The Punisher makes good in digital crime cleanup
Before Marvel vs. Capcom became a relevant name to gamers, the companies collaborated on other games. Those games became essential classics to develop gamers who specialized in single-combat titles. In 1994, Capcom and Marvel brought a Final Fight-style game to the Genesis that starred comics’ most infamous anti-hero: Frank Castle aka The Punisher. The game follows the storyline of the classic Marvel comics series. Frank Castle, a decorated veteran Marine, was enjoying a day in the park with his family when they unwittingly became witnesses to a mob shooting. As a result, Castle and his family were massacred, him being the only survivor. Castle became determined to get payback by any means necessary. With fellow warrior Nick Fury (of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Castle begins his war on crime against mob boss Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin, who caused the death of his family and many other innocents. The game plays similarly to “Final Fight” and “Captain Commando.” You can choose to play as either Castle or Fury and can team up in multiplayer. You start off with the basics, progressing to combos and various weapons such as handguns, automatic rifles and katanas. There was liberal food and other power-ups such as cash, gold bars and diamonds that increased my score and restored health since the amount of enemies coming at me was nonstop. The graphics were pleasant enough, although they attempted to copy arcade cabinet-quality with little success. I will give Capcom credit for making the graphics comicbook-like. it was like reading an actual issue of the comics including captions “BLAM!” “KRAK” and “BOOM!” instead of playing a rushed paint job of a popular comic series video game. The music of each stage was also decent as Capcom’s sound team delivered, keeping things close to what the Punisher feels like. With the work Capcom put in, the attention to detail made me want to pick it up to play as a returning comic book fan who knew about Castle and Fury but wanted to learn more about the Kingpin and other Marvel villains such as Bushwhacker and Bonebreaker. The Punisher is the first successful paring of Capcom’s know-how with Marvel’s legendary vigilante who wastes no time dispensing his brand of justice on criminals. Playing through this isn’t exactly punishment.
Marvel vs. Capcom now infinitely frustrating series
The Marvel fighting game scene is well known by now and well worn. Pretty much, anyone who’s anyone in the Marvel comic universe and movies has been in a Marvel Versus game. This is nothing new by now. You’ve seen these people before and, if you’re a Capcom fan, you have seen their side of the roster in other games before you got here. So, what exactly are you getting out of playing the latest iteration in the long-running Marvel Versus Capcom series? Not much, but Capcom already knew that. They just hoped you wouldn’t notice.
If you’re invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but don’t know anything about the comics, MvC: Infinite serves as a starting point for understanding the comics side of things in preparation for Avengers Endgame. Oh, yeah, there’s some Capcom story set up, too, as an afterthought. Really, this is several stories mashed together: From Marvel, you get the Infinity Saga and Age of Ultron story; from Capcom comes Sigma and Mega Man X’s story and some of Vampire Savior/Darkstalker’s 3 arc dealing with Jedah Dohma. The story kind of makes sense in a mashed-up way. It’s not half bad, given that the previous efforts of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to give a cinematic team up was decent and miles ahead of any other title in the series to date. Mostly, the Marvel Versus series has followed an established comic book arc — Marvel vs. Street Fighter was mostly Apocalypse and the first Marvel vs. Capcom focused on Onslaught — and this is no different. Where it falters is oversimplification.
The Infinity Saga is never truly finished in the comics because Marvel constantly returns to it over the years to explain a lot of things. Also, thinking critically about what this is really based on, the story of the Infinity Saga really took about 18 of the 22 MCU movies to tell its story. You cannot tell this story in two games — Marvel Super Heroes being the first to tell this arc. Infinite tries to and winds up half accomplishing it with some weird, forced Capcom story side foolishness thrown in for good measure, because hey, Capcom is also in the name.
You get the sense that if Capcom’s angle of things was removed, this would be just fine, and Infinite would be OK without it. That does not help Capcom at all here. Immediately, it destroys the need for a new team-up game and renders Capcom’s side of the roster unnecessary. I do not feel Ryu or Chun Li are useful in any of the situations presented in the story mode.
The roster is actually not bad, but with the few new additions locked behind a DLC paywall, you’re kind of left to wonder would Infinite be just a tad bit better if the more noteworthy characters were available from the start. The base group is basically a retread roster from MvC3, and the new additions should have been in the series; the fact that we’re just now getting Black Widow, Black Panther, Jedah and the Winter Soldier is a crime that only Capcom seems to like committing.
In addition to the generic oversimplification of the story, the presentation is just as generic and bland. The Marvel Versus series has always had strong presentation, and to be frank, this ain’t it, as the kids say these days. The backgrounds are good, but some of the character designs have an oof level the size of Ultron Sigma’s final form. They are, quite frankly, terrible a lot of the time. There seems to be an attempt at realism but not, at the same time, because some of the Marvel characters look like their MCU counterparts, but then when you look closer, there’s a detail that keeps them from looking exactly like the actor or actress that plays the character.
For example, look at Captain America and Captain Marvel. Captain America, from far away, looks exactly like MCU Winter Soldier-era Captain America as portrayed by real-world Captain America stalwart Chris Evans. Up close, however, Cap looks just enough different for you to realize that Evans probably didn’t consent to his likeness for the game. Same for Captain Marvel and actress Brie Larson. It’s a small but noticeable quibble I have here. And, some of these Capcom characters look atrocious. Ryu’s face on the title screen is horrific. The sprites look terrible here but in game, he looks fine. It’s a shame because every other game in the series has been OK in terms of the graphics. Sure, they weren’t award-winning, but they reflected the series’ growth. Infinite looks like it took about 10 steps back in a lot of respects.
The music is just as bland. Each iteration of the Versus series has had some bangers on the soundtrack — even the much-maligned Marvel vs. Capcom 2’s soundtrack was memorable if not catchy. Here, there is absolutely nothing noteworthy. It’s the first Versus game where I don’t have something from the soundtrack saved, which is not good at all. As I played through the story mode, I kept waiting for something to jump out at me, and I got nothing. I was not impressed.
The controls didn’t impress, either. There has been a noted trend, since MvC3 was released, to simplify the game system for the Versus games to make them more accessible.
While I’m always a fan of drawing in the casual fan for these types of games, I’m not a fan of ruining a good thing. MvC2 was still accessible to even the most casual fighting game player, and this is even worse than the toning down of the controls between MvC2 and MvC3. There is no depth to the combo system now, and that doesn’t help Infinite in any way.
I’m underwhelmed when it comes to Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. Nothing plays in its favor, nothing makes any sense, and the team-up crossover event is showing its age in every facet of the game. There’s nothing new here to make me say wow or push me to play as I did the other games in the series. If Capcom were to lose the Marvel license again, it wouldn’t be a shocker or unwarranted.
It’s time to admit that the series is not an infinite source of amusement. Unfortunately, at this point, it’s merely a finite source of fighting game goodness.
There have been a few DC Comics fighting games that have taken advantage of its variable superhero and metahuman roster. Justice League Task Force and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe are among those that come to mind. And because of MK vs. DC Universe, brought to you pre-Midway implosion by the company that created that step in the direction of redemption, DC was able to foresee the fruits of making a decent game based on their properties. Enter Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Let’s get straight to the point: Marvel has had the market cornered on fighting games involving superheroes for some time now, thanks to the resourcefulness and shady undertones that are Capcom. So, for Injustice to stand a chance in the suddenly re-crowded fighting game arena, it had to be something special. Thanking those gods among us, it is.
Injustice plays much like the 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat. The combat system is a lot like it in tone and rhythm and the animation style and framing is much like it as well. If you can play that incarnation of MK, more than likely you’re going to be able to pick up Injustice and run with it in a few short hours. And much like the MK reboot, there’s much more under the pretty coat of nostalgia. Injustice is deep, with plenty to keep the fighting game crowd coming back for more and just enough to pique the interest of casuals who don’t know much about fighting games but want to see who would win in a Batman vs. Superman battle.
That’s something else that’s going to draw in even the uninitiated: the name recognition. Yes, lots of folks now know who the merry band of mutants are over at Marvel, but millions more know the names Batman, Joker, Superman, the Flash, Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman. That instant brand recognition is what compels a certain part of you to come back and learn more about what’s really a good game. While you might not know who Doomsday is or why the Omega Sanction is instantly fatal to most living beings, you know the names behind the main characters for play, or at least most of them, by sight alone.
That brand recognition plays a large part in why the game is successful in its mission: The package around it doesn’t have to be slick and beautiful, but it is. And it’s enough to make the price to play worth it. Taking into account the work that NetherRealm Studios previously completed, Injustice is quite the step up graphically. Every background is gorgeous and lavish in the game that’s already beautiful from the outset. The graphics step up from MK vs. DCU in a way that have to be seen to be believed. And while it doesn’t seem like the game could get any better looking, then there’s the character models. Every character is accurate, down to the details from storyline arcs such as Crisis on Infinite Earths differences. However, while the graphics wow, the music isn’t great. It’s not terrible, either, but it’s not exactly turn-up-the-volume quality. It’s just there, which is highly unusual for the team known for producing outstanding soundtracks in the MK series.
I may not be able to tell you exactly who would win in a fight between Darkseid and Black Adam, but I can make the point that Injustice does the DC universe quite a bit of, well, justice when it comes to a quality fighting game featuring the Dark Knight, Boy Wonder and Man of Steel.
Which version to buy?
There are two versions to choose from: regular edition and ultimate edition. Ultimate edition, while costing considerably more, is the better bargain because it features all of the released DLC and character skins. It also comes with Mortal Kombat combatant and stalwart Scorpion as a playable character.