The ride continues. Months after the re-release of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, Capcom is finally moving forward with a proper sequel: Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite. But while the game has improved on the Marvel vs Capcom formula in certain aspects, it can't quite shake the feeling of being an evolution of a title many MvC fans recently played.
The entire Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite experience is backed by a pretty good story mode, focused on reality-warping shenanigans via Marvel's Infinity Stones. Robotic overlords Ultron and Sigma have used the combined might of the Reality and Space stones to fuse themselves into Ultron Sigma. At the same time, they fuse familiar Marvel environments with the Capcom universes. Our heroes team up to undo the damage, or at least make sure that Ultron Sigma doesn't rule over everything.
Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is a pretty light-hearted and fun adventure. It's different in tone from the self-serious nature of Injustice 2's storyline, with writers instead playing with matched concepts here. There's Spider-Man and Frank West teaming up to get a proper scoop on the A.I.Mbrella base where the organization is building symbiote-infused Bio Organic Weapons. Ryu and Hulk work together to master their rage and defeat a Dah'ren Mohran that's attacking Black Panther's kingdom of Valkanda. And who knew there'd be sexual tension between Ghost Rider and Morrigan? If you're a fan of either side, there's enough here to make you smile and chuckle. It's better than the series has really had up until this point.
The core of Marvel vs Capcom hasn't really changed with Infinite. You're still looking at four basic attack buttons, command special moves, and team-based gameplay with tag-team options. There was a big to-do in the community about streamlining the gameplay for new players, but in practice, not much has changed here.
All command specials that were Dragon Punch motions (Forward, Down, and then Down-Forward), are now double-tap Down instead. There's an auto combo available on every character accessed by tapping the Light Punch button and a simple chain combo accessed by hitting Light Punch, Light Kick, Heavy Punch, and Heavy Kick in succession. (It ends in a launcher, allowing you to repeat it in mid-air.) Dashing has an alternate input in the form of both Punch buttons and a direction. Finally, there's an Easy Hyper Combo, accessed by hitting Heavy Punch and Heavy Kick at the same time.
These are training wheels that don't really change up the primary play of Marvel vs Capcom. Your friend who knows nothing about the series has a way in, while you can ignore and turn off most of these features and just focus on the high-flying, combo-heavy gameplay the series is known for. Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite has pretty forgiving combo timing, with cancels and tag-teaming allowing you to extend your streak to some amazing levels, just like previous games.
Gone are the assists and 3v3 action of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and 3, with Infinite instead leaning heavily on 2v2 play. You can switch between your tag-team duo at any time by tapping one of the bumpers, no charging required. This allows you to sub-in your partner mid-combo, or sub-out a fighter if they're in a tough spot without waiting. (Well, if they're trapped in a combo, you have to wait for that to end.) I still miss the extra assist characters of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, but I actually prefer this system to MvC 3's selectable assist attacks.
Finally, the combat system is underpinned by the Infinity Stones, making their return from Capcom's Marvel Super Heroes. Players can choose from one of six stones - Power, Mind, Soul, Time, Space, and Reality - bringing various effects to the battlefield by tapping the other bumper to perform an Infinity Surge. These attacks vary depending on the stone you have equipped: Power is an attack that sends your opponent flying, Soul's attack drains life, Reality creates a fireball that tracks your opponent. The Surges are basic attacks that augment the holes in certain characters, like using Time's teleporting dash Surge to close the distance for heavier fighters like Hulk and Haggar.
Using these Infinity Surges fills a separate Infinity Meter. Once that meter is at least 50 percent full, you can tap both bumpers together to perform an Infinity Storm. These moves amp up the fight, changing the entire battlefield and offering either new abilities for your fighters or new restrictions on your opponents. The Soul Gem's Infinity Surge actually brings your downed partner back to life and allows you to control both characters at the same time. Mind refills your Hyper Combo gauge, and Space traps your opponent in a small region they can't escape from. If you thought Marvel vs Capcom fights were already hard to follow, Infinity Storms can actually add to the visual clutter. I think Capcom will need to tweak certain colors, notably the red-on-red of the Reality Storm.
That's a whole bunch of words to say "It's Marvel vs Capcom". If you've played the series before, there aren't many huge changes on a moment-to-moment basis. If anything, the problem with Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite doesn't feel enough like a full sequel.
Part of this stems from the game's roster and how it was implemented here. Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite has a full roster of 30 characters, which is a smaller slate than even Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. And of that roster, most of it is copied from Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. Capcom went in and tweaked things (updated textures, new moves), but you'll see similar character models and animations. Of the 30 characters, only 6 are not from the previous entry: Gamora, Ultron, Jedah, Mega Man X, and Thanos.
It feels like a cost issue, allowing Capcom to quickly get Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite into development and out the door, and the ultimate effect is a game that doesn't feel like a full sequel. Despite earlier issues, the characters look better in most cases, but ultimately it's like we've taken a step back. I don't particularly care that the X-Men are gone, but the roster needs more new blood and is depressingly low on Marvel and Capcom's female heroes. Part of the magic of Marvel vs Capcom is that balance between old favorites and interesting new heroes. Even MvC 3's initial outing balanced returning classics like Ryu, Magneto, and Doctor Doom, with fun new characters like Deadpool, Amaterasu, Dormammu, and Viewtiful Joe.
Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is supposed to have downloadable character releases akin to Street Fighter V, with multiple waves offering a few new fighters each time. (Potential fighters like Black Panther and a female Monster Hunter actually appear in the story campaign.) I just wish the starting point was better, as those DLC fighters won't be free.
Otherwise, Capcom has seemingly learned from the reception of Street Fighter V. Alongside the Story mode, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite offers Online play, Arcade, a local versus mode with another player or the CPU, and a Training mode that gives a brief tutorial and offers challenges for every fighter. There's a whole list of collectibles to unlock, including music, titles, and concept art from the game. Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is a full package ready for every type of player.
I came away from Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite generally enjoying the game. I think most of the players that liked Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 will be right at home here. I just feel more needed to be done to differentiate the game from its predecessor, especially in the roster department, which is a fighter's bread-and-butter. In many ways, this is a sequel, but when it comes to the roster overall, MvC Infinite feels like disappointing retread of what came before. So it's recommended for fighting fans, but temper your expectations accordingly.
Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is full package, offering a fun Story Mode, online play, local Versus action, and a roster of 30 fighters. The issue is how many of those fighters are returning from the previous game, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. Even with the inclusion of the reality-warping Infinity Stones, Capcom can't change the reality that it feels like Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite needed more new blood.