With a roster of exciting characters and ideas to set it apart from its contemporaries, Infinite fails to reach its potential or earn its place amongst the best of the fighter genre.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite feels like a game of shoulds. It should feel dynamic and fresh with its roster of ready made heroes and villains. It should have the graphical power to dazzle and impress. It should have great mechanics and novel gameplay ideas to differentiate itself from its contemporaries and its predecessors. Sadly, the game fails to properly deliver on these aspects. While it most definitely isn’t a bad game, it seems compelled to settle for mediocrity rather than pushing itself to the limits of its actual potential and the power of the IPs it lends from.
As a newcomer to the Marvel vs. Capcom series, I went into this release with little expectation of what I would be experiencing. It initially feels like it strikes a fine balance of accessibility for new players like myself, but it became quickly apparent that it sacrifices the need for depth in comparison to other established franchises in the genre. This is made all the more prominent following the stellar releases of Mortal Kombat Xand more recently Injustice 2, which raised the bar in terms of quality and production values.
While Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is enjoyable for a quick-fire stint, it unfortunately fails to provide the variety, satisfaction or engagement that other fighting games offer, and its longevity suffers as a result, the cornerstone of any successful fighting game.
A Superpowered Story? Sadly Not.
While fighting games don’t usually live or die by their single player campaigns, a good solo experience can be a valuable proving ground for any budding super-powered player. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has a surprisingly interesting premise to build on. Your quest sees the heroes of the Capcom video game universes join forces with the now renowned Marvel roster to put an end to Ultron’s reign of terror. This core story hook feels hollow however, and fails to provide the momentum to carry the game’s narrative forward, descending into a far less whimsical version of Infinity Wars as the roster of heroes scramble to find the infinity stones before Ultron does.
The first thing you’ll notice is that dialogue, writing and voice acting are generally terrible. Returning voice actors for characters like Chris Redfield and Dante put in limp performances and sound unapologetically bored in regurgitating the awful lines of conversation they’re asked to deliver. It tries to add the humour that has made the Marvel franchise so successful and fails miserably to recreate the punchy and memorable one liners we’ve become accustomed to. The less said about Morrigan’s accent, the better as well - simply awful.
The campaign is fairly short, amassing a whopping 4-5 hours at best. While this initially would seem decent for a fighting game, it becomes far more disappointing when you realise that the majority of the actual fights are spent battling repetitive drones or staring at a loading screen before and after every battle or cutscene. These filler fights mean that the actual battles between the villains and superheroes of the universe lack any sense of excitement or buzz, the pacing already irrevocably destroyed. Battles with your favourite characters against major figures can at times feel just like the way it should and be rewarding, but they’re simply too infrequent to make it worth sludging through the mundane narrative.
As an introduction to the game’s mechanics and design, the story is serviceable, but it feels like a real missed opportunity and should have delivered more than we’re provided.
Solid Gameplay, A Weak Foundation
Despite the disappointing my essay story offering, Infinite’s moment-to-moment gameplay is inherently quite good. Slick and flashy, it’s easy to throw yourself into the intuitive controls and wreak some havoc with your chosen fighters. Battles are 2 on 2, supplemented with a choice of infinity stone and power meters. It also supplies an interesting auto-combo idea into the fabric of fights. Mashing the square button repeatedly when in close range allows any fighter to rack up a decent flurry of hits without much ado or fuss. This adds a real layer of accessibility that can sometimes be lacking in other games of the genre, allowing anyone to drop in and start to build up some decent damage, empowerment is the name of the game here.
Blocking, advance guards and special moves round out the offering. Though the advancing guard technique doesn’t quite provide the payoff or substantial benefit to just holding block and waiting for an opening. Consequently, it can feel somewhat unnecessary and a throwaway addition. As you’re throwing world-busting attacks and powerful special moves, you’re power meter increases, allowing you to either save for a level 3 hyper combo or multiple level 1 versions. These attacks can easily turn the tide of a fight if used effectively. Despite being flashy and visually awesome the first few times, they come off as too easy to depend upon (especially with the Mind stone). Their effectiveness is offset by their ease of blocking and countering, but the whole system feels unsatisfying to pull off.
Infinity stones obviously make their appearance felt in gameplay as well as story too. Supplementing your two-hero strike team, they offer a basic move that can be used throughout a fight, and an infinity surge once their meter fills to a threshold. Infinity surges have the potential to create some interesting combo opportunities - from the elemental buffs of the reality stone to each attack, to the game-changing soul stone which can revive your fallen partner and allow them both to lay waste at the same time. The stones provide some real variety in combinations with characters to create great opportunities for experimentation. However, I found myself relying on one or two of them that I knew worked most effectively, so it descends into limiting the need for actually diversifying your playstyle.
Generally, the fighting mechanics felt satisfying and tight, but there was a pervading feeling that the combat wasn’t as rewarding or gratifying as it should have been. The auto-combo system and learning particular special attacks negate the need for learning tricky, intricate movesets. Coupled with ease of blocking and lack of benefit from advance guards, it appears the game undercuts the value of the skill curve in favour of catering to those who just want to put in the bare minimum and find success. This was exemplified by that fact I won my first online match up despite having only played the story for about 30 minutes. Being devoid of skill and experience didn’t particularly hinder me from progressing, which is not something I’ve experienced in a fighting game previously (having been thoroughly dismantled and taken apart in Mortal Kombat Xwhen I started out). The need to improve or compulsion to get more refined is considerably lacking throughout the whole experience.
Lastly, the roster of game modes available is stunningly meagre. Aside from the story offering, there’s the traditional arcade mode, player vs player/CPU local fights, mission mode offering over 300 minuscule tutorials and online play - with ranked, casual and beginner options. Mission mode feels like more of a frustrating, drawn out exercise in learning akin to attempting that algebra equation that melted your mind back in school. Each character has 10 personable missions, but they feel largely tacked on and don’t have the nuance to actually assist newer players learn the intricacies of timing combos or chaining together more complex sequences. Arcade mode is standard fare, offering 7 consecutive fights culminating in two mini-boss encounters at the end. Again though, the mode feels somewhat half baked - there’s no exposition scene for succeeding, no tangible reward (other than an outfit and title for each character) and no particular reason to play it over a regular player vs CPU match. Online is what you would expect, but a few months on from release you’ll struggle to find any other available players. It seems the community has largely abandoned this release, moving onto other alternatives with more rewarding progression and engaging options.
Compared to its rivals in the fighting game space, Infinite struggles to meaningfully stack up or hold its head above water.
Visually Unsatisfying, Aesthetically Lacking
In terms of looks, Infinite is most definitely slouching. Character models look awful in the majority of cases. Chris Redfield for example looks lifeless and barely half the quality of his outing in Resident Evil 5 almost 10 years ago. Spider-man and Captain America suffer the most from the artistic design, looking more akin to a boulder or military tank than actual human beings.
It’s not just the characters that suffer graphically however, the environments and levels that you do battle within are uninspired and lack any real creativity. Corridors, walkways and generic labs make up far too many of the stages available than is reasonable. The few levels that do offer some dynamic backgrounds are still held back by the fact they’re all 2D - losing the potential we’ve come to see from other games like MKX or Injustice 2. Level interactions, transitions and environmental takedowns have become staples of the genre - with good reason - so it’s a crying shame they’re not accounted for here.
It’s not all bad though, the hyper combo moves you pull off capture the feel of super-powered bad-ass’ going all-in to wreck each other’s existence. Impressive in spectacle and delivering the kind of oomph the rest of the game is missing, they provide the most visually satisfying element of Infinite’s overall package. It’s also a game full of colour and shimmering effects, which every now and then almost make it a joy to witness. Unfortunately, that’s where the compliments mostly end. Cutscenes are serviceable but there are some in-game generated sections of dialogue which are janky and so lifeless it would make a skeleton blush. Animations are a mixed bag too, with some characters flowing with spectacle and others appearing as if they’re nursing a horrendous hangover and can’t tell which limbs they’re supposed to lurch forward with.
Overall, the presentation just isn’t as polished or refined as we’ve come to expect from AAA games. Characters feel like cardboard cutouts in a lifeless 2D realm which gives little inspiration to immerse you in the universe, which proves to be a real missed opportunity again.
Failing to Match A Strong Premise
Infinite falls into the category of game that should have been so much more than the end result proved to be. With extra time and care taken to flesh out the roster, add more dynamic modes and polish the graphical rough edges, it could have been a fantastic fighting game. Sadly, while there’s basic fun to be had with its slim offerings, such as playing as your favourite characters, it suffers from a lack of enduring appeal. Once the arcade and story mode have been played there’s precious little else to keep you invested or motivated to continue honing your skills.
Playing as Dante and delivering a massive beat down on Doctor Strange and Hulk while looking flashy and epic never really lost its intrinsic appeal, but I would have loved for the game to provide me with more reasons and options to maintain that feeling. The lack of current online players crushed any hope of offering this, though this can also be attributed to the substantial gap between the casual and hardcore player. The jump to move from novice into an expert seemed more akin to a chasm than a gap, which ultimately makes the intermediary stage a slog and unfulfilling - with no real reason to continue.
A game that feels scaled down and lacking in the content that has now become the standard practice in other franchises of the genre, Infinite is a game that should have delivered more. While it delivers a superficial and short-lived thrill, fine to delve into for a short-term fix, it fails to define itself or give players enough justification to stay loyal in the long-term.