Mar­vel Vs Cap­com: In­fi­nite

PC, PS4, Xbox One


De­vel­oper/pub­lisher Cap­com For­mat PC, PS4 (tested), Xbox One Re­lease Out now

Per­haps you’re in­ter­ested in Mar­vel Vs Cap­com: In­fi­nite’s story mode. If that’s the case, al­low us to sug­gest you do some­thing more use­ful with that money; do­nate it to a po­lit­i­cal party whose views you ab­hor, per­haps, or run it un­der the tap for ten min­utes be­fore throw­ing it in the bin. It is an em­bar­rass­ment that wastes not only the bonkers po­ten­tial of its set-up but also com­pletely fails to ful­fil the prin­ci­pal goal of the con­tem­po­rary fight­ing-game story mode. What should be a grace­ful in­tro­duc­tion to the game is in­stead a con­fus­ing mess that spends more time un­der­min­ing its sys­tems than it does ex­plor­ing them.

Any hope that Cap­com might have learned a few lessons from Street Fighter V’s long de­layed, and even­tu­ally aw­ful, cin­e­matic story mode quickly fades as the stu­dio sets about mak­ing the same mis­takes from the off. Nether­realm’s equiv­a­lent modes work be­cause they put you in con­trol of a sin­gle char­ac­ter for a few fights at a time; you know you’ll be play­ing as a Johnny Cage or a Bat­man for a while, so you might as well dip into the com­mand list and get a han­dle on their spe­cial moves, and maybe mem­o­rise a few combo strings while you’re at it. Yet here, as in SFV, you get one fight with a given char­ac­ter, and then it’s on to the next.

There’s no point learn­ing any­thing, es­pe­cially given the way the game dis­cour­ages you from try­ing to play it prop­erly. Many fights have you fac­ing off against mul­ti­ple foes; you’ll find a way through one of their de­fenses, get a few hits in, and then be struck in the back of the head by some­one else. Else­where, Cap­com might be­stow the op­po­si­tion with su­per ar­mour, so that while you can hit them, they’ll never flinch from the blow. This es­sen­tially re­moves the combo sys­tem from the game, since at any time your foe can sim­ply de­cide to start at­tack­ing you. Oh, and there might also be an NPC in the back­ground chuck­ing hom­ing mis­siles at you. What should be an en­joy­able in­tro­duc­tion to a game where 100-hit com­bos are com­mon­place is in­stead a three-hour ex­er­cise in frus­tra­tion where you can’t get more than a few hits off be­fore some­thing clob­bers you from be­hind.

It’s baf­fling, hon­estly, es­pe­cially given all the noise Cap­com has made about this be­ing the most ac­ces­si­ble Mar­vel game yet. There cer­tainly are con­ces­sions to the novice player: In­fi­nite bor­rows the fash­ion­able genre trick of map­ping an au­to­mated combo to re­peated taps of the light-punch but­ton, for in­stance, while an Easy Hy­per Combo in­put al­lows you to pull off a flashy su­per move by press­ing two but­tons si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Yet if that sug­gests that Cap­com has fi­nally re­alised that new­com­ers need a help­ing hand as they seek to im­prove then, well, no. A tu­to­rial walks you through the ba­sics of move­ment, block­ing and so on, and in­tro­duces you to the game’s core sys­tems. Combo tri­als quickly ask you to knock out ex­trav­a­gant 30-hit strings. There’s noth­ing link­ing the two, noth­ing to teach you the build­ing blocks of In­fi­nite’s com­bat sys­tem: noth­ing that ex­plains that you’re lim­ited to one ground bounce, one wall bounce and one off-the-ground at­tack, and must work to op­ti­mise your com­bos within that frame­work. You’re just ex­pected to work it out. Cap­com’s pro­found dis­in­ter­est in help­ing play­ers im­prove con­tin­ues to be as frus­trat­ing as it is con­fus­ing.

It’s es­pe­cially trou­bling be­cause those with the strength to fig­ure ev­ery­thing out for them­selves will dis­cover that there’s a heck of a fight­ing game in In­fi­nite. De­spite the ap­par­ent re­duc­tion in com­plex­ity by re­duc­ing team sizes from three char­ac­ters per side to two, this is a more freeform game than ever be­fore; the abil­ity to tag in an off­screen part­ner at any point, with a sin­gle but­ton press, al­low­ing for more flex­i­bil­ity in combo cre­ation, and more de­vi­ous tricks to open up an op­po­nent, than were ever pos­si­ble in the 3v3 days. At the heart of it all are the In­fin­ity Stones. Cap­com’s in­sis­tence be­fore re­lease that th­ese would es­sen­tially play the role of a third char­ac­ter raised eye­brows, but if any­thing they’re even more use­ful than that, equal parts as­sist move, combo tool, come­back me­chanic and a way to com­pen­sate for a cho­sen char­ac­ter’s de­fi­cien­cies. Mayor Mike Hag­gar, for ex­am­ple, thrives up close, and strug­gles from range, yet us­ing the right Stone he might earn a zippy dash to help him close space, a whip that yanks foes to­wards him, or a pro­jec­tile to cover his ap­proach. Th­ese moves, dubbed In­fin­ity Surges, are ac­ti­vated with a sin­gle but­ton press and can be used freely through­out bat­tle, at no me­ter cost. When a gauge that ac­crues as you take dam­age is full, a dou­ble but­ton press ac­ti­vates the In­fin­ity Storm, a timed buff which might add knock­back to all your at­tacks, re­duce an­i­ma­tion times to al­low for cus­tom com­bos, trap op­po­nents in a cage that lim­its their moveset and move­ment, or even res­ur­rect a fallen part­ner for a spell of two-on-one dam­age-deal­ing. Mar­vel Vs Cap­com 3 had hun­dreds of thou­sands of team com­po­si­tions, and seem­ingly end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties. Some­how, this seems to have it beat, de­spite the num­bers be­ing against it.

The mem­o­ries of that abysmal story mode soon fade, and those pre­pared to put the hours in by them­selves will find a game as fluid and flex­i­ble as any on the mar­ket. We’re al­most bored of chid­ing Cap­com for its lack of in­ter­est in bridg­ing the gap between mind­less but­ton-mash­ing and tour­na­ment-level play, but there was a real op­por­tu­nity here: to use the al­lure of Mar­vel’s char­ac­ters to in­tro­duce a new mass of play­ers to one of the most re­ward­ing gen­res in games. In­stead, many will mash light punch for a cou­ple of hours, get hit in the back of the head a lot, and walk away still won­der­ing what all the fuss is about.

Those pre­pared to put the hours in by them­selves will find a game as fluid and flex­i­ble as any on the mar­ket

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