Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite demo did more harm than good

Capcom

Among the Sony E3 reveals was the surprise announcement of a demo for Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite, and it was available that day!

The demo feels like a squandered opportunity on Capcom’s part; it’s so constrained and limiting that it actively hides the good points of the game and highlights its failings. Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite may not be a bad game, but this certainly a bad demo. Here’s why.

What went wrong

This is a “story demo,” so the story mode is all you get. This feels like a response to Street Fighter 5 launching without a story mode: “Don’t worry guys, we didn’t forget it this time!”

Unfortunately, like the story mode that eventually came and went for SFV, it is quite a dull stretch. Modeled after Marvel’s Hollywood blockbusters but lacking their charm, the story unites Marvel and Capcom characters to trade a geek-trivia quip or two in between a series of fights against the same two robot drones over and over.

Though this is presumably the very first chapter of the story, this demo doesn’t appear to have the fast-paced narrative of Injustice 2 nor the heavy character detail of the Guilty Gear series. Rather, it feels like a string of connected “character reveal” trailers, between which you get to play a fighting game against a punching bag made of tissue paper for a moment. It drags, and it’s a half hour long.

Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite demo did more harm than good Capcom

The demo also unfortunately shows off character models that somehow look worse than the previous game on last generation’s platforms. Some of these models don’t look like they were ever meant to be seen up close: Chun-Li in particular looks like a bootleg figure freshly caught out of a corner-store crane game. Dante’s usual cool-guy smirk looks sleepy, and perhaps undead.

You don’t notice these days once the fighting starts, except maybe for Chun-Li’s awkward shuffle, something so egregious I imagine it will be fixed in the final release. But the graphical issues are cringe-worthy in the story scenes. The awkward voice work slams home the impression that some of these characters are weird alien duplicates of the heroes you know and love. It’s not a good way to sell people on the game.

Chun's walk animation is…something to behold. #MVCI #marvelvscapcominfinite pic.twitter.com/EjVt7c0wBt

— subpar michael (@CrackinAtkins) June 13, 2017

There are no versus fights against equally matched foes and no practice mode in the demo, making it difficult to get a feel for how the game really plays. The demo offers two instructions at the outset: that rapidly pressing the square button will automatically perform a combo, and to read the help menu (a mighty diagram) for anything else. After that, it puts you up against some robots who will politely wait for you to hit them and then keel over the moment you do.

I don’t demand a challenging experience out of a fighting game’s story demo, but fighting against these trash cans doesn’t give anyone a feel for the game.

The demo plays as though it doesn’t want you to get that feel. The damage is cranked way up, so the training dummies you’re up against will go down in just a few hits, before you can even try out every attack on your character’s move list. You have to really try, deliberately delaying the fight and letting yourself get beat up a little, just to see your own flashy super moves or string together a combo.

It’s only due to a valiant effort on the part of community players that we even have combo videos at this early stage. The person who made this video very likely had to reset or purposely game-over tens of times in a row just to experiment with X for long enough to get these combos working. Give this poor person a practice mode in the demo. Have they not earned it?

The demo ends with the boss Ultron Sigma, the first non-drone opponent you have fought, cutting you down effortlessly. He has more HP than you can whittle down and full mastery of the combos and systems that the demo doesn’t prepare you for. If you lose, the demo ends.

If you really dedicate yourself to beating the boss by playing through this demo over and over again in its entirety… you lose anyway, actually. And then the game asks you to go to your console’s store and pay up. None of this gives a good first impression, much less inspires a mad rush to throw down $85.

This could be a bad demo for a good game

It is natural for a game to hold back some content in the demo version, whetting one’s appetite and making them want more meat to chew on. However, my first run on the demo for Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite left me with no real idea of what it was trying to sell me in the first place, or if that product was something I wanted to buy. And I’m the game’s target market.

After running through this demo several times, I still didn’t know much about the feel or flow of a real match. It took multiple plays to figure out what characters even looked interesting to me. Maybe Rocket Raccoon and Captain Marvel? It wasn’t until I saw actual in-person versus matches (warning: a bit of strong language) off the E3 floor that I understood more about how the game would work in practice.

And that’s a problem. None of the basic “Wow! That was cool!” feeling that pros Justin Wong and Filipino Champ experience just messing around with the Infinity Stones in the video above really comes through in the demo that the vast majority of potential buyers got to play this week.

In fact, the more video I watched from E3, the better Infinite started to look. If you have a lot of time you can check out this in-depth breakdown from community manager/game balancer Peter “Combofiend” Rosas, in which it becomes apparent that despite the excessive character reuse, this is very much its own game. The dev team really have made a lot of ground-up changes both to the characters and the core systems, addressing issues with the previous games in smart ways.

Though Marvel 2 and 3 are irreplaceable works in the hearts of many fighting game fanatics, the deliberately toned-down Infinite still looks like it’s going to hold its own once it’s out there.

And again, I couldn’t have told you that from looking at the demo. It is because the demo was so vague that I had to watch a video like that to understand how Infinite works at all.

As cool as a pre-rendered cutscene of Mega Man X throwing Captain America’s shield through some robots is, it doesn’t blow any minds because it’s just ad material, not the game we’re paying for.

What wows people in a fighting game is the game itself. Think of the slow-motion finishes of Tekken 7, the way its characters crash through walls and floors, or the spectacular anime-style finishers in Guilty Gear. Beginners and pros alike all want to do something that looks amazing. Infinite’s story demo only needed to shove some of that into players’ faces rather than simply giving them some dummies to punch to death.

What if the auto-combo in the story mode did something legitimately eye-popping? What if a story scene had a thrilling choreographed battle using the in-game engine? Demos should put their best foot forward, and this wasn’t Infinite’s best.

Ironically, Arc System Works just blew E3 away with a Dragon Ball Z game with the speed, intensity and even the format of the old Marvel Vs. Capcom. It took them one trailer, packed with screaming Saiyans and beam blasts the size of a small nation, to accomplish that feat.

Capcom had a spot in Sony’s E3 presentation for Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite. They didn’t show any gameplay, and they put up a bad demo for download. First impressions matter, and this is a good way to spread the word about the worst part of your game.

David Cabrera is an arcade obsessive, fighting game specialist, and anime lover. His gift to the world is the Kawaiikochans webcomic, a combination of these three terrible powers

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