A fighting game could have the greatest roster imaginable. It could have an epic, resolute story mode. It could have superfluous, but welcome modes to extend its longevity. It could have all of these things, but without good fighting mechanics – the stuff that makes the genre fun to play – it’s ultimately not worth the time or money investment.
This is one area where Marvel vs Capcom Infinite succeeds. As far as being a great fighting game goes, it’s superlative. There have been sweeping changes to the brawling formula since Marvel vs Capcom 3, and though they’ll take a bit of getting used to from stalwart fans, they’re changes that ultimately feel good. For starters, the 3-on-3 tag action is a little more reserved, dropping one player per side. Though it does mean that assists are more muted, the two-on-two matchups are just as fast-paced, frenetic, and combo-heavy.
Stripping matches of that extra tag character has had one welcome side effect, freeing up a face button and allowing for each of the four inputs to trigger specifically strengthened kicks and punches. For somebody who grew up on Street Fighter and SNK’s fighting games, having light and heavy kicks and punches is welcome. I never really appreciated Marvel vs Capcom’s contextual light, medium and heavy attacks, so this is a system that works for me. Tagging characters in and out of combos is now seamless as well, allowing for incredibly expressive chain attacks that feel incredibly rewarding to execute.
Infinity Stones – originally seen as a gameplay element in 1995’s Marvel Super Heroes – make a return, though their implementation is far better this time around. Before each match, players can choose one of the six Infinity Stones, each enabling new offensive and defensive tactics. The Soul Stone as an example, can be used to leech health from opponents when used as a regular “Infinity Surge” attack. Once the Infinity Meter is past its halfway mark, it can be used to unleash an Infinity Storm – a sustained power that lasts as long as the meter remains. In the case of the Soul Stone, it will not only bring your tag partner back from the dead if they happen to have succumbed to her sweet embrace but also enable you to control both characters, allowing you to perform duo team attacks. Each stone provides different abilities, and it’s a blast to experiment with them to see which aligns best with your own style of play.
Marvel vs Capcom Infinite is also Capcom’s most accessible fighter. For newcomers, or those unwilling to put in the time to learn, there’s an auto-combo system that lets players of a lower skill repeatedly tap a single button to throw out an instant combo. Players can also instigate a hyper-combo by pressing just two buttons together. The caveat is that it’ll always be the same combo, or the same super move. It means that while newcomers can play the game without feeling overwhelmed, those who put in the effort to learn will always put them in their place.
The best place to learn how to do all of this, as well as get to grips with the characters is the Mission Mode, a feature that’s been present in Capcom’s fighting games for what seems like aeons. Once you’ve done the basics and gotten to grips with the fundamentals, you’re given 10 challenges of increasing intensity with each character. On top of that, Capcom seems to have learnt a little from Street Fighter V’s mistakes. Marvel vs Capcom Infinite has an actual arcade mode, though its inclusion is entirely perfunctory. It’s a standard ladder, leading to a big bad boss fight – with no starting or ending cinematics. It means there’s no real drive to complete the Arcade Mode with the game’s 30 character roster.
And it’s this roster where things aren’t quite as rosy. There appears to be an unseen hand that’s guided Marvel vs Capcom’s development, and its led to a largely middling pantheon of heroes. For starters, there are no X-Men to be found, probably in part to Marvel’s focus on its X-Men-free cinematic Universe and the legal wrangles that govern the appearance of mutants. MvC Infinite just doesn’t feel right without Wolverine and his Berserker Barrage. Instead, the Marvel side of the locker room is padded with characters from that universe, including Dr Strange; Iron-Man; Thor; Spider-Man; Gamora and Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy; and upcoming movie heroes Black Panther and Ms Marvel.
The Capcom side of things doesn’t really fare much better either. Street Fighter stalwarts Ryu and Chun-Li are joined by Mega-Man and Zero; Resident Evil’s Chris Redfield; Devil May Cry’s Dante; Final Fight’s Mike Haggar and more. There’s the odd inclusion of Dead Rising’s Frank West and the worse return of bionic Commando’s Nathan “Wife Arm” Spencer – a character whose relevance in 2017 can only be called questionable. The entire point of these sorts of cross-over series is to finally answer schoolyard questions of who’d kick whose ass, and with this middling selection, it doesn’t answer any questions worth asking.
Just how the worlds of Marvel and Capcom collided and came together is explained through the game’s Story Mode. It’s…not very good. Capcom has obviously tried once again to mimic the narrative focus that NetherRealm has on its own superhero universe in Injustice, but it’s all a little hokey. The evil robot from Mega-Man X, Sigma, and the Evil robot from the MCU, Ultron, have merged not just themselves – but the universes they’re from – together in an event called “The Convergence.”
The story begins nearly 3 months after that fateful, implausible event, with the heroes from each universe already allies. There’s little narrative justification given for its odd couples that just seem to shoehorn characters together. Why in the hell are Ryu and Hulk working together? What are they doing in Black Panther’s domain? Why, just three months after a catastrophic event are Marvel’s A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) and Resident Evil’s Umbrella a unified corporation? There’s just no cohesion to it as it flits between areas and scenarios, pairing characters together seemingly for the sake of it. There’s the occasional guffaw from the odd line of dialogue, but most of it is poorly written, stifled and clichéd nonsense.
The game is also, in my opinion, ugly. While it looks new and modern on a technical level, the divisive character design is hideous. It’s obviously been made to appeal to Marvel fans more than Capcom ones, but nobody ends up looking good. Marvel’s characters all end up looking like rubber sacks stuffed with walnuts, while Capcom’s ones are entirely and utterly charmless.
There’s a fantastic fighting game buried in here, under the awkward story mode and abominable art direction. It’s fun to play, even if it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors.
Last Updated: September 26, 2017
The inclusion of the Infinity Stones and the change to a more measured 2v2 format make up for the slightly slower pace. Marvel vs Capcom Infinite succeeds as a superlative fighting game, it’s just a pity that everything moulded around it doesn’t quite reach those heights. The Story Mode is abysmal and the roster is uninspired. Despite that, it’s still a blast to play.