When I was a kid I remember having a bunch of action figures from different TV shows and games. I’d play with them altogether and concoct crazy storylines that made no sense to their respective origins – at one point I think I had Batman teaming up with Goku to take down Leonardo the Ninja Turtle. The whole thing was heaps of fun and entertaining, but held no logical standards when I look back on it.
The same can be said for Capcom’s latest instalment of its long-running fighting franchise in Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite. The sixth main entry in the company’s series of crossover games, MVC:I takes a step in a different direction; it ditches the 3v3 fighting mechanics of the previous iterations and instead focuses on a deeper 2v2 experience that is enhanced with the powers of the ‘Infinity Stones’ – mystical gemstones from the Marvel universe, each with their own power. These powers can enhance each team depending on which stone is used, and have two functions – Infinity Surges, which are brief glimpses of the stone’s power that assist your fighter (for instance the Time Stone allows you to boost back and forward quickly) and Infinity Storms, which power up your team for a set period of time and allow for special attacks that are almost unavoidable. Charging the stone gauges takes time unless you like being beaten up, but can turn the tide of battles in an instant if used correctly, and make for a good equalizer. These stones are also selectable prior to battle, allowing for players to get a feel for which stone suits their game style.This is in addition to the Hyper Combo Gauge, which is a staple in the series since it’s initialization; allowing for brutal combos and chained attacks that unleash an absolute onslaught upon your opponent. Using both of these in tandem is key to becoming an unstoppable fighter, along with a bit of defensive work and knowing when to dodge and move.
The tag system replaces the call-in assists from previous games; instead players are given an active switching system which provides immediate transitions between team members that can assist in helping the current on-screen fighter. This gives way to the ‘Counter Switch’ mechanic which, when in a pinch, can be used to prevent an enemy’s combo from trapping your fighter and instead allows you to counteract it.All of this is well and good – it makes for a game that is accessible for newer players but challenging and complex for seasoned veterans. But the game lets down significantly in other areas; notably, the presentation and character roster. Not only does it feel like MVC:I is beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel for characters, but it tries much too hard to shoehorn each and every character into its poorly constructed and convoluted plot which ultimately plays out like one of Childhood Matt’s action figure play time sessions. Coupled with the step away from the cel-shaded and comic book-esque tones of MVC3 into a 3D-modeled fighter, the game just lacks the polish of the older versions and really lets the atmosphere down. The struggle for character licensing obviously has played a huge part in the roster as well – where we still have mainstays from the Capcom series such as Ryu and Chun Li, we’re left to deal with second and third-tier characters such as Hawkeye and Gamora at the expense of any X-Men mutants.
While several of the characters make sense in terms of upcoming Marvel movie projects, the lack of classics make this game feel quite removed from its origins as an X-Men VS Street Fighter successor, which is disappointing. The DLC characters lined up leave a lot to be desired as well, with Black Panther and Sigma appearing in the story yet having to be paid for. And can I just throw in a quick one about imbalance? Only 5 out of 36 characters are female.
Capcom aren’t going to be able to please everyone every time, but where this game makes strides in its fighting mechanics it lets down in many other facets; and while it is still a quality game to play, it leaves a lot to be desired. Don’t let it sway you too much though – newcomers will find the game easily accessible and enjoy working out the best way to defeat opponents with a mix of combos and special attacks. Long-time fans of the series will take warmly to the changes that come with new techniques and will enjoy using characters they know and love, but may be left wondering what happened to the look and atmosphere of the previous games.