Marvel VS Capcom: infinite: Accessibility Review

Disclaimer

The copy of Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite (hereafter refered to simply as MVCI) was provided by Capcom at no cost to the reviewer.

Introduction

When MVCI was first revealed back at PlayStation Experience 2016 (here's the version without the crowd for those who want it, I had mixed feelings. ON the one hand, I was pleased to hear that the trailers, at least, were in stereo, indicating the very high possibility that the game would be the same.

On the other hand, I later reviewed the remastered port of Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3 and found it to be lacking in certain areas, including footsteps for at the very least, the vast moajority of characters and a basic tutorial, amongst other things.

Now, with this new iteration launching at a time when accessibility technology has the potential to improve large portions of the previous game's lacking areas (including Microsoft's Speech Synthesis API to facilitate spoken menus, tutorials, trials, training modes and lobbies amongst other elements), I was very curious to see how much Capcom might've learned from their previous game. Also though, given how much talk around the discussion has happened already, I was interested in just how much the MVC formula has been stripped back to accommodate the casual audience in this latest title.

The fundamental issues with the previous game

To backtrack a little first though, let me explain some of the issues with UMVC3, to allow those unfamiliar with playing games without sight to understand how it works.

In a match where both players have sight, they can rely on animations, direct positional information and move lists in-game to work out how their character plays, in addition to combo videos.

When there are relatively few fully fleshed out tutorials, especially for a game as old and as well-known as UMVC3, it's surprising and rather frustrating as it has a detrimental effect on those without sight wanting to pick up the game for the first time.

Such was the situation myself and a fellow player without sight found ourselves in, that instead of putting the game down and getting sithed assistance, or abandoning the idea altogether, we just decided to start playing without any information and learn as we did so. What the game turned into, instead of a flurry of combos, was just pure, mostly unavoidable zoning, souring the experience for both of us.

The new installment

There's a tutorial in this game, so that's a start. I'll transcribe that when I have the chance to work through it, but there are also tougher challenges for each character, which are required to get achievements. I've already had word from a couple of individuals who have said they're willing to assist in getting the information into a readable format, so for any new players wanting assistance with this game, it's probably out there but you might have to wait a while or do some research yourself.

So how about the zoning aspect? It seems like a fair amount of the ridiculously frustrating zoning that you might've seen in previous games can now either be blocked or countered, at least from what the CPU has shown me in training matches. However, after having had the game for a while, I'd still say that the reliance on zoning not just is endorsed by the AI, which seems to favour it over what might be termed as actually playing the game "properly".

Let's fight

With that taken care of, let's dive into the interesting laberinth of menus that is MVCI, partially covered in my rough set of notes for the game, updated as the reviewing process continues.

So, about those menus

One accessibility issue I noted immediately is that all the menus wrap. Of course, you could argue that they could be memorised, but minimising the amount of effort a gamer without sight needs to put in to enjoy a game should be one of the top priorities if you're making a game accessible for as large an audience as possible.

However, once I got into training mode, things really started to get interesting. I realised that something that had been an issue in UMVC3 still persists, namely the complete absence of walking sounds other than for the robot characters, including Ultron. It seems as though anyone else, including human characters, have no footsteps, even though dashing sounds and assets as used in story mode exist to cover these movement options. The lack of audio cues in this area is a huge accessibility flaw, as an opponent, especially online, can just walk up and hit you without you even knowing they're close enough to do so.

That being said though, the first while of me having the game, namely whilst I waited for it to install, consisted of me figuring out how the menus worked, the fact that there's seemingly no reset shortcut in practice modeand just how to chain the hypercombos I'd learnt together. This was all quite entertaining, as I managed to realise that whilst this isn't UMVC3, this title is all the better for it.

Story Mode

When I first saw the reveals for this game's story mode, I must say I wasn't expecting much. However, the story is relatively simple to go through, even if there are matches you are apparently supposed to lose. The AI, on the other hand, is a real pain to deal with - it seems to know moves before you make them and changing the difficulty isn't as simple as you'd expect.

However, the soundtrack and the presentation are certainly worth pointing out. Moreover, the voice acting, whilst it's not quite solid in every respect, is far better than you'd think possible given some delivery in previous games. The fact that most moves are called out by characters even on the Marvel side, as was the case with previous series iterations, can get annoying at times, but it also serves as an accessibility aid in a sense.

I recommend that future new players, as soon as they go into the game, set their arcade and story difficulties down as low as they can go, at least until you're confident enough to go through with some combos/teams that you're familiar with, or not as in the case of story mode. This won't completely solve any issues you have with the difficulty of the game, as most of the frustrating things you'll get hit by either happen so fast or don't have enough distinct audio that you won't know they're coming until they connect. As will be sicussed in a little more detail later, the difficulty doesn't make the AI any less frustrating than it already is.

Moreover, as with a fair percentage of fighting games, this one likes to make you think you can win, then keeps pulling out just the right moves to counter every attack, being able to block most of your efforts in story mode and arcade as well on default settings.

Instructions on how to change difficulty settings can be found in the rough notes linked to above.

Once I'd passed a particularly tough fight in story mode, involving Resident Evil's Nemesis, the battles were relatively doable. However, the final boss of story mode appears to be a lesson, in my opinion, on designing your game so that it saps any form of enjoyment from the players by including unecessary stipulations, such as a timer based on an off-screen character's health for the first phase of the battle.

Such stipulations, when not presented to players without sight in an accessible format, make the game seem even harder than it is and the AI controlling the final boss is hard enough to contend with, given that it uses attacks that you can't necessarily detect before they happen, or that can hit you through your own animations, even when the boss is being hit.

It's such a shame that Capcom missed a vital opportunity to correct for the mistakes with UMVC3 in terms of bosses really needing sight to take down effectively, but hopefully the internals of this artificial despot can be modified to make it a fairer fight.

Arcade Mode

Unlike Street Fighter V, which didn't even launch with an arcade mode (something you might consider as a standard in the majority of fighting games), MVCI made the smart move to correct the previous mistake and contains a fully fledged offering available at the very start of the game.

However, even though it is beatable, the difficulty settings mentioned above seem to make little difference to how frustrating the AI can be once it gets going - looking at you, Gamora and hawkeye in particular, as well as any other characters with faster than human projectile chains.

In the majority of games, if you set the AI to "very easy" you expect to not only be able to get through the mode with relatively little trouble, but also partially practice combos and the like as you go.

IN this particular case, however, the AI will jump out of, move away from or punish most attempts you make at starting a combo. Sometimes you'll get lucky, but it's a struggle to actually execute the combos on an AI controlled opponent.

The final boss is, most certainly, a challenge, However, unlike his counterpart in the previous game, Galactus, this particular antagonist can be defeated, even if you have to be very aware of what you're doing on the easiest difficulty setting.

Boss strategies for Arcade Mode

The trick, it seems, is to have a long range move that can poke the final boss' drones with enough hits that they can be dealt with quickly (i.e. Dante's forward and heavy punch, followed by cancelling into a second heavy punch, will do enough hits to seemingly do significant levels of damage to these annoying enemies).

Again, these drones highlight the issue of a lack of audio cues, as they seem to vanish from sight as soon as they've fired an attack. If there were cues to indicate what the drones were doing, even if they are disappearing and reappearing to be able to be hit, it would help in learning new and more effective strategies. They have sounds for when they're jumping around to box your character in, but other than that the only semi-unique sounds they seem to have are attack and hit sounds.

As for the final boss himself, it seems like you just have to keep hitting him, listening for his various super attacks and callouts that indicate his drones are going to fire a salvo into your then vulnerable characters whilst they're still in an animation.

Using your infinity storm (RB+LB by default) is apparently crucial, since it seems to break his defense. If you can chain multiple supers together whilst doing so, this can significantly reduce the amount of time the battle takes, according to recommendations from other players.

If you use this strategy on any opponent other than the final boss, you can even use a level 3 at the end of your storm to do additional damage. This is performed by pressing the infinity storm buttons again whilst the effects are still active, at the cost of your remaining storm time.

Multiplayer

Getting into an online lobby isn't the easiest of things, though it is doable, for those who want to set this up, see the rough notes above.

Unfortunately, in the first game I played online, after setting up a lobby, the lag was extremely difficult to contend with, so much so that we thought the game was going to disconnect. It didn't and my opponent only won, we concluded, via the lag's intervention, though not before I'd managed to probably win by the same token in a couple of additional matches beforehand.

We decided that it might just have been the servers having an odd day and I thought that I'd try playing a different opponent at the next possible opportunity.

When this opportunity came, I discovered, to my surprise, that everything worked pretty much as planned, even if we might've had an additional player in the lobby unexpectedly (though neither myself or my opponent can be sure if it was just an accidental button press somewhere along the line that resulted in him being unable to pick characters and instead being stuck with Ultron/Thanos as the team for a couple of matches.

The game did crash once though we're not sure why, but fortunately we were back up and running relatively quickly.

The experience was smooth in this second play test, but with the occasional freeze every once in a while (though definitely rarer than before). It's certainly not up to Killer Instinct's standards of reliable netcode, but then again, it's nowhere near as bad as you might think when it's working well.

Later, myself and my first opponent tried to test again to see if it was, as we'd said before, the servers having a bad day. Unfortunately, this did not prove to be the case as, though the lag was reduced, it was by no means the smooth experience other reviewers or sources might have had you believe.

There is no clear reason for why this is the case, but I really hope Capcom can work on making their netcode more reliable, as well as providing a simple rematch screen that allows for immediate rematch, character select, or main menu choices, similar to Killer Instinct.

Online Play Update

After writing the above paragraph and publishing it as part of the original review, I discovered that the preview build of Xbox OS that I was running on had apparently had issues with multiplayer.

I also discovered that a new build had been released, so myself and the opponent I'd had laggy matches with decided to playtest again.

When The result was, to say the least, surprising, as the gameplay was pretty much smooth as butter.

Myself and my opponent now believe it to have been the Xbox OS issues that were the cause of the problems outlined above, and not the game itself.

However, though we were able to play together, we were continuously interupted by random players entering our lobby. However, we also believe that this is caused by the settings not saving as previously thought. The rough notes will be updated to reflect any new information about getting lobby creation for two players to work successfully without interuption from random players.

Conclusions

In spite of its various faults and fixable quirks, MVCI is actually a really solid game in terms of mechanics. Even the superjump has an audio cue, even if it does sound a little out of place. However, the aforementioned near complete absence of walking sounds, whilst not a surprise for this franchise, is for Capcom given t hat Street Fighter V has a complete set of walking sounds for the entire cast.

Other than that though, in terms of overall accessibility, there's a fair amount Capcom can do - adding non-wrapping menus, not making the cursor start on the last used option, adding distinct audio cues for boss phases etc. Whether it'll happen, who knows, but I really hope that it does and certainly sooner rather than later.

If you're debating this game over UMVC3, I'd say you'll likely get more out of this game due to story mode alone than you would with the previous, comparatively limited title. However, be aware that the AI is just as frustrating, if not more so in cases, than in this game's predecessor.

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