Back in June, I got to review my first brawler, NetherRealm’s DC super-powered smash-’em-up Injustice 2. It was such an easy review because the game was (and is!) totally sublime. So when I was offered the opportunity to review Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, I was immediately, like, duh, obviously. The Capcom stuff is fine, cool, whatever, but it’s got Rocket Raccoon. Rocket Raccoon! So I got the game, loaded it up with the breathless anticipation of somebody about to beat up that dork from Resident Evil as Rocket Raccoon, and – POW! ZOK! LEEEEEON*! – tripped between the multiverses into one of the most mixed experiences I’ve had since the guy from Bionic Commando randomly turned up to fight Ultron in a desperately contrived plot twist. Wait, no. That’s this game.
So let’s start at the beginning of this story with, well, er, the story.
I’m sort of new to the Marvel vs Capcom oeuvre, so I was surprised to find that this is the first time it’s included a story mode. Go team. But as far as praise for the story goes, I think I’m going to stop there. I mean, I wasn’t expecting anything especially compelling given that the developers had at least two very big hurdles in their way – first, as I’ve already pointed out, this is the first time they’ve tried to add a story into this megamix, and doing something for the first time is always hard like that; and second, they had to find a clever way to mix two not exactly complementary franchises into some kind of coherent narrative. On the latter point, they did at least manage to create a story of sorts, but it just isn’t that good. At all. In fact, it’s absolutely terrible. Marvel’s catalogue has been meticulously crafted, with proper writers telling actual stories with nice pictures since the ’30s. Capcom… hasn’t. The whole story mode plays out like 29 different stories connected by the flimsiest of threads, some parts of it so phony and awkward that it feels like bad fanfic. The only thing I can remember about it with any clarity is that everybody was trying to get the Infinity Stones. The end. Don’t buy this for the story mode, boys and girls, because there’s only so much torture a human brain is capable of withstanding.
But the campaign can be knocked out in about three to four hours, and then it’s onto the real game. And there’s lots of fun to be had in this by grabbing a friend that knows nothing about the game, shoving a controller in their hand, and beating the shit out of each other for the next hour because this game is so accessible and button-masher friendly. Capcom has also dumped the three-player tag-team system of its most recent predecessors for a more manageable two-player quick-tag system. Though some of the hardcore fans out there will probably complain, I feel like it’s simplified the game enough to make it easier for new players to find traction with it. The tag system has also seen a bit of work, allowing for the extension of combos by tagging in your other character while your first is still mid-combo. So, halfway through a helicopter kick with Chun-Li, you can pull in Thor from the wings to pick up your poor victim, mash his or her kidneys into a fine pâté, and then call Chun-Li back in to wrap it up.
Besides their ambiguous purpose in the campaign, Marvel’s Infinity Stones also make up one of the new gameplay features. You get to choose one just before each fight, with each Infinity Stone giving you an extra ability to help you along the way, like being able to teleport a short distance forward, or pulling your opponent closer, or even attacking an enemy with both characters at once if charged enough. And while it adds an interesting dimension to a player’s moves, I found I rarely used it unless it was fully charged.
With 30 characters at launch, the game’s roster includes an eclectic, and, in some cases, questionable choice of combatants. The Marvel line up is mostly adequate. Wolverine has bowed out of this game, and I can only assume it’s to make room for some of the MCU characters that are, like, so hot right now. All Avengers are present and accounted for (even Hawkeye), and most of the Guardians of the Galaxy are there too, minus Drax and Star Lord, and I’m really bummed about Star Lord, you guys, because you just know he would have had the best lines, and his hyper combo could’ve been some sort of epic dance called “Pelvic Sorcery”, so boo. Rocket Raccoon (Rocket Raccoon!) is a truly fantastic addition, and he comes with the ability to summon his favourite sentient tree thug during combat, so I’ll take that as a two for one. But not even one of the X-Men? That sucks.
By comparison, Capcom’s roster is unimpressive. The inclusion of some of the characters – Dead Rising’s Frank West, for example – make sense in a game like this. There’s something special about watching the world’s favourite photo journalist of the undead (he’s covered wars too) push a zombie trolley bomb into Ghost Rider’s face. On the other hand, we see Arthur and Firebrand from Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins sneaking into the line-up. Not only are these two very obscure fighters to add to the roster, but they haven’t been very well realised either. Where characters like Iron Man are incredibly well detailed, these two look almost copy-pasted from the original 1985 title. And it’s much the same with Mega Man X and Zero, complete with clumsy animation and some very dreary backdrop design, like joke placeholder graphics that somebody forgot to replace.
*And it’s not even Leon. It’s Chris Redfield.