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No quarter: Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite Review

Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite feels like a theme park, for better or for worse.  The rides are fun, but just about everything about its design feels informed by the corporate marketing team.  From the roster of characters to the continuing trend to build the game from the start for the upsell, it’s clear whose interests are primarily being considered here.  However, I still love Disneyland, and all the same criticisms could just as easily be applied to it.

Something needs to be addressed right away, and that’s the roster.  While this isn’t a numbered sequel, some of the most popular characters are missing and the reason isn’t pretty.  The most notable absences are all characters for which Marvel does not own the film rights to.  In an interview with Gamespot, series producer Michael Evans’ reason for the missing characters doesn’t pass the smell test: “Your modern Marvel fan, maybe they don’t even remember some of the X-Men characters, but they know some of the Guardians characters or Black Panther.”

The roster is not only small for the series, but lacks many classic characters

Could you imagine a Street Fighter without Guile, Dhalsim, or E Honda?  You don’t have to imagine it, because Capcom tried it.  Even though many hardcore fans consider the iterations of Street Fighter III to be the best the series has to offer, they also concede it almost ended the series.  Fans of fighting games spend countless hours mastering their favorite characters, and while roster changes are expected,  series mainstays like Wolverine, Magneto, and Cyclops have appeared in every game all the way back to the beginning;  the first game was X-Men Vs Street Fighter, after all.

The new graphical style is not my favorite presentation of these characters.  Marvel Vs Capcom 3 opted for a cel-shaded look, which was a bit of a nod to the series’ two dimensional roots.  This game settles for an exaggerated 3d style, and it’s easy to see how it got the worst of both worlds in terms of cartoony and realistic.  With characters like Arthur and Firebrand appearing at a different scale and style to the more realistic characters, it may have been seen as the best middle ground to take.  However, not all characters fare well under the treatment.  For example, Captain America’s shoulders completely swallow his neck, making him stand out against characters like Iron Man, who are more on model.  These two characters are from the same universe, yet the artistic style of the game seems to be at its worst when they are on the screen together.

The art direction strains to make a wide variety of characters fit on screen together.

The stages are actually a highlight of the design, each being a mashup of a Capcom and Marvel property.  From A.I.Mbrella to XGard, these stages look good and are fun to try and pick apart.  This is in line with the game’s story, in which Ultron and Sigma merge both themselves and the universes they are a part of.

The game’s story mode, where that unfolds, is a mixed bag.  Part of the joy of the series is resolving the playground dispute of “who would win in a fight.”  When you actually have to write a story about why they would fight, though, the results aren’t totally inspired.  After several eye rolling character entrances, however, I found myself enjoying the cheesiness of it all.  The dialogue is B-movie grade, and the animation in these sequences is just passable.  Yet the story kind of works because of rather than in spite of the fidelity it’s delivered in.

The Marvel Vs Capcom games have traditionally been a more approachable alternative to the Street Fighter series.  They’re more forgiving in terms of command inputs, more approachable defensive options, and allow players of all skill levels to string together huge combos.  Despite this, they have enjoyed a seat at the table at prominent tournaments because they still have a skill curve that must be climbed in order to be more than slightly competent.  While a button mashing new player will feel like they can pull off impressive feats, those won’t really take them far when playing against a seasoned veteran.

Infinite keeps this legacy alive, but also tries to lend a helping hand to players in the form of some newbie friendly control options.  Auto Combo allows you to access some competent combos by tapping a single button, and  Easy Hyper allows a simple command to execute a hyper move.  

Some other mechanical changes also seem to make the game a little more manageable.  Instead of a three on three bout, the team size has been reduced to two characters.  While this does seem to limit the way you can build a team, the inclusion of the Infinity Stones offers a new layer of player expressivity.  The Stones, which are central to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s current arc, are powerful objects which allow their wielder dominion over one aspect of existence.  Each of the six stones offers a different tactical option which can be called upon in battle, as well as a second gauge which allows you to trigger an Infinity Storm.

These features ultimately feel like a double edged sword.  While they allow a new player to access a higher level of play, they don’t really help them traverse the skill curve.  Not all hyper moves can be activated using the Easy Hyper, and it’s hard to imagine somebody using Auto Combo elevating their game by learning to string together combos not accessible through that system while it’s still enabled.  The game also announces when you use Easy Hyper, so a player looking to branch out and struggling may find themselves dismayed when playing against somebody with the crutch still turned on.

While playing the game for review, I spent a lot of time thinking about Core A Gaming’s video about the the skill gap.  He spends most of the video remarking on what happens when a game gets easier than it previously was, but as I stated earlier, the Marvel Vs Capcom games have always tried to be approachable to new players.  What kept me thinking about it is the point he concludes the video on, which is more about whose interests are primarily being considered with the game’s design.  For the most part, the game seems to be made with the consideration of the players, and that’s great!  

However, there is another party that didn’t really bear consideration in Gerald’s analysis of Street Fighter, which is the marketing department of the company which owns the intellectual property.  While games as a whole make more money than the movie industry, it’s hard to imagine this game making more than the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  As a result, it feels like Marvel treated it like a merchandising opportunity, right down to Iron Man’s voice being an impression of Robert Downey Jr’s take on the character.  Capcom, for their part seemed focused on delivering a solid fighter.

As somebody who’s played each entry in the series, I couldn’t help but feel a little slighted by Marvel.  Despite this, I still really enjoyed the game.  It’s mechanically sound, and performs incredibly well online.  At the time I sat down for this review, the game had almost completely overcome my objections.  While it may not be my favorite fighter, it still has me reaching for the controller for more matches.

70

Good

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite

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As somebody who’s played each entry in the series, I couldn’t help but feel a little slighted by Marvel. Despite this, I still really enjoyed the game. It’s mechanically sound, and performs incredibly well online. At the time I sat down for this review, the game had almost completely overcome my objections. While it may not be my favorite fighter, it still has me reaching for the controller for more matches.

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