to earn, bars to fill and dopamine to harvest. As someone around when this wasn’t the standard of games, I will be forever sceptical about whether this approach could work for a genre close to my heart. But thankfully, after spending more time with MultiVersus in this preview, it feels fair to the player. I had enough earnable and free currency to buy a character after three to four hours of play.

The second central point of difference from other platform fighters is the roster. MultiVersus will launch with twenty-six unique fighters, with more on the way, but they hail from a wide range of franchises from the Warner Bros. Discovery catalogue. Just some of the roster sees Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo, Game of Thrones, Adventure Time and even The Matrix represented in Season 1. And every character is brought to life authentically and recognisably. Velma, for example, fights with speech bubbles, out-loud calculations and idea lightbulbs. Tom & Jerry fight each other uniquely, and those who get in their way will take damage from the fallout. Even Arya Stark can use her Faceless abilities to steal her opponents’ attacks, just like Kirby. The roster is incredibly well put together, and it’s exciting to see what else can (and will) come.

Multiversus Preview - Pre Game Opening

The relaunch and Season 1 bring a few new characters to the mix. They’re an eclectic bunch. First, Banana Guard, unlockable by finishing the tutorial, is a stranger pick from Adventure Time and an excellent pick for newcomers owing to his more straightforward move set. Joker is just as you’d expect – a goofy, long-distance fighter who fights with many gadgets and gizmos. My favourite is Jason Voorhees; however, he fights by suffocating his enemies in a sleeping bag and clapping them in the middle of a bed he summons out of nowhere. He’s the most bizarre inclusion in MultiVersus, but also a testament to just how far the developers are willing to go. No matter how out there, every character is crafted to fit into the game perfectly, even if it feels like they shouldn’t. 

The other significant new inclusion is Rifts. Serving as a PvE component of the game, it allows players to earn currency they can spend in-game without having to fight against other players. Rifts act as mini-campaigns, each having a theme and bespoke battles with unique modifiers, too. Every Rift has a boss at the end and will presumably be refreshed with each season. The theme of the current Rifts we got to sample was Digital, owing to the arrival of Agent Smith from The Matrix later in the month, and Horror, owing to Jason.

Multiversus Preview - Rift Menu

On each node, there’s usually a fight to take on, but not always. Some nodes offer minigames, while others provide mini-bosses to defeat. It reminds me of a much snappier and faster-paced version of Mortal Kombat 1’s Invasions mode, giving players perks to equip in that Rift to improve their stats. Like everything else in the game, Rifts can be approached with another player, and optional mini-objectives can be completed on each node to keep things interesting.

However, gameplay-wise, MultiVersus still feels the same. The key difference from other fighters of this ilk is an emphasis on teamwork. All characters have abilities that help their teammates but hinder their foes. Velma’s attacks will buff your teammates while damaging anyone they might hit. Reindog, an original character created for this game, can tether themselves to their teammate, pulling them in should they ever be in peril. But anyone who touches that tether, in the meantime, takes damage. It’s a nice design choice that differentiates MultiVersus from similar games.

It’s the sense of team synergy that really sets MultiVersus apart. The best matches I’ve had are the ones I play with friends. Now, being able to take on Rifts together on top of the previously available modes gives me another reason to jump into MultiVersus in my downtime.

Multiversus Preview - Minigame Node

Having shifted to a new version of Unreal Engine, MultiVersus looks much better than previously. It boasts rock-solid performance and incredibly consistent art direction, considering how many properties they pull from the Warner Bros. canon. The shift to a newer engine seeks to only future-proof the game, which I hope will have ample opportunity to grow. There are some noticeable improvements here, notably with lighting. Still, things move so quickly that there is not a huge difference that is immediately obvious. 

When I wrote about the game in 2022, I complained about the variety of the arenas and the music. That’s been fixed here already, with the inclusion of new levels and music that adds to the variety of the experience. There is truly nothing better than fighting in the Iron Throne room while the Game of Thrones theme blares over your combat. It’s another indicator of the strength of the brands that MultiVersus has up its sleeve. It feels like we’re only a few updates away from battling in Hogwarts or even the Yellow Brick Road.

Multiversus Preview - Arya Stark fights Two Jokers In The Iron Throne Room from Game of Thrones

And that’s where I really have high hopes for MultiVersus. There is great potential to continually build the roster up with a diverse and eclectic cast of characters from a wide range of properties spanning a literal century. The sky really does feel like the limit, but with this relaunch, MultiVersus is doing a good job of convincing me that they might reach it.

MultiVersus is launching on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S on May 28th, 2024.