While it may sound a bit absurd with the likes of Street Fighter's Ryu going toe to toe with the Hulk, Spider-man investigating a zombie filled facility with S.T.A.R.S member, Chris Redfield, or even Frank West throwing down with the Mad Titan, Thanos, this silly collaboration of Marvel and Capcom is nothing new to gaming. Where Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite fails, however; is that it doesn't look to innovate and in some ways skates by with just doing the bare minimum.
The fighting game genre has been very story focused for years, and while it's unclear who exactly created the mold, the Injustice and Mortal Kombat series, of late, both by NetherRealm Studios, have set the standard for how to not only craft a solid story based fighting game, but how to pack in tremendous value and gorgeous visuals, and why the bare minimum isn't going to cut it anymore.
Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite could easily come across as a bare-bones fighting game, including a basic vs mode, arcade mode, some tutorial missions, and a 4-5 hour campaign, the latter of which has so many loading screens that I got quite a bit of play on my Nintendo Switch in between story bouts.
The basic premise of the story is both the worlds of Marvel and Capcom all merged three months prior and a small task force of heroes from both worlds have come together to stop Ultron Sigma, a merged version of Ultron and Mega Man X villain, Sigma. The story is vastly too predictable, but also semi-satisfying, mostly due to the fact of seeing certain characters interact with one another. I will say that the finale could have used the ability to choose fighters instead of being stuck with a default duo during the final encounter. It's a small nick pick considering I'm a huge fan of the two, I just wish the choice was there, given that nearly every fighter is present. For those that want that choice during the final encounter, that foe is present at the end of the Arcade mode after beating the main story, however; due to the increased health bar, it is vastly harder than in the story mode.
The very first game to contain both Marvel and Capcom characters was Street Fighter vs The X-Men, way back in 1996 for the original PlayStation. What is a sore spot about the collection of Marvel heroes and villains here is that not a single character is based around the X-Men franchise, limiting the cast of heroes to those who exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; TV shows, and of future Marvel made movies. This is mostly due to the fact that characters outside of Marvel's movie licensing are not often merchandised, which is why most Marvel T-shirts and other collectibles tend to just focus on The Avengers and Spider-man.
This limitation on the source material of what they can pull from is felt hard here as while there are a few interesting choices like Nova, Gamora, Ghost Rider, Captain Marvel, and Thanos, there are the bland and predictable Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. The rest of the Marvel cast consists of Doctor Strange, Dormammu, Hawkeye, Hulk, Spider-man, and Rocket Raccoon.
Capcom's efforts don't actually spark originality either as while the Darkstalkers fan in me is excited to see Jedah and Morrigan, there are just as equally predictable choices as Chris Redfield, Ryu, Chun-li, Dante, Zero, and Mega Man. The rest of Capcom's side consists of Arthur, Firebrand, Frank West, Mike Haggar, Strider, Nemesis, and for some reason that I can't possibly understand, Nathan Spencer from the long forgotten and underwhelming 2009 Bionic Commando.
Capcom has also announced a few DLC characters that will show up soon for some versus play and those are: Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Venom, and despite them being featured in the story mode here, Sigma, Black Panther, and a female character from the Monster Hunter franchise, which is a fantastic choice. The unfortunate fact, however; is the pack is $39.99 for six characters, which is absolutely painful to see happen.
Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite features a predominantly male-focused cast with only four female fighters present in the game. It's a shame that Chris Redfield hadn't been swapped to Jill Valentine or his sister Claire and even a few more females added to the cast. With such a diverse collection among the brands, the core choice of what we have here is severely lacking even compared to the previous games in the series. When you go from around 60 fighters down to 30, you have to ask yourself, why?
The character models themselves range anywhere from decent to drastically poor. For every great looking character like Thanos, Gamora, or Nova, there are painful ones like Rocket Raccoon, Spider-man, and Chun-li, who still doesn't look any better with her so-called improved model. The main problem with so many characters from various styles of games is that many of the cast here don't look like they should be standing next to several others. The realistic human characters like Chris Redfield and Ryu don't even look like they are the same species, let alone standing next to someone like Mega Man or Arthur. It's almost like several teams were working on each of the characters and no one shared their designs until they put them all in the game.
While yes, there has to be some suspension of belief with how these characters can mix together, but the fact there isn't one central art style is the main problem here. In other cross-over games like Project X Zone, the characters are all sprites and it feels cohesive and functional. It's a shame that Capcom didn't produce this game in the style of something like Blazblue or Guilty Gear Xrd, as those are some of the most gorgeous fighting games of all time. Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite just feels bland and visually unimpressive when compared to its genre counterparts.
The environments to do battle in can have some nice details and look rather good, especially the locations that are created as a result of the merging worlds. A.I.M.Brella is a nice touch as is Doctor Light being the AI for Tony Stark. Upon completing the story mode you will unlock all stages for vs battle. It's a shame that the characters didn't have the same level of polish here as the stages they occupy.
Visuals and character selection aside, how does it play? Well, quite good actually. Capcom has taken the series back to 2v2 combat with quick tag outs and character switching even in mid combo or special move. The frantic nature of the series is still present here and can make for some intense and fast paced combat. While there is some slow down, at least when the action gets incredibly busy on screen, it never seemed to ruin the fun in any real way.
Each punch, kick and special move is pulled off via a six button setup. The face buttons work as light/heavy punches and kicks, with the other two buttons being character swapping and triggering your Infinity stone, a special type of attack and variable that can make for some very interesting combinations, and something I'll talk about shortly.
As a button masher myself, pulling off special moves and various special attacks feels remarkably easy and rewarding, making each and every character impressively fun to play. There are a few characters that can suffer from a shallow reach or a lack of a solid projectile attack, but each character does contain the ability to deal out some decent damage regardless. Capcom has made Infinite very accessible and easy for new players to pick it up as well as the more skilled players to perfect the more advanced series of attacks.
Marvel vs Capcom has always been a series about mastering combo's, juggling characters in the air, and triggering hyper combo's that fill the screen in a flash of color and spectacle, and they are as easy as pressing heavy punch and heavy kick together. Each character has a few of these attacks, everything from Spider-man zipping all around the screen to web up his foe and then lay the beat down, to Dante spinning around and letting Ebony and Ivory do the talking. The Marvel vs Capcom series has always been about these huge special moves and frankly, they nail this element to the series here extremely well.
The main gimmick to combat here are the Infinity Stones, special attack variables that can change up how you may want to handle a fight. There are six stones to choose from: Power, Soul, Space, Time, Reality, and Mind. Each Stone has a basic attack as well as a charged attack like limiting the playable area to your foe with the Space Gem or leeching health with the Soul Gem.
Each and every character is voiced and while several of them are rather great, there are a few that stand out as being really miscast. Ryu, Rocket Raccoon, and Dr. Strange are probably the three for me that stand out as just plain awful, whereas Gamora, Thanos, and Morrigan are so great that I wish they had more dialogue. The only aspect of the voices that really drove me mad was when you need to charge your Infinity Stone as you'll tap down the button and each character will yell out the name of that stone. The problem with this is you have to keep doing that between hits, so hearing a character yell "Mind Stone! Mind Stone! Mind Stone! Mind Stone!" again and again is painful.
It wouldn't be a Capcom fighting game if it didn't have some form of online play, however; that could be said for any modern fighting game, but Capcom in typical Capcom form brings again just the bare minimum here with no real surprises to its online competitive play. Matches seemed ok with little to zero lag and for a game about fast action and split second special moves, that is a very good thing.
Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite's art style feels wasted here on a game that plays remarkably well with its fast paced combat and thrilling special moves. The selection of characters is a drastic step down from the series' past and feels more catered towards expanding via its overpriced DLC. The story mode can be entertaining, but you'll guess everything that happens before it does as the writing just isn't as clever as it wants to be. The excessive load times between each story encounter did lessen the drama that was unfolding and I'm hoping it is something they can address in patches as it does ruin the pacing considerably. Apart from the story mode, you have online play and the various versus modes against your friends or challenging AI, and that's it.
For a title with Infinite in its name, it's a rather finite experience.