All hail the hyper combo.
Who would win in a fight: your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman, or that dude out of Dead Rising? He’s covered wars, don’tcha know.
Capcom’s ridiculous fighting crossover has been answering these kind of questions for the best part of two decades, with its own unique brand of button-bashing, combo-heavy throwdowns. Now, iconic characters from the Marvel comicsverse and Capcom favourites from Street Fighter, Resident Evil and the rest are back for one more face-off.
Only things are a little different this time around.
Y'see, Infinite is as close as the Marvel vs Capcom series has come to a full blown comic-style reboot, with Marvel's writers fleshing out the story mode, and its executives dictating which fighters actually make it onto the roster.
That might sound like bad news for veteran players, but once you start throwing punches, it's clear Capcom still knows how to throw down with the best of them.
TWO TO TANGLE
The Marvel vs Capcom series has always been tricky for newbies to get the hang of, especially with the 3v3 team battles that became the norm with MvC2. That's why Infinite ditches it, in favour of 2v2 matches. With one less health bar to keep an eye on, fights are that little bit less oppressive for first-time players.
Getting rid of assist moves, where you could call in one of your teammates for a brief attack that kept your combo going, is an even bigger change. Team synergy used to mean that certain characters just didn't gel well together, but now you're free to pick your favourites without having to worry if they'll play nicely as a pair.
Instead, there's a new freeform switch button that lets you swap between fighters at any point. They simply swap places with your current character, letting you continue the combo with any move you like - not just a few choice attacks. I think it makes combat flow that much better, with no mistimed assist calls leading to dropped combos.
Finally, X-factor, the love-it-or-hate-it comeback mechanic from MVC3, has been ditched. In its place, Marvel's Uber-powerful infinity stones let you choose one of six abilities to break out when things are looking bleak. Some temporarily speed you up, others limit your enemy's movement, and my favourite, the Reality stone, adds massive elemental attacks to each of your basic moves. If you ever wanted to see Final Fight's Mayor Mike Haggar wallop Iron Man with a mixture of lava, ice and lightning, this is absolutely the stone for you.
All these cuts might sound like Capcom dumbing down the combat - possibly at the request of Marvel to keep casual fans from scratching their heads - but fighting game pros don’t have to worry. Infinite is still just as balls-to-the-wall crazy as its predecessor. Combos can stretch into the 100s of hits, with complex button presses and attack sequences you'll need to memorise in order to maximise your damage, and those all-important hyper combo special attacks dishing out plenty of damage.
HAVEN’T I SEEN YOU BEFORE?
Actually choosing a team of fighters has never been easy in a Marvel vs Capcom game - if only because of the huge roster of characters to choose from. Infinite is no exception, with 30 familiar faces from both franchises.
On the Capcom side, Street Fighter's Ryu and Chun Li stand alongside Resident Evil's Chris Redfield, Devil May Cry's Dante, and Sir Arthur from Ghouls N Ghosts. Marvel's selection includes Avengers Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Iron Man, as well as a few less well-known characters like Captain Marvel, Nova and Ghost Rider.
If those names sound a bit overly familiar, you're not alone: only seven characters are brand new, with the rest having made appearances in previous games. Marvel big bad Thanos admittedly hasn't shown up since MvC2, a whole 17 years ago, but the majority were series mainstays just a few years ago.
OK, so a few have been given major overhauls. Rocket Raccoon looks and sounds just like his Guardians of the Galaxy movie outing, complete with hyper combos assisted by best bud (and anthropomorphic tree) Groot. Other characters, though? A new move or two, maybe, but that’s about it. Not a problem if you're new to the series, but it feels a little lazy for regular players.
Also, because Marvel and Fox are still feuding over the cinematic rights to the X-Men, you won’t find series stalwarts Wolverine or Storm here either. They are a major loss, so hopefully the studios can resolve their differences and they make a return as DLC later down the line.
Still, Gamorra and Ultron are welcome additions to the Marvel side of the roster, and Darkstalkers' Jeddah will certainly please long-time Capcom fans.
GRAB YOUR INFINITY GAUNTLET
Marvel has also had a helping hand in steering the story mode, something that was sorely lacking in Marvel vs Capcom 3. Now, instead of a series of fights bookended by a 30-second cut-scene, there's a full-blown campaign, which slowly introduces new characters and game mechanics as you play.
Actually blending characters from two very different universes is no mean feat, and for the most part, Infinite pulls it off: Marvel baddie Ultron and Mega Man evil Sigma have teamed up, using two of the six infinity stones to fuse into a single, super-powerful "Ultron Sigma" - and merge the Marvel and Capcom worlds into a single dimension.
A sub-plot involving symbiotes helps get everyone involved, although certain characters do tend to hog the limelight just a bit too much.
Throwing familiar faces from both worlds together is sure to put a smile on fans' faces, even if the way each new character is introduced explicitly by name is hokey as hell. You're also pretty much dropped into the chaos, with little in the way of introduction explaining exactly how two universes went to hell in a handbasket.
Cut-scenes fill in the gaps between fights, which are mostly filled with disposable grunt enemies that don't pose much of a challenge. Every so often, one of the playable characters will show up and test your skills, with the AI ramping up the difficulty. Certain stages have obstacles and interactions to look out for too - as an introduction to the game, it works brilliantly, although you'll still need to head to the Mission mode on the home screen if you want to master a specific character's combos.
Is the storytelling up to the same standard as Netherrealm's fantastic Injustice series? No, not quite - everyone takes themselves a little bit too seriously, in spite of how ludicrous the whole plot is. Read the room, Marvel.
PRESS X TO WIN
Newbie-friendly is not a phrase that usually applies to the Marvel vs Capcom series. Let’s face it: memorising the thirty-something button presses and controller combinations needed for a Dr Doom foot-dive loop in MvC3 was no easy feat, and that’s before you got the timing down to actually pull the thing off.
That all changes here, though: You could pretty much get through the whole story without ever sending your combo counter into the double digits, thanks to the simplified control scheme.
The auto-combo system lets you mash one button to pull off a basic four-hit combo that sends your opponent skyward. Hold the up button and hit the same button four more times, and you’ll follow that up with an air combo - dealing enough damage to take off a decent chunk of your enemy’s life bar.
Hyper combos have been simplified too, with no need to add in a controller motion anymore - just press two attack buttons and your screen-filling super move will activate.
It’s a great way to get people playing, even if they’re not fighting game pros, because it doesn’t come at the expense of more advanced techniques. Head online without fully understanding Infinite’s nuances, though, and you’ll get absolutely destroyed.
You’ll be better off taking on the Arcade mode, which has some properly epic boss battles, or the challenge mode. By the time you’ve mastered every multi-stage combo trial, you’ll be ready to face some human opposition.
From what I’ve seen so far, the net code is a big improvement over MvC3, so matches shouldn’t dissolve into a lag fest as soon as you start brawling.
MARVEL VS CAPCOM: INFINITE VERDICT
It might have taken Marvel’s close involvement to actually get Infinite off the ground, but Capcom has managed to retain the bonkers-fast gameplay that MvC fans love.
The simplified controls are a decent stepping stone for first time players, without getting in the way for people that actually know what they’re doing, and the roster is filled with fan favourite characters - even if there aren’t many new additions this time around. The Infinity stones add some much-needed gameplay variety for veterans that can pull off 100-hit combos in their sleep, too.
The story mode is as engaging as anything in Capcom’s current stable, if not quite up to par with the phenomenal Injustice 2. There’s a decent amount of extra single-player content to sink your teeth into once you finish the campaign, and multiplayer matches feel as frenetic as ever.
It’s a real shame the X-Men didn’t make the cut, and a few more entirely new characters really would have fleshed out the roster that little bit more, but Infinite manages to keep the series relevant. If Street Fighter and Tekken are just a bit too serious, you can still rely on Marvel vs Capcom to add some insanity to your fighting games.