Release Date: September 19, 2017Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PCDeveloper: CapcomPublisher: CapcomGenre: Fighting
The curse of the successful sequel is that eventually, you’re going to hit a wall. You can only get so big and soon all your releases are just the last installment with one or two new things added. With Marvel and Capcom’s relationship, they were able to keep it newer and bigger on the surface from game to game. What started as an X-Men fighter with a Street Fighter boss hidden in it became a fighter that had all of Marvel as well as a Darkstalkers character tossed in. Then an X-Men/Street Fighter tag game followed by all-of-Marvel/Street Fighter followed by all-of-Marvel/all-of-Capcom. Then it went from two-on-two to three-on-three. Years later, they’d bring it back and spruce up the graphics to 3D.
So what do you do next?
When you dig past its many issues, Street Fighter V hit the same kind of wall. There wasn’t much they could do to differentiate it from the Street Fighter IV games, even if they did add a trait system. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite tries not to fall into the same fate. It instead goes back and tries to evolve in a different path: what if the two-on-two gimmick from X-Men vs. Street Fighter was merged with the Infinity Gem system from Marvel Super Heroes?
It’s fitting that they didn’t just call this game Marvel vs. Capcom 4, since it does feel different. Not only are the teams downgraded from three-on-three to two-on-two, but they’ve dropped the constant assists that fill up the screen with nonsense. There’s more emphasis on the tagging, making it feel a bit more like a floatier Street Fighter X Tekken at times, but at least there’s still the absolute joy of catching both of your opponents with a hard-hitting attack at the same time and scoring some extra damage.
The Infinity Stones system is unproven at this early point, but at the very least a good idea. You choose which one you get pre-match, and unlike Marvel Super Heroes, you don’t need to worry about it getting knocked out of your hand. This time around, your Infinity Stone has its own meter that’s reminiscent of Street Fighter IV’s Ultra meter. With one button, you can build it up with a minor advantage like dashing forward with the Time Stone or a knock-back attack with the Power Stone.
Once it hits the halfway point of the meter, you can pull off an Infinity Storm. As the background transforms into a colorful hurricane, you have a potentially game-breaking advantage. Maybe the opponent is confined in a cube due to the Space Stone. Maybe the Power Stone enhances your offense. Maybe the Mind Stone maxes out your super meter (four bars, FYI). Or there’s the Reality Stone, causing all sorts of ice/fire/lightning/energy attacks to envelop the screen. I imagine there will be lots of tweaking on this with patches, but it’s an overall great start.
The game makes combos a little too easy, which I can live with, but I’m not exactly a fan of the damage scaling. If someone hits a gnarly enough combo, at one point you simply stop delivering any real damage. I get that they’re trying to get around the feel of the last game where the first hit tends to win on high-level play, but damage scaling never felt truly worth it to me. Just an ugly Band-Aid over a much bigger issue.
The roster starts with thirty characters along with the game’s boss situation. For the most part, the Marvel and Capcom combatants are reused resources from Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which is as Capcom as you can get. Newbies include Captain Marvel, Gamora, Ultron, Jedah, Mega Man X, and technically Thanos. It’s his first time in 3D and his moveset is very different from his Marvel vs. Capcom 2 days. Otherwise, you have upcoming DLC in the form of Black Panther, Sigma, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Monster Hunter, and Venom.
Having Sigma as DLC does feel really dumb, especially when he’s such an important part of the story. There’s a part in arcade mode where you face Ultron and a random partner and it just adds emphasis to how silly it is that Sigma’s being saved for later. Why am I fighting Ultron and Strider before the Ultron/Sigma hybrid?
Then there’s the big Mammomax in the room. The roster is completely devoid of X-Men and Fantastic Four-related characters. Kind of a big deal since Wolverine, Magneto, Storm, Sentinel, and Dr. Doom are such popular choices in the previous games and we wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for the X-Men. In a time when a DC Comics fighting game can have Sub-Zero fight Hellboy while Geese Howard and Akuma trade blows in the latest Tekken, it’s the nastiest sore thumb that in the biggest crossover fighting game series, Marvel isn’t even allowed to crossover with itself!
Couldn’t even get Deadpool to show up…
Didn’t help that instead of being honest about the character embargo being based on movie rights spite, Capcom dug themselves deeper by claiming that nobody really remembers the X-Men anymore in a year when Logan came out. Plus it was said that it’s a moot point because in a video game, they aren’t so much characters as they are “functions.” Dude. Your franchise is built on being a crossover. Don’t be foolish.
At least in terms of bad PR lead-up, the graphics look way, way better than they initially advertised. That really unfortunate image of Chun-Li’s face that’s been going around is no longer relevant.
These Marvel/Capcom crossovers tend to have minimal explanation for what’s going on in terms of the narrative (even Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s prologue comic half-assed it), but due to the game’s story mode, there’s actually some delicious meat in there. Ultron of the Marvel Universe has come across Sigma of the…Capcom Universe…which means that everything from Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, Resident Evil, Mega Man X, Strider, Monster Hunter, and so on exist in the same reality at the same time. Just go with it. The two have become such buddies that they merge into one being called Ultron Sigma and use the Reality and Space Stones to merge their worlds.
Basically, it’s the plot of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe without the dumb RAGE!!! gimmick keeping the good guys at each other’s throats. Instead, the game starts off three months after the merger. While the heroes and villains remain the same, their reality has amalgamated into a mixture. Mike Haggar is the mayor of New Metro City, Black Panther rules Valkanda, Thor fights for Xgard, Chris Redfield investigates AIMbrella, Tony Stark shares a lab with a hologram of Dr. Light, and so on. From the beginning, the heroes have all gotten to know each other and they’re knee-deep in Ultron Sigma’s plot of multiveral assimilation.
In fighting games, the story mode is merely a bunch of cinematics that get you from Fight A to Fight B, but as criminally short as Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite’s story mode is, it’s so damn fun. Maybe it’s because we’ve had to deal with two craptastic Marvel event comics in a row, but once you get past the whole “Capcom is all one world” thing, the story comes off as this rad event comic story told via video games. There are a lot of neat touches, like Ryu and Hulk bonding over their anger control issues, Mike Haggar’s antagonistic relationship with Frank West, Strider and Gamora’s mutual respect, and the entire dynamic of Thanos being the ultimate wild card that nobody wants to trust even though he might be their only chance to stop Ultron Sigma.
Let me tell you, the payoff to the Thanos subplot is the stupidest and most amazing thing these games have ever given us. It’s delightfully ridiculous.
Learning their lesson from Street Fighter V’s debacle, they actually put an arcade mode in this baby. Not that there are any endings to reward you, so…eh. Just as well, since while the Ultron Sigma final form is indeed crazy awesome, fighting him takes way too long for my taste.
The amount of hype during the last Evolution Championship Series made Capcom look like clowns due to how great every other upcoming game looked while Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite failed to intrigue. But if you’re expecting some schadenfreude from seeing a new release come off as a big turd, I’m afraid you’ll be let down. Infinite isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely a fun package that has the right amount of refreshing newness mixed with the old.
Gavin Jasper realizes that Dr. Wily is a historical figure in the Marvel vs. Capcom timeline. Huh. Follow Gavin on Twitter!