it’s sometimes hilarious to look back on what games enthusiasts of old woulds ay about the industry and about future releases. There was a point when the thought of a new Marvel vs. Capcom game was laughable, for instance, but the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in 2011 blew that laughter right of the water. That game was later followed up with an expansion in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 which added a ton of new characters and gameplay.
Yet another follow-up is here today with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, but unlike Ultimate MvC3, it’s not quite so much of a step forward as a slightly new direction. The real question is whether the latest franchise mash-up can still take you for a ride.
Infinite’s big selling point is its story mode. It’s a character-swapping epic that’s *astoundingly* stupid in all the right ways; fans of this sort of cinematic story in fighters, the kind of thing that was pioneered by Mortal Kombat 2011, should have a good time here. It’s clear that the majority of the game’s development time and money went to making this as impressive as possible; it’s also clear that characters with movies that are readily available on DVD or in theaters were given the lion’s share of attention. Nothing wrong with that, but at points the otherwise-competent story mode feels a bit like an extended advertisement for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Combat’s been changed up a bit since previous entries. This is a two-on-two game in the style of the original Marvel Vs. Capcom as opposed to a three-on-three fighter as in MvC2 and 3. Your third team member, so to speak, is an Infinity Stone that grants you some extra moves and a powerful super ability like reviving a fallen teammate. This makes Infinite’s fighting feel just a bit less hectic than previous entries in the series, which is something I appreciate as a player who never really excelled at this style of gameplay. I found that, overall, Infinite feels like a completely competent fighting game and there aren’t likely to be many complaints here.
Alongside the story mode, you’ve got your standard arcade mode and online options. That’s right: an arcade mode. Turns out people do want these after all. In true Capcom style, online connectivity can be hit or miss; when you have a good connection everything is great and the game plays like a dream, but when you don’t…well, just hope you’re matched with people nearby. There’s not a lot of middle ground where poor connections still allow for decent fights a la Tekken 7 and many of Arc System Works’ fighters.
Connectivity aside, all of this is well and good, but I do have one significant issue that needs to be mentioned: the cast is astonishingly small and primarily comprised of characters who have already appeared in previous Marvel vs. Capcom games. We’ve got a total of five new characters making their debut here – Ultron, Gamora, Captain Marvel, Mega Man X and Jedah. That’s five characters out of a cast of around thirty. Of these, I found the real highlights to be Ultron and Gamora, who are both flashy and fun to play; Marvel reminded me of Nova who is also present, Mega Man X feels somewhat like the return of classic Mega Man with a few extra toys and options and Jedah seems like an unusual choice as opposed to Darkstalkers heavy hitter Dimitri. There’s also no X-Men characters at all, presumably for licensing reasons, which is likely relevant to why there’s so few heroes and villains present this time around.
30 characters isn’t a huge cast for a fighting game like this; for reference, Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 had nearly 50. It’s 2017, so of course there are plenty of plans for expanding the game via DLC, but as it is the cast is disappointing at best and actively harmful to the experience at worst; behold as one sequence of the game’s story mode involves three fights against Jedah one after the other because there just aren’t that many villains to battle. Also irritating is the story mode’s teasing of DLC characters like Capcom’s Monster Hunter and Marvel’s Black Panther; these two, who would both be new to the series, appear to be poised and ready to fight and then simply…don’t. It’s a bummer.
At least the game looks nice. Infinite’s graphics have been the subject of plenty of bandwagon-hopping among the hardcore set lately, but I’m going to follow the example of the contemporary games industry and ignore those folks: I think this one looks and plays just fine. That’s especially true of the story mode, which makes those characters shine; one would certainly hope so given there’s so few of them.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is an interesting game to put a bottom line on because, well, it’s entirely competent and does what it should as a fighting game. At the same time, it doesn’t do a lot to get fans’ blood pumping as you’d expect from a crossover fighter; the five new characters are cool, but nothing mindblowing like UMvC3’s Phoenix Wright, and the remaining cast is all been-there-done-that. As with Street Fighter V, once some DLC is available, everything is in place and the inevitable “Complete” or “Gold” edition comes out I’ll be able to unreservedly recommend MvC:I. Until then, I’ll still recommend it…but you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re cool with the game’s limitations and $60 price tag.