Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has perfectly competent core gameplay, with some welcome touches to make things more accessible to newcomers, but is let down by everything around that gameplay loop. Character designs, voice acting, writing, and just about everything about the story mode are all well below what one of the year’s biggest fighting games should be offering, and that’s enough to ruin even the simple joy of watching Thor pick a fight with Ryu.
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Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is the latest entry in the Marvel mash-up fighting series, which sees some of the world’s most famous superheroes thrown up against a mess of characters from across Capcom’s game library.
These mash-ups have been a staple since the 1996 arcade title X-Men vs. Street Fighter, but there’s been a five-year wait since the last game, and Marvel’s characters are more popular than ever, so we’re due another entry.
But hitting stores in the same year as the well-received Injustice 2, starring DC’s finest, can Iron Man et al. put up a fight, or is it game over? Find out in our Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite review.
Where to buy Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite
The game is out in the UK and US from 19 September, on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
You can pick up all a copy from all the usual suspects. Steam, Green Man Gaming, the PlayStation Store, and the Xbox Store are the best bets for digital copies.
If you’d rather a physical edition, head to Game, Amazon, or Argos in the UK, or GameStop, Best Buy, or Amazon if you’re in the US.
You can also splash out for the giant Collector’s Edition. That includes a Deluxe Edition of the game, four exclusive character skins, a decorative case containing replicas of the six Infinity Stones, and diorama statues of Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Mega Man, and Chun-Li.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite review
The first thing you notice about Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is just how disappointingly ugly it all is. While the series’ early titles boasted a beautiful animated style reminiscent of the superheroes’ comic book origins, Infinite has swapped those out for some fairly generic 3D models.
There’s no sense of charm or style, with characters from a diverse array of Capcom games and comics backgrounds all crammed into the same awkward aesthetic, let down further by a lack of details, ugly textures, and very, very janky facial animations.
Stages are a bit better, with some nice art direction dotted around the place through the attempts to merge locations from each company’s portfolio, but beyond a few limited animations they’re entirely unresponsive.
To add insult to injury, almost every male character in the game appears to have fallen into a vat of steroids on the way into work. It’s nothing new to see over-muscled superheroes, but the designs here take that to the next level: Captain America is more muscle than man, Ryu has biceps bigger than his own head, and even poor slender Spider-Man is at risk of being swallowed up by the gravitational pull of his own shoulders.
That might all sound like a petty way to open a review of a game, but in a game where the chief joy is pitting your favourite comic and videogame icons against one another it becomes a problem if you spend the whole time wondering why they all look sort of pants.
Those icons come from across the Marvel universe and a smorgasbord of different Capcom games, and there are 30 of them in total. The Marvel types are mostly those in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, which means a big focus on the likes of Iron Man, Thor, and Rocket Raccoon, but no sign of the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, or even the uber-popular Deadpool.
Capcom naturally draws heavily from its fighting game series like Street Fighter, Final Fight, and Darkstalkers, but there are also more left-field choices: Chris Redfield and Nemesis from Resident Evil; Frank West from Dead Rising; even Arthur from Ghosts ‘n Goblins.
When it comes to fighting, things are simple, and Infinite has clearly been positioned at the accessible end of the fighter market. You have a mix of light and heavy attacks, but tapping ‘light punch’ triggers an auto combo, and hitting both heavy attack face buttons at once immediately triggers a powerful special move, so anyone can learn a few flashy moves without going down the rabbit hole of lengthy combos.
The series’ staple tag-team mechanic is back, though it’s been trimmed down from three fighters to two. You fight with one character at a time, but can use ‘Active Switch’ to jump between them at any time – even during a combo if you get the timing right – and characters slowly regenerate health whenever they’re not in the fray.
The other big strategic wrinkle this time around is the introduction of the Infinity Stones. In addition to picking two fighters, you choose one of the six stones. This gives you a light attack tied to your chosen stone, as well as a more powerful stat boost you can trigger once your Infinity meter fills up.
The net result is a combat system that lets beginners full off some flashy moves even if they’re not really capable of much more than button-bashing, while leaving room for more complex strategic play and combos from more skilled players.
That’s a good thing, because the game needs that combat to be enjoyable to make up for the pretty limited options elsewhere. As per usual for a fighting game, you have local and online multiplayer, and a single-player arcade mode. There are also a few training ‘missions’ which boil down to working through a few basic specific challenges within fights.
In a first for the series, there’s also a much-touted story mode, which sees heroes from both Marvel and Capcom unite to defeat Ultron Sigma, the evil fusion of Marvel’s Ultron with Mega Man X villain Sigma.
The story mode is, in the nicest possible, an absolute trainwreck. The player is dropped right into the middle of the plot, with no context or introduction to even the more niche Capcom characters. Voice acting is uniformly dreadful, and the lines they’re struggling to deliver are somehow even worse.
Cut scenes feel like they drag on for hours as endless characters get the chance to throw exposition around, before you’re thrown into a quick fight, then dragged back for more dreary plot. Even the actual gameplay isn’t shown off at its best: most of the time the tag team mechanic isn’t used, and you’re frequently just fighting a string of dull Ultron drones. The difficulty is clearly askew, with fights veering wildly between near-impossible and frustratingly easy, and at three hours, the story feels about three hours too long.
Worst of all? It’s totally lacking in self-awareness, mashing all its characters together and somehow trying to keep a straight face, telling a weighty, moody story with barely a hint that this is really just a silly bit of fun at the heart of it all.
All of that might have been fine a few years ago, but fighting game fans expect more these days. In the same year that Injustice 2 picked up near-universal acclaim for its narrative, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite’s story is an utter letdown that forgets it’s meant to be fun.