It’s been over twenty years since developer Capcom combined together Marvel comic book heroes with Street Fighter characters to create the iconic fighting game X-Men vs. Street Fighter. This merger had kids in the 90’s blissfully facing their favorites from these insanely popular franchises in a way that had only previously been playground fantasy. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite strays from its roots a bit by removing all members of the X-Men, replacing them with the more recently popular Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy in a move that was a bit disappointing, but understandable. It was the first in a line of disappointments that made up my time with Infinite. Fortunately, Capcom can still make a mechanically sound fighting game.
The same tag team gameplay of previous Marvel vs. Capcom games returns, and along with it comes tight and addictively fun fighting mechanics. There will be purists who will decry the “Easy Hyper Combos” but they haven’t broken the game. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite still requires players to learn combos and other skills to truly master any given fighter. Players choose two characters to play as, with one being in reserve and able to be called up at will. This can lead to some fun and uniquely Marvel vs. Capcom moments as you bring out your partner to help deliver damage, at the cost of putting them both in danger. If a character has taken too much of a beating, or isn’t fast enough to fight your current opponent, you can swap them out for their partner who could be more fresh, or more suitable for the encounter. There are30 playable fighters at launch, giving players plenty of combinations to play around with.
There are the normal local arcade and versus modes with both casual and ranked online modes. Luckily, at least as of a few days after launch, there doesn’t seem to be any glaring problems with matchmaking and playing against others online. Fighting in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is fun and feels like a proper Marvel vs. Capcom fighting game. But despite its solid fighting mechanics, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite can be extremely ugly, and sometimes feels like a product that wasn’t quite ready to be released. The “missions” require you to perform combos and other advanced moves in a long checklist, but a warning that says that some combos and move properties may be out of date to the most current version of the game makes the whole endeavor feel pointless as a training exercise.
The gameplay is still great, and just what I would expect in Marvel vs. Capcom but Infinite is a disappointment in almost every other aspect. The comic book aesthetic adopted by the 2011 series revival Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is gone. It is replaced with characters that look plastic made by artists with questionable anatomical familiarity. Impossible physiques are usual when comic books and video games are concerned, but Infinite has seemingly taken cues from infamous comic artist Rob Liefield in its disregard for the human form. Animations in the fight themselves are passable, but in cutscenes characters move stiffly, and dialogue is often poorly delivered with a particularly bad Robert Downey Jr. impersonator trying to pass as Iron Man.
The story itself is a real missed opportunity. Instead of a scenario in which all of these iconic characters meet and come to grips with their different backgrounds and the amusing interactions that would entail, the story starts months after a convergence event that merged their worlds. The characters are all already familiar with each other and that leaves little for the story to do but set up one fight after another. It serves as a good introduction to many of the playable characters, and there is an interesting final boss fight – but it is all generic and mediocre to the point of tediousness.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is just disappointing. Somehow, despite the gameplay being intact, Infinite manages to feel rushed and soulless – the weakest entry in the series thus far. Capcom does promise continued support, with paid downloadable content planned – so there’s a possibility of improvement. A full AAA price tag and an additional $30 dollars for the next 6 planned characters means you might have to put in a lot of money just to see that possibility, though. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is available now on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.