Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is the latest in a series of crossover fighters featuring tons of heroes and villains from the Marvel universe, along with popular characters from Capcom’s equally impressive history of iconic characters. What started off in the 90s as both a spectacle-driven versus title, and a common ground between various nerd cultures, has since turned into a staple of the fighting game community, especially in the U.S. The game’s popularity comes partially from that American cinematic mindset: larger than life, absolutely ridiculous action. Even though the games are wonky from a competitive mindset (“if everyone is busted good, than it probably balances out”), the sheer excitement and intensity have largely distinguished them from many of their peers.
Right from the start, I had high hopes for Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, because it seemed to eliminate most of what I dislike about the franchise. The game made a transition from “3v3 with assist types” (ala MvC2 and 3), into “2v2 and your choice of an Infinity Stone” (an updated take on MvC classic). The last couple of MvC titles had a hardened focus on-screen control and team synergies. The strategic goal was to fill the screen with tons of projectiles and huge attacks, land that “magic hit” and turn it into a combo that kills your character in one pass. Rinse, repeat. Obviously, not every game ends up that binary, but the game’s goal was both an embrace and abuse of the assist system with a focus on completely controlling the entire screen. With Infinite, decisions and gameplay feel overall more meaningful. Every choice to attack or reposition has more blowback. That’s the sort of gameplay that other fighting games thrive on and what MvC as a series has been missing. MvC2 and especially MvC3 have never felt especially interactive in a versus sense; it’s less about players responding to each other, and more about players throwing everything they have and hoping for the best. By removing assists, the team elements force commitment. The addition of the Infinity Stones also make up for the lack of assists by creating unique methods of synergy and expression. The Infinity Storm mechanic is much more interesting than the previous game’s X-factor mechanic, especially for establishing periods of clear advantage and tempo between players.
And that, unfortunately, brings all my praise to a close. I’m sad to inform that despite having a few fantastic ideas and tons of potential, MvCI doesn’t tap into it nearly enough, and likely never will. While I thoroughly enjoy MvCI on paper, I found it insipid in execution.
Capcom made a strong effort to shift the design of Infinite to closer match the first game. This benefits the game on a broad scale but also wounds the game on a number of smaller fronts. MvC3 changed the original 4-button technical arrangement (2 Punch 2 Kick) into a more streamlined configuration (3 Basic Attacks and a Launch). For a series like MvC that focuses on spectacle, the simplified system made a lot more sense, so I was really confused to see them revert it back to the technical arrangement. That was one of many steps that MvCI took in the wrong direction. We’re exposed to a completely uninspired UI and graphic design layout, which is largely unimpressive against the previous title’s comic book style. The controls feel extremely clunky. The tutorial systems are awfully unintuitive, which is especially bad since the the game’s controls make it harder to pick up for newer players. The character selection is lacking a ton of fan favorites this time around, seeming to favor picks that are actually less popular (which to me at least is highly counterintuitive). The story mode functions better as a tutorial than the tutorial mode itself, but it has the disadvantage of being written and voiced like bad fan fiction. And, in a game designed for impact and excitement, MvCI doesn’t feel like a significant step up from its predecessor. In fact, it just looks overall uglier. My first thought about MvCI is that it feels incomplete; but since it’s made by Capcom, that doesn’t actually surprise me.
Now here’s the real heartbreaker: I do honestly think MvCI has a ton of potential. Most of Capcom’s overall design changes were good ones. The high level play looks and feels way more coherent than every other game in the series. All that being said, I don’t expect MvCI to improve significantly in the future. The sad reality is that Capcom has repeatedly proven their impressive ability to squander potential. The DLC model is designed to make strides and improvements to a finished game, but Capcom often uses it to push a lackluster game early and “finish” it later, or withhold long finished content to squeeze easy dollars. Between the clunky controls, poor story, sterile UI, unpolished appearance and surprising lack of real “excitement”, I can’t recommend this game...yet. If you’re really interested, keep your eyes open for news and patch notes. I don’t think the game is great now, but a year from now, who knows?