A preview build of Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite has been doing the rounds, and a lot has changed. There are a lot of technical details to unpack if you're a fan of the fast-paced fighting franchise, so GameSpot's avid Marvel Vs. Capcom players from around the globe--Joey Yee, Tamoor Hussain, and Edmond Tran--decided to get together to let their thoughts, impressions, and opinions flow freely.
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Edmond: Let's kick it off with the basics: Marvel Vs. Capcom has changed its button configuration for Infinite. Whereas Marvel vs Capcom 3 had Light, Medium, Heavy, and Launch attacks, as well as two assist buttons, Infinite goes back to a more traditional control scheme: Light Punch, Heavy Punch, Light Kick, and Heavy Kick, as well as one assist button and an Infinity Stone button (which we'll get into later). How did you guys find it?
Joey: Muscle memory is a butt. After playing MvC3 religiously for the past six years, I struggled to get my hands to cooperate with the new button layout. I'm sure after some extensive training room exercises it'll become second nature, but there was just not enough time during my session to consistently land my combos.
Edmond: It definitely took me a few rounds to rewire my brain for basic dial-a-combos (LP, LK, HK, ↓ HP) but at the end of my session it all felt pretty natural and experimenting with my own ideas was satisfyingly easy. With the separation of punches and kicks, I enjoyed just instinctively knowing that I could get light and heavy variations of special moves, which helped when picking up some of the new characters and getting a sense of their capabilities.
Joey: My ailments with the new layout could be because I favor arcade sticks for fighting games. However, while talking to Peter Rosas (aka Combofiend)--who went from pro Marvel player to working on the game--he mentioned that you won't necessarily need a stick, and that the game might even be easier to play on a controller. Whether or not that has anything to do with the shuttering of arcade stick-makers Mad Catz, we may never know, but at least the barrier of entry won't start with a $150 peripheral.
Tamoor: I think it works well. Like Joey and Peter said, it's designed to make it easier to get to grips with on a controller, which is what the broader audience for games knows and understands how to use. Infinite is arriving at a time when the thirst and interest in Marvel tie-ins is at an all time high. It makes sense that Capcom would do as much as possible to accommodate people that love those characters but may only have a passing interest in fighting games or video games as a whole.
But I don't think hardcore players are losing much. In fact, I think it lowers the barrier for everyone and fast tracks players to the stage where they can think about how to use their characters creatively. With the previous games you had to spend a great deal of time getting to grips with what each button does, and for a casual player having to grapple with that, instead of actually getting in, hitting buttons, and seeing cool things happen, could make them bounce off the game quickly.
Edmond: I used an arcade stick during my session and I don't think I'll change my preference, but I'm happy to hear gamepad controls are getting easier for the reasons you said. I mean, we're seeing more competitors in tournaments use gamepads so who knows? It might be the predominant Marvel meta. My multiplayer partner was using a gamepad for a while, and with new accessibility shortcuts for commands, things like activating hyper combos (Triangle and Circle) and Infinity Stone powers (R1 + R2) were apparently really comfortable to do.
Tamoor: In Infinite it feels like everything has a specific use and it's all spread out in a way that feels digestible and intuitive: face buttons for attacks, along with dedicated Infinity Stone and tag buttons. I think the new control scheme improves the chances of people clicking with the game quicker.
Joey: Speaking of accessibility, I've been hearing complaints throughout the Twitter-verse about the game possibly being dumbed down for casuals, but I disagree with that sentiment. Aside from adding auto-combos--done by mashing light punch--the game controls with just as much speed and complexity as any of the other games in the Versus series.
Edmond: I guess the most controversial change is that the commands for dragon punch-command moves (→↓↘ + P/K) have changed to a much simpler (↓ ↓ + P/K) motion. I can see how this is good for newcomers since it's definitely one of the trickier commands to learn, but as someone who's very familiar with 2D fighting games, I found this one of the more difficult things to wrap my head around in my short time with the game, and I dropped a lot of combos because of it.
Joey: How could they take away our shoryukens like this?! I kind of glossed over that information when they first told me, but I'm now realizing the detriment of having to press (↓ ↓) in the middle of a combo. The original motion is so much more natural and intuitive, and hell, it's been around for decades, so why change it now?
Tamoor: I can see that perspective on the shortcuts and, to a some extent I agree with it as someone who also has been doing that move since I could hold a controller. However, in practice I think it doesn't matter too much. In a game like Street Fighter, where part of the skill is properly timing a Shoryuken as an anti-air or another defensive response to an enemy, shortcuts could detract from the moment-to-moment strategy of the game.
However, in the MvC series I don't think Shoryukens function in the same way. The pace of the game and the sheer number of tools other characters have in their arsenals make them less useful as defensive options. Maybe I was just bad at it, but I rarely used Shoryukens in MvC3 and when I did it wasn't part of a combo, it was just a raw, isolated move in response to a jump in or to control a bit of space. And often I had much better options to achieve the same results. For that reason, it makes sense to me to simplify the command; make it easier to for everyone to quickly pull one off.
Edmond: Bizarrely, some characters still retain their their charge moves (Hold ←, → + P) like Hulk, or half-circle moves (←↙↓↘→ + P/K) like Morrigan, both of which I think are trickier commands. I believe Chun-Li had both quarter-circle and charge commands available for her moves, but not Hulk (although I'm not 100% sure on that one). I'd love to see a basic or advanced command system re-implemented to allow for a whole suite of simplified commands, while allowing for the traditional ones to remain.
Edmond: Okay let's move onto the next big thing: Infinite only lets you pick two characters instead of the traditional three. It's way simpler, and I like it. I used to accidentally tag in the wrong character in MvC3 all the time, and just having one less person to worry about made me feel a little more free to experiment with tag combos, since I could nail down what worked faster. So long as you keep a chain going long enough for one character to tag in and another to tag out, you can seemingly keep that going forever. It feels like Street Fighter X Tekken, but at a faster, more Marvel pace, which more than makes up for the lack of quick assist attacks, in my opinion.
Joey: While I'm lamenting the loss of the third character on my team, being able to switch characters at any time and any place on screen is magical. In MvC3 you were pretty much relegated to using your point character until you had enough meter to use a DHC and swap them out. But in Infinite, the combo system is designed with character swapping in mind, with seemingly little punishment for doing so.
Edmond: It feels like the punishment is greater if you mess up a tag though--outgoing characters seem to linger on the screen for longer than I'm comfortable with, especially with raw tags, and I found it surprisingly easy to catch both characters in combos.
Joey: Well at least that confirms the presence of Happy Birthdays.
Tamoor: Yeah, and there's been a lot of thought put into the decision to switch to two characters. They clearly see that the third character was used for a specific function, so it makes perfect sense to just simplify that and have an Infinity Stone perform that function, instead of burdening the player with a third character they need to think about.
I really like the tag system. Like Ed said, it does feel a lot like SFxT, but obviously it also draws heavily from Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, which I really liked. I'm glad that some of the ideas from that game are being explored further; it had a lot of potential for creative playstyles and I'm seeing a lot of that taking shape in Infinite.
Joey: Oh yeah, and the assists are gone from the game, but the tag system more than makes up for their absence. Virtually any special move you perform becomes an assist, as you can tag in your second character at the start of, say, a fireball, and have it be your cover. This allows characters to be way more viable than if they had a weak assist, and lessens the need for a good assist character like Doctor Doom to be on your team.
Edmond: Definitely. That was a big hurdle when I'd introduce new players to MvC3: You'd pick your characters, then need to pick from a selection of assist moves without knowing what the hell they did, or whether they were suitable for your lineup. Now you can just come in, worry about which two characters you think make a good married couple, and not be at a major disadvantage.
Joey: Well, now that we're on that topic, who would you 'ship?
Tamoor: Chris Redfield and Captain Marvel. For sure.
Edmond: Mega Man and Hulk.
Joey: I'm gonna go with Morrigan & Thor. They seem like they'd make a happy couple. THORRIGAN
Edmond: Alright, let's talk about Infinity Stones. In the build we played we had access to three: Power, Time, and Space. These are basically the new X-Factor, but with different effects depending on what you pick. Each stone allows for a Surge, an unlimited-use special ability, and a Storm, a longer and more powerful effect which becomes available once your meter charges by taking and doing damage, but much more so by taking damage.
The Power Stone gives you a knockback attack with its Surge, and increased damage & bounce properties with Storm. The Time Stone gives you a quick dash, and its Storm speeds you up and opens up your cancel-combo opportunities. The Space Stone gives you a quick vacuum attack that draws your opponent towards you, much like Seth's Tandem Engine move in Street Fighter IV, and its Storm traps your opponent in a space box, meaning they have an extremely limited range of movement, and some projectiles will be blocked from travelling outside it. What do we think?
Joey: I wouldn't say that the stones are a direct replacement for X-Factor, but rather a way for you to augment your characters in some pretty interesting ways. You can play up their strengths, close the gaps on their weaknesses, or simply mess with your opponent. For example, Hulk's problem was always getting close to his opponent, so giving him the Time Stone and watching him warp across the stage to command grab someone is a thing of beauty. The stones create this massive opportunity for team customization, and I'm really excited to see what the other three (Mind, Reality, and Soul) will offer. I'm hearing rumors that the Soul Stone will bring a character back from the dead, but that's just crazy talk… Right? Also, the Space Stone's Infinity Storm is hilariously unfair. I love it.
Edmond: I enjoyed using the Space Stone most since I personally found that getting sucked in was always disorientating, and loved abusing it to keep the pressure up. I also found that putting people in boxes was never not enjoyable. It's such a jerk move. But I also really enjoyed using the Time Stone as well--I loved using its dash ability with the slower characters like Hulk and Chris, and being able to dash through an opponent gave me some good surprise cross-up opportunities for characters that wouldn't usually have them.
Tamoor: I think the stones are really clever because each one breaks the rules of some fundamental element of fighting game design. Space, for example, restricts movement, while Power makes characters overpowered, and Time essentially throws recovery frames on moves out of the window. It works thematically, as in comics each Infinity Stone allows its wielder to bend one of the laws of the universe to their will. It's a really nice touch that also creates some variety in play styles by letting players build unique approaches to their teams and battles. I think we'll get to see more ridiculous teams and strategies, kind of like when Chris G started using the insane Morrigan bullet hell team. Also I'm happy to see that X-Factor, or any sort of comeback mechanic, isn't in the game. I think it will force more players to rely on strategy and execution, instead of a powered up state that just overwhelms the opponent.
Joey: Also, are we going to just sit here and not mention the Counter Switch mechanic? You can spend two bars of super meter to tag in your second character while your first one is stuck in a combo. Combo breaking moves are by no means new to fighting games, but this is a pretty big deal for MvC. That move alone solves half the problems with MvC3--no more one-player games!
Edmond: Yes! Not only does that help to solve one of the perceived major hang-ups of Marvel, it's also such a satisfying mechanic to perform and fits so well with a tag-focussed fighting game. I loved saying "screw this" and c-c-combo breaking to start my own chain.
Tamoor: Now we'll have to come up with new ways to do infinite combo loops.
Joey: The one thing that's got me thinking, though, is the speed of the game. MvC3 was insanely fast (which I very much enjoy), and Infinite almost feels a little sluggish by comparison. Box dashes and tri-jump didn't feel as snappy, which could pose a challenge since movement speed and precision is what Marvel is all about.
Edmond: I don't know about you guys, but the more realistic visuals are a bit ugly for me--I think the Capcom character models as a whole are worse off, and that's the camp I care about more. But, I ended up appreciating the overall style and color palette because it made things way easier to follow. MvC2 and 3 were bold and saturated with comic-book style effects everywhere and it was very easy to lose track of things.
Joey: Honestly, I'm really starting to miss the MvC3 look. That game did such a great job at combining 3D models with a comic book style, whereas in Infinite, the characters look like they could be straight out of any random superhero game. There isn't a lot of personality with its new art direction, The whole thing about the Marvel series is that it's an outrageous, colorful clash of two worlds, and the realistic style ends up feeling a little dull.
Tamoor: Yeah I think Infinite is definitely missing the flair and personality of the previous games right now. It is considerably easier to read what's happening on screen and follow the battle as it unfolds, but I personally think it looks quite dull compared to MvC3.
Edmond: And I know they're going for the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe feel with everything but I got bored of the epic orchestral soundtrack pretty quickly. New renditions of classic Street Fighter tracks are always nice to hear of course, but MvC is all about infectious/obnoxious jazz tunes to me and that's one thing I am sorely missing.
Tamoor: I didn't see many of the small interactions between characters that I really loved in MvC3 either, the stuff where characters would reference lore and each other's universes. One of my favourite videos is the special intros compilation from MvC3 because they show how much care and attention was paid to giving long-time fans of each universe. I hope they add more of those pre-fight quips in.
Edmond: One thing I do love is that when one of your characters goes down, their unconscious body persists on the stage, and you fight around them.
Joey: Wait, that might be what the Soul Stone is for! Guys, I think we're onto something big...
Edmond: So the characters we got to play with were Ryu, Chun-Li, Morrigan, Strider, Chris Redfield, and Mega Man X from the Capcom side, and Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, and Ultron on the Marvel side. Rocket Raccoon was disappointingly unplayable in this build.
Joey: I was really hoping for a some more characters that weren't in previous games, but I suppose the modified move sets and new mechanics are enough to make the returnees feel fresh again.
Edmond: Aside from the dragon-punch command changes, I thought most of the returning characters felt and played as I expected them to. There were a couple of differences though: Iron Man has different tools, including a smart mine that you can deploy onto the field. Chris Redfield has an interesting mechanic where he needs to reload his magnum revolver after he fires it three times, but I don't think I ever managed to successfully do that without getting severely punished.
Tamoor: Iron Man in particular feels quite different. Capcom said that he was a character that didn't really have an identity, so they've reworked him to be a keep away character, but not in the traditional sense. His Repulsor Blasts all do quite a lot of knockback now, so he's great at creating space. And his Smart Bombs now float around him for a couple of seconds, so he creates this kind of barrier like Doctor Strange's Grace of Hoggoth orbs did in MvC3. He definitely feels more distinct now.
Edmond: I was really looking forward to playing Captain Marvel because I love the character, but my initial impressions left me a little disappointed. She's got a short normal range, flight, beam projectiles, a command grab and projectile absorption, but you could re-skin her as Iron Man and I wouldn't have thought anything was wrong. She's not as unique as I expected her to be.
Joey: I think I was most surprised by Mega Man X. While there is a chance he might end up being the Arthur of MvC:I, his mobility and the variety of his projectiles make him stand out to me.
Edmond: No-one can replace Arthur. Arthur is my main man. Capcom, please bring back Arthur.
Joey: And Haggar. We need the Mayor to return.
Tamoor: I'm hoping that Capcom includes more characters that we haven't seen before or in a while. Personally I'd like to see the return of Gambit, Venom, and maybe even Cyclops. Of course, the thinking among fans is that they'll stick close to the characters popular in the Cinematic Universe and there's some contention as to whether X-Men characters have a chance of making an appearance, but I've still got my fingers crossed. From Capcom's side, Gene from God Hand would fit in nicely, and I'd also love some Rival Schools characters like Batsu.
Joey: After seeing the cast so far, I'm still waiting for Capcom to throw us that curveball and announce a M.O.D.O.K.-like character. I'm always one for unorthodox characters, however low in the tier list they may be, and I think the game would benefit from having fewer characters that are just big buff muscle men that shoot laser guns.
Edmond: I really hope they shine the spotlight on lesser known and more unorthodox characters. MvC3 introduced and encouraged me to dive deep into a whole bunch of lesser-known-but-now-famous Marvel Heroes like Doctor Strange, X-23, Iron Fist, Rocket Raccoon. I also really loved playing as unorthodox characters like Arthur and Phoenix Wright in MvC3, and I hope Infinite doesn't stay too serious in that respect.
Joey: It's pretty much a given that the Marvel side will prioritize characters with a movie on deck several years down the line (Black Panther, Ant-Man, whoever the villain in the next Avengers movie is), but it's just not a Marvel game without the X-Men and Wolverine. And on the Capcom side, things could get more interesting. I'm rooting for Dante (along with his laundry list of special moves) to make a return, but assuming they don't just recycle more MvC3 characters, there are plenty of franchises that could use some love. Asura's Wrath, Power Stone, and Monster Hunter have yet to make their series debut, but I'd put money on the appearance of Resident Evil 7's Jack Baker. I can almost smell it now...
Edmond: How about the grandma from Resident Evil 7?
Joey: She can be the level 3 hyper combo. He pushes her out into the arena and she turns into a mold monster and eats them or something. Make it happen, Capcom!
Tamoor: Also I'd totally be up for Jack Baker. Make him play like a mix between Nemesis and Haggar from MvC3, using his giant axe and slowly becoming more grotesque looking as he takes damage. He can even shout, "You… are not gettin' away" in that creepy way he does in Resi 7.
Edmond: Alright, let's cap this off with a wishlist character from each camp: Number one on my Marvel wishlist is The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl with Tron Bonne-like squirrel summons. On the Capcom side I'd love to see anyone from the Rival Schools series make an appearance. Preferably the volleyball player. Definitely not Kyosuke. Kyosuke is lame.
Joey: Are we naming our Rival Schools pick for this game now? If so, I'm going with Shoma, even though he'd have to compete with Frank West's baseball bat antics. And if either Tron or Dante don't make it into the game, I'm gonna throw a fit.
Tamoor: Hmmm, okay if I had to pick one from each, I'd go Black Bolt from Marvel and Gene from Capcom. Or Reader from Marvel and the DmC: Devil May Cry version of Dante. Actually, Gambit and a Monster Hunter. I can't pick one.
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