It's almost been six years since the original release of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and while that game has held up fine through its many incarnations, in modern fighting titles it feels like it's still a generation behind the rest. Whatever you may think of the playing style of this series, visually it's a 2D fighter in a 3D world with Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken and others looking miles ahead of it while it was being released. So now that Capcom has given the visuals an upgrade and a few extra mechanics to Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, can this new title keep pace with the current competition?
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has picked up the new modern trope of having a fully fleshed-out story within the game to give the fighting sequences some purpose. This one revolves around Sigma from the Mega Man X series and Ultron from Marvel Comics getting their hands on the Infinity Stones, merging together to form Ultron Sigma, and taking over multiple realms of both franchises. Both sides need to work together to bring this new foe down, which includes forces of good and evil working together to restore the balance and bring them down. Of course, that doesn't last long, and you get a number of battles that resemble the game's title.
The story itself is just bad, and it pains me to say that. To call the plot shoestring is an understatement as the effort to bring these two universes together is cringeworthy at best. Without getting into spoiler territory, the goal of the villain is to merge both of these respective universes together and destroy all organic life.It sounds like a worthy cause, but 20 minutes into the story and you realize that there's a lot of unnecessary conflict happening that (if this were really happening in a Marvel comic or a Capcom game) would have eaten up so much time to where they would have succeeded in killing off all life. If you were a super villain and you made it clear you were going to blow up the world, and all the heroes coming to stop you took six hours to "get their shit together", you wouldn't wait for them to do so, you'd just destroy the world.
What Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite does get right is the fighting. The game itself is a combination of all the old moves you used to know mixed in with new moves and dynamics. A good example: you can now tag your partner in whenever you want, even mid-flight, to create devastating combos and chain reactions. The assist system is gone, the air-battling has been smoothed over, and the reaction time has been given an overhaul to make battles seem much more epic. The best feature that also pissed off a few people was replacing the third character with an infinity stone. You can choose any of the six, each with a lingering ability and an ultimate ability that will give you an edge in the game. Once you get the system down and find the best two people to fight with a particular stone, you'll never miss that third wheel again.
Let's get to the obvious sticking point with a lot of fans first: the design. On the surface, it looks like Capcom went out of their way to make their own properties look great while beating every Marvel design with an ugly stick and then spitting on them. In reality, Capcom doesn't have access to the MCU version of these characters, they only have access to the comic book versions. And because the comic book designs look different over decades of use, Capcom had to find a happy medium between keeping them true to what they were while also bringing them into a 3D perspective with their own creations who have been designed this way for years. What you get is a mesh of styles that don't always gel, but I don't believe Capcom purposefully made the Marvel designs look poor because that's just bad business.
There is a part of me that believes if they held onto this game for one more year and refined the designs, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Much like how fans were just as pissed to discover that none of the X-Men have been included in this game, as people like Wolverine and Storm were staples from back when it was X-Men vs. Street Fighter. You can throw in Gamora and Nova all you want, they just aren't suitable replacements for those legendary figures who are now sorely missed. Along with my copy of the game, I was sent along the Collector's Edition of the game for me to check out. Inside are four figures (Iron Man, Chun-Li, Mega Man X, and Captain Marvel) as well as a box with all six Infinity Stones inside. As much as I wanted to love this box, it isn't worth the $200. The stones are just plastic and do not look anything like the promotional art. They take three AAA batteries to light up inside the box, they're not removable, and they simply pulsate. The figures, while well designed, are in a fixed pose on the shattered Bifrost Bridge, just prepared to fight each other and nothing more. For some collectors I'm sure this may be cool and trust me, I enjoy having Iron Man and X on my shelf now. But expectation and reality collided and it really let me down.
But that kinda sums up Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite in a nutshell. This game had such great potential and we were all stoked to see what came of it, but what we got isn't that great. The story and the designs are terrible, but the actual fighting game itself is amazing. This is a game that will clearly be an esports favorite once they get major tournaments up and running for it, and you can bet we'll be seeing some amazing showdowns for the next couple years. But all the additional stuff needs work, and honestly, I would have been willing to wait another year for them to get it right. The rating we're giving it today is purely for the fighting aspect alone, everything else is just a disappointment.