ENTERTAINMENT: Marvel vs Capcom Infinte PS4 Review

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The 90’s were a great time to be alive. I grew up on Marvel Comics’ X-Men cartoon and the most popular 2D fighting game of all time, Capcom’s Street Fighter II. So in 1996, during the era of the original PlayStation, when the now-classic tag-team fighting game X-Men vs Street Fighter dropped, my older brother and I picked it up and spent hours handling business with our favorite characters from two oddly-teamed titular universes.

We had no idea back then the magnitude of the Vs. Series that this one highly-animated, stylistic fighting game would eventually become, or the personal significance of it all. But after 20+ years from that first game’s arrival, and a humble five direct sequels later, fourth-quarter 2016 teased us with the possibility of an upcoming sixth entry, which was recently released as potentially the most highly-anticipated fighting game of all time: Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, developed by Capcom on the PlayStation 4.

History lesson: the first sequel to XvSF was Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter, which expanded the X-Men roster up to the larger Marvel Comics universe. The second sequel, Marvel vs Capcom, evened the playing field by giving both franchises full free reign to use any characters from either of their entire universes at their disposal. Now, instead of just characters from Street Fighter, Capcom included other characters from some of their other games like Darkstalkers and MegaMan.

The fourth entry, Marvel vs Capcom 2, expanded on this idea and brought in even more faces for both universes, including Cable from X-Men, Jill Valentine from Resident Evil, and even original characters like its main character, Ruby Heart. Marvel vs Capcom 3 removed a few staple characters in place of a more diverse roster with many fan-favorites like Dante and Trish from Capcom’s Devil May Cry games, and Deadpool and Thor from X-Men and The Avengers, respectively. Each game’s “fan service” based character roster was quite diverse from the previous installment, which brings us to our first and most important problem with Marvel Infinite...

 

This roster sucks.

 Picture courtesy of Neogaf.com. 

Picture courtesy of Neogaf.com. 

There’s no way around it. These Vs. Series games have no narrative and they really make no sense--why would Marvel’s superheroes just show up and fight Capcom’s video game characters? And how? The point of these games isn’t to devise some left-field explanation for how they came to be--you see, the point of these games is fan service. Why not do something crazy like this? And why not make it crazier with newer characters with each sequel? Give the fans what they want.

Well, Capcom’s decision with this entry to remove all of the franchise’s foundational X-Men characters to serve a continuity more consistent with Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe of films was a misstep for sure, but one they still could’ve leveraged that by replacing those popular mutant heroes with currently-unused but eligible and available characters (like the Punisher, the Wasp, Steel Serpent, Mockingbird….just to name a few) Instead, of their thirty-character roster, only Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy, Ultron from The Avengers, and Captain Marvel appear as new Marvel characters. Similarly, the only new Capcom characters are the villainous Jedah from Darkstalkers and the long-awaited hero MegaMan X, while every other Capcom character returns largely unchanged from the previous installment, Marvel vs Capcom 3. To add insult to in injury, the core roster of thirty characters includes just four female characters.

FOUR.

That’s embarrassing, especially when Marvel 3 had eleven female characters, not even including DLC! When game developer Capcom knows exactly what new characters fans have been waiting years for in a potential future Vs. Series installment....and instead does the exact opposite and switch next to nothing up….the $60 price tag seems a lot less justified.

 

Another problem with this game is its unusual focus on its story mode.

 Picture courtesy of mulhorngaming.com.

Picture courtesy of mulhorngaming.com.

As mentioned previously, these Vs. Series games have zero narrative, so WHY is there suddenly a “story” to tell? Now granted, they do take some very creative liberties with the way the story works with the strange narrative provided. Not dissimilar to the DragonBall anime universe, where it feels zero need to explain in any way why or how there are live dinosaurs, anthropomorphic cats and pigs, cyborgs and flying cars--all of this, which, in no way helps discern whether this universe takes place in the past, present, or future--just living together in unnerving harmony, Marvel Infinite’s world exists very much onto itself without explanations. For example, each major location is a (usually) fun amalgamation of two previously existing locations from the respective Marvel and Capcom worlds, like Xgard--the merging of Abel City from MegaMan X, and Asgard, Thor’s mythical homeworld. Cute, right?

Sure, it gets fun points, but the real problem with the story mode is that, in regards to offline play, it’s the primary mode of the game. And once you beat it, and after you get a nice sneak peak of how the game’s key mechanics work, as well as some plausible future DLC characters, you realize that’s about it. And the story itself is too ridiculous to take seriously--which is why Capcom intelligently omitted a story mode from its five previous installments--and the dialog between the characters is so bad that it’ll surely make you feel robbed once more that, for $60 and a crap-roster, the cinematic cutscenes aren’t even half as good as Capcom’s games were back in the early 2000s, and the dialog half as good as Marvel’s comics were back in the…well, ever. Thirdly... 

 

The character design is confusing and horrendous.

 Four characters' design in Marvel vs Capcom 3 (2011) on the left, and those same four characters in Marvel vs Capcom Infinite (2017) on the right. Picture courtesy of maroonersrock.com.

Four characters' design in Marvel vs Capcom 3 (2011) on the left, and those same four characters in Marvel vs Capcom Infinite (2017) on the right. Picture courtesy of maroonersrock.com.

The first four entries in the franchise utilized a clean anime-style animation sprite set that originated in some of Capcom’s earlier arcade fighting games like Darkstalkers and Street Fighter Alpha. In Marvel vs Capcom 3, the characters were recreated with full 3D character designs with a distinct comic-inspired style. Here in Marvel Infinite they’re 3D again in an attempt to appear drastically more realistic and accommodate the graphical capabilities of the PS4 (and Xbox One). As a result, some of the more realistic-looking heroes like Captain America, Chris Redfield, and (especially) Spider-Man are sleek, but all beefed up to nightmarish proportions. Their muscles are so frightening exaggerated that they look like monsters.

On the other hand, the unrealistic-looking characters like MegaMan X, Arthur, Jedah, and Thanos look incredible. For that matter, Rocket Raccoon is probably the best-looking character in the entire game. And while Iron Man here is visually and behaviorally mimicking Robert Downey Jr.’s MCU version to the utmost for example, Gamora is almost completely withdrawn from her film counterpart, ditching Zoe Saldana’s long red hair in the Guardians movies and opting for a more futuristic look closer to the actual comic book source material. That type of inconsistency can be overlooked, but initially I had to wonder: if they wanted to parallel the MCU brand so badly--even to the point of omitting the very characters the Vs. Series was founded upon, the X-Men--why they didn’t make that clear across the board? The film versions of Iron Man and Rocket Raccoon fighting against the comic book versions of Thor and Gamora feels both awesome and totally out-of-place.           

Ultimately, however, Marvel Infinite succeeds in the same way SNK’s The King of Fighters XIV, also utterly notorious for its horrendous character designs, does... 

 

The gameplay.

 Like every entry in the Vs. Series, the gameplay doesn't disappoint. Picture courtesy of gamespot.com.

Like every entry in the Vs. Series, the gameplay doesn't disappoint. Picture courtesy of gamespot.com.

Though Marvel 2 and 3 turned up the crazy to eleven with their then-new decision to utilize three-character teams for each match, Marvel Infinite returns to the two-on-two battle system from the three earliest games and introduces a suave mechanic concerning the Infinity Stones. The idea of using the Stones isn’t new, as Capcom’s 1995 fighting game Marvel Super Heroes utilized this idea to function as mid-battle power-ups. However, the Stones in Marvel Infinite function like a cross between Marvel vs Capcom 3’s X-Factor power-up and Street Fighter V’s V-Trigger move, but also replaces the need for a third assist character like in previous Vs. Series games. Seeing what each individual Stone can do while utterly justifying the return to two-on-two combat is a ton of fun, and harnessing certain Stones’ powers to supplement a certain character’s range of abilities helps the replay value immensely. Seeing Capcom use the Infinity Stones in a fighting game again feels brand new here.

The Active Switch mechanic is the one thing that, even more than the use of Infinity Stones, creates a new atmosphere from previous installments. Both emphasizing and leveraging the return of two-on-two gameplay, the Active Switch simply allows you to switch between your two chosen characters during battle. It seemed too simple at first, trust me. And I also noticed quickly that some of the Vs. Series’ craziest moves like the staple Crossover Combination, the Delayed Hyper Combo were gone from this entry. I soon learned that It’s because the Active Switch effectively replaces the need for those types of attacks. With precise timing and accuracy, watchfulness of your hyper combo meter, and understanding how your chosen Infinity Stone works, your opponent can and will be demolished with the Active Switch in no time at all. Turns out, it’s a highly satisfactory way to play a tag-team fighter--attacks just flow between the two characters during an Active Switch instead of cancelling out. It feels more like an assist than anything, until you realize when you Switch….you actually switch. The fighting gameplay feels fresh all over again.

And thank God for it because there is simply no forgiving how weak this game’s roster is.

In conclusion, I don’t believe Marvel Infinite is worth the $60 for the core game, nor $90 for the deluxe edition that offers early access to DLC characters that aren’t even available yet. And I wanted it to be worth it. X-Men vs Street Fighter truly began what is now the definitive crossover fighting game series upon which all others must face honest comparison to. Yes, Capcom’s Vs. Series will always hold that crown. But with Arc System Works’ triple threat of their own fighting games right around the corner--that is, Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, plus their upcoming BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, and DragonBall FighterZ (some have called this upcoming game the “Capcom-Killer”)--Capcom is in absolutely no shape to have finally revealed their sixth installment in the Marvel vs Capcom series to such blatant mediocrity in areas where it really counts.

In the past Capcom poured so much heart and soul into those little areas. Musical compositions were memorable and detailed; Player Select screens and Versus screens were dynamic and exciting; and the roster was bold and creative. Admittedly, we get none of that with Marvel Infinite. The music sucks, the roster sucks, and the interface is unbelievably stale (compared to the first four games in this series, the Versus screen here, in particular, is laughably pathetic...if you are about those sorts of things). But past all of the surface ugliness, we’re reminded that gameplay always trumps looks. Newbies MegaMan X and Gamora are two of the best characters in the game; the stages are detailed and lush; the game is OH-so-rich with vibrant color; and the two-on-two combat scheme couldn’t have made a more glorious return….

But for now, with a depressing launch roster plus no unlockable characters, “early access” gimmicks over integrity and a offbeat focus on a cinematic story mode, Marvel vs Capcom Infinite is still surprisingly far from a dud...but it may not be worth $60...even when the first batch of DLC characters (revealed to be Monster Hunter, Winter Soldier, Black Panther, Black Widow, and Sigma) come out. I encourage you to play for yourself...but as for me, Marvel Infinite gets a 6.7.   

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