Marvel, yeah? It’s huge. It’s a massive thing. Not even the comics, mainstream audiences are just in love with the movie heroes. With the Chrises, both Evans, Hemsworth, and that Pratt one who seems alright but says weird things about hunting animals. The last time a Marvel vs. Capcom game came out it was 2012, which was the same year the first Avengers movie released. There is, potentially, a hugely increased market for a video game that has Captain America anywhere on the box. But these people will not necessarily be au fait with fighting games, and that’s an angle Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is aware of.
In that sense I was very well placed to road test the game: I like the films and read a bunch of the comics, so I was pleased seeing some of the little touches. Hawkeye is not an also-ran hero in MvCI, he’s actually a bit of a motherfucker with ranged attacks, and reminded me of the Hawkeye from the acclaimed run of his comics written by Matt Fraction. He calls Captain Marvel by her first name, Carol. Captain America will, hilariously, sometimes scream ‘FOR PEEEEEEEACE!‘ when hitting someone really hard with his shield. I liked all that.
To lower the barrier for entry, in the hope that Marvel fans will step over it and enjoy the game, Capcom has introduced some simpler control concepts. Things like hammering punch sending the character into a ground-to-air combo, a universal manual input that’s the same across all characters, and an easy ultimate attack, are all designed to show fighting novices what kind of stuff they’ll be able to pull off, and make them feel kind of cool. It does, broadly speaking, work. I felt like I was still achieving something, and started to get a feel for different combinations. I could figure out what inputs resulted in which attacks, without feeling embarrassed for trying, and these kinds of configurations will potentially make the game more accessible to all kinds of players, not just Marvel fans.
In the secondary sense, the one where I still felt ashamed because everyone else on my row at the early hands-on immediately went to get a fight stick while I, a scrub, used the controller, I am poorly placed. I do not know if Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite will have the depth that fighting game aficionados look for. I watched other people playing and was impressed at everything they could do: huge, screen-filling attacks, chaining combos whilst switching between the two characters on their team, and mixing in abilities from the Infinity stones.
There are now very few restrictions to when you can tag your characters in and out, and you can switch defensively to perform a counter if one of your team is caught in a combo and getting the shit kicked out of them. Combined with the aforementioned Infinity Stones (of which I saw three; there will eventually be the full six from the Marvel Universe in play, but currently the Time Stone, which lets you phase through your opponent, is basically god tier as a mechanic), there are a lot of things to mix up and play around with, and it’s all very fast paced. I heard someone say the jumps feel ‘floatier’ than they did before. Apparently Chun-Li doesn’t handle quite the same. There’s a lot going on.
The thing is, though, that most of what we’ve seen so far is really geared to the Marvel fans. The inclusion of a cinematic story that gives you something to grab hold of, the trailers for said story and gameplay mirroring shots from Marvel films, the Marvel Infinity Stones taking a central role as a new mechanic: it’s very cleverly done, but it’s all well Marvel.
I’m a fan of making the things I like more accessible, because then there are more people that I can freak out about it with. The more people who are into the same things as me, the more potential new best friends I have, and I thought what I saw of the game itself was pretty good! But, as basically every other journalist who saw it has also surmised, time will tell if this is the right gambit for Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. It’s hard to be all things to all men successfully, but at this early stage it probably wouldn’t hurt if Capcom rolled out a bunch of assets and promotional stuff aimed at the people who already really liked MvC in the first place.
Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite will launch September 19 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.