Marvel vs Capcom Infinite hands-on: A strong fighter that’s pulling punches
Marvel vs Capcom Infinite needs to give more than it is offering.
The Marvel vs Capcom series was always an easy win. Take characters from two of the biggest universes in their respective mediums and pit them against each other in a fighting game that emulates and builds upon one of the strongest in history. The same concept made the smaller scale X-Men vs Street Fighter an instant arcade hit two years before the first Marvel vs Capcom (MVC) game. It's a dangerously appealing combination of two of your favourite franchises in a game that knows it needs more than a few familiar faces to make it work.
To this day, I'm magnetically attracted to Marvel vs Capcom and X-men vs Street Fighter arcade cabinets whenever there's one in the vicinity. There's definitely a degree of nostalgia at play there. Still, it mostly comes down to the sheer novelty of seeing War Machine devastate Mega Man with his proton cannon, or seeing Wolvie going into berserker mode to tear Ryu to shreds. That's all alive and well in this post-Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), post-Disney MVC matchup. However, without too much change in the air, Infinite has me setting my sights on the bargain bin and/or inevitable all-inclusive special edition.
Recently, I was lucky enough to spend some time with the latest incarnation of this holy union, Marvel vs Capcom (MVC) Infinite on PlayStation 4 using a Hori arcade stick. Where Marvel vs Capcom Infinite shines is doing what it's done best for some time now, namely a firework display of explosive tag-team battles. Infinite's combos can be complex and rewarding or simple and fun, depending on how you choose to play. The introduction of Infinity Stones gives those taking a beating a second chance to turn the match around. It's definitely shaping up to be a solid fighter, like the 8 games before it (excluding re-releases).
At its core, Infinite's gameplay is no different from any other Capcom fighting game, even less so than MVC's long list of tag-team brawlers. You've got high and low kicks and punches and a long list of combos you can execute by mashing the buttons in sequence. It's the kind of thing fighting fans drool over. A huge move list to master over weeks of refinement, so they can take their skills online and wipe the floor with all who dare oppose their superior thumbs. As usual, Street Fighter veterans can usually get by with a vague memory of the typical combo/special inputs; down, diagonal, forward, punch and so on. For the most part, it plays like the Dummies Guide to Fighting Games.
What's new for Infinite is the way it welcomes newcomers with super-friendly easy combos/specials, the inclusion of Infinity Stones, and the ability to tag in your teammate at any time.
MVC's easy combos seem to be working in more or less the same fashion as Street Fighter's, with a universal input sequence that executes a combo string and super. It's perfect for those who want to dive into this universe and duke it out with their favourite characters without spending too much time in the training room. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out in competitive play, but Capcom associate producer Peter Rosas insists that those who lean on easy combos will be no match to those who exercise greater control over their characters.
Personally, I'm most excited to see how competitive players use Infinity Stones to their advantage. Infinity Stones have two functions in Infinite; a lighter ability (Infinity Surge), and a stronger ability (Infinity Storm) that must be charged. As per the comics, there will be six infinity stones available at launch. I had the chance to tinker with three: Time, Power and Space. While time and power are kind of self-explanatory, I had the most fun messing around the power stone. Bumping the L1 button pulls your opponent in your direction, closing the space between you. Bumping L1 and R1 together unleashes Power Stone's Infinity Storm, immobilising your opponent in a small box so you can poke and prod at them. What I loved about this ability, was that it's not a guaranteed success. Your opponent isn't completely helpless in their cage and can, by all means, defend themselves if you get too close. It's the videogame equivalent of tying someone's shoelaces together.
When it comes to Infinite's gameplay it's all, as they say, good in the hood. My issue with Marvel vs Capcom Infinite lies elsewhere, buried deep in a tangled mess of character rights and Disney's corporate ploy to drown the X-Men under a sea of Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy exposure. I'm down for some Iron Man and Rocket Racoon action as much as the next person. But after four years of Avengers madness, it's getting a bit tired and the X-Men's absence from Infinite is noticeable.
This year's Logan was a runaway success for not one but two X-Men characters, Wolverine and X-23. Of course, those characters are currently Voldemort in the eyes of Disney so there's zero chance we'll see them pop up as DLC.
But there's no point in complaining too much about MVC's exes, right? What's done is done. Still, it doesn't feel like Marvel or even Capcom are putting their best foot forward with the characters they do have the rights to.
Let's start with Marvel. Aside from Captain Marvel (who is fantastic), I couldn't spot the difference when MVC: Infinite was first announced. I honestly thought we were getting another rehash of MVC 3. I wasn't so much trying to spot the new characters, but trying to figure out who had been nixed. The Avengers and Guardians are currently duking it out for Marvel's most valuable property, so their inclusion is a no-brainer. But they're not even giving us the best from those universes. Infinite's big bad Ultron was relevant two years ago. Whereas this year, right now, we have a brand new Guardians movie with people falling in love with Peter Quill, Groot and the rest of the gang all over again. We were also introduced to the MCU version of Ego The Living Planet, courtesy of Kurt Russell. Why didn't any of those characters make the cut? Even Thanos. You know? The biggest bad in the current cinematic universe who owns the Infinity Gauntlet, where the Infinity Stones sit.
That's just the MCU. The comics in 2017 are an orgy of diversity. We've got the new Ms Marvel Kamala Khan, the new Hulk Amadeus Cho, the young Nova Sam Alexander, Spider-Gwen, Squirrel Girl and so much more. What we're getting in Infinite is the most vanilla Marvel lineup that ever existed and frankly, I'm bored just looking at it.
Capcom is no better. Its two new characters are Mega Man X and Sigma. The first is a very slight redesign of the original Mega Man and the second is a Mega Man villain that isn't even included in the base game, but rather DLC. Chris Redfield is present, but he's the same buff doofus from Resident Evil 5. Does Capcom even remember this year's universally praised Resident Evil 7? The game that totally redesigned Chris Redfield's character and introduced a lovable family of terrifying hillbillies. Seriously. Imagine setting swarms of bees on your enemies as Marguerite Baker.
Of course, there's no question about what's actually going on here. Three words: future downloadable content.
DLC is fine( it's to be expected these days) but only if you feel like you got your money's worth with the first $70 to $99 spent. When Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo Wii U and 3DS launched, I was totally content with the character lineup at launch. There were enough series favourites returning and left-field additions, like Pac-Man and Duck Hunt Dog, to keep everyone happy. So when the DLC character packs were announced (admittedly at a pretty penny), I was more than happy to fork out the extra cash for Ryu, Cloud and Bayonetta. And what is Marvel vs Capcom if not the Super Smash of its two universes?
Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite doesn’t see release until 19 September 2017 so there's still plenty of time for the upcoming brawler to totally turn my opinion upside down with a surprise reveal of more launch characters.
For now, it looks like Capcom's sights are set firmly on DLC. Whereas mine are set firmly on the inevitable Ultra edition with all DLC trimmings included.