Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is out, and as often happens with fighting games, the marketing claims of accessibility were a bit overstated. While it’s been slowed and scaled down a bit from its manic predecessors, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (or just Marvel, as many players call it) is fundamentally a brutal game with tough systems and a steep learning curve. Polygon’s beginner’s guide will help you understand the game, beyond what the in-game tutorial offers.
What kind of game is this?
In our Street Fighter 5 guide, we talked about “the poke game,” or “neutral” as many fighting game players call it. This first phase is common to almost every fighting game: Players jockey for position, get their characters into their zone and try to make the first hit.
In Street Fighter, the poke game involves simple punches and kicks, with some projectiles in there for good measure. Characters have a strictly defined range, and you win by staying in yours while keeping the opponent out of theirs.
Editor’s note: The video above from YogaFlame24 contains some great gameplay and also some NSFW language from LIJoe.
In Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, everybody has lasers. Beams, fireballs, lances, shopping carts: Many of the characters can attack all the way across the screen almost instantly. Against some of the stronger ranged fighters, no place on the screen is safe. Just as in Street Fighter, players are ultimately trying to control space to land hits. But in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, there’s a lot more space to cover and many more weapons to cover it with.
On top of that, players can turn almost any hit at all into a big combo, meaning almost any hit can be deadly. Marvel 2 and 3 were especially known as games where the first player to land one hit — any hit at all — would often win the match. Though Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is a bit more forgiving in terms of damage, it’s a game about combos and setting up the opponent for the next combo. To get beyond the beginner level, you’re going to have to learn combos, train combos and see combos in your sleep.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite players play because they crave overwhelming power and love living on the razor’s edge. That kind of play isn’t for everybody, but it’s at the heart of the game. Have a taste. You’ll be fine.
Easy starter characters
The overwhelming majority of the cast in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite consists of returning Marvel 3 tournament favorites. These characters are often pretty difficult to play, with complex movesets whose uses are not particularly obvious. It’s your call how much work you want to put in, but we wanted to quickly call out some of the easier choices to help you get acclimated.
Ryu, transplanted directly from Street Fighter, is a go-to choice for beginners trying to get their heads around the wild world of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. The classic and familiar Street Fighter 2 moveset has been powered up just a little bit to put Ryu in competition with the monsters in the rest of the cast. However, his moves are rather limited compared to what other characters can do, and you won’t really see high-level players use him. (By contrast, Chun-Li is an ultra-fast combo beast for committed players.)
Captain America is basically Marvel’s Ryu, with a similar moveset but more tricks and mobility.
Captain Marvel is a basic all-rounder who does a little bit of everything and hits very hard. Both are very easy to pick up and very easy to get results out of.
Thanos is a very straightforward power character, boasting moves that are both versatile and easy to understand.
But who’s the best?
The meta game is really up for grabs at any given moment, especially in a game that’s so new and is going to have so much professional grade talent playing. It is going to take weeks of top players practicing at the highest level before we even begin to see anything approaching “the strongest.” But at this early stage in the game’s life, we can point out one character and tell you what makes him strong.
Dormammu starts as a top-tier character, in part due to the player in the video above, Filipino Champ, figuring out overwhelming techniques for him before release. A regular tourney choice in Marvel 3, Dorm basically has it all: powerful ranged attacks that can hit anywhere on screen he likes, nasty setups once he finally lets you out of his never-ending combos and even strong rush down at close range with his air dash. He’s the only character I looked at in this game and said “Oh, come on, really?”
In exchange for that power, expect to put in serious work practicing the many techniques he has to offer. The guy’s sole weakness is his slow, intimidating walk. A fast character will be a great pair for him.
Picking two characters you like is one thing, but in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite you need to think about how they work together. A fast character (say, Strider) can make up for a slow character’s inability to get around the screen. A long-range character like Dr. Strange who can’t do much in close will benefit from having a teammate who’s strong up close. Try and build a team where both characters cover for the weaknesses of the other.
Tagging (Active switch)
A common mistake that gets new players killed is simply switching whenever they feel like it. If you try and pull your teammate in while you’re getting attacked, they won’t save you. They’ll just run in and also get hit. Both teammates getting beaten up at the same time is the worst situation in the game. Players call it the “happy birthday” because it’s such a gift for the attacking player, who will let rip with the biggest, most damaging combo they have.
Find safe moments to switch up, preferably while hitting your opponent. Combos are a good chance, as are Hyper Combos.
If you’re getting beat up, you can pop out of a combo in progress by holding down the switch button: this move, called a Counter Switch, gets you out of a combo and switches your character in exchange for two bars of Hyper Combo meter. You don’t want to be too obvious or predictable about the point where you Counter Switch. A savvy player can guess your intention and intercept your teammate as they appear on the screen.
The Infinity Stones give your team an additional move, as well as change the effect of the Infinity Storm.
We suggest Power and Reality for starters. The special moves they add are powerful and will add value to just about any team. Power is a great all-around move that’s also useful in combos, and Reality leaves a slow-moving projectile on the screen which serves as cover for both defensive and offensive game plans.
The rest are more dependent on the characters you want to play. Are you playing a slow character like the Hulk who has a short range and a tough time getting around the screen? Time and Space are both good calls. Space forces the opponent to you (and the Infinity Storm literally locks them in a box), while Time grants an extremely fast, forward dash that floats through your enemies.
Soul and Mind have very specific moves for very specific game plans. Mind gives a special throw and its Infinity Storm gives you huge amounts of Hyper Combo meter. It might be good for striker characters who burn a lot of meter, like Jedah. Soul’s HP drain and resurrection might make for an extremely frustrating attrition strategy, particularly if you’ve got characters who already have a lot of HP to begin with, like Thor.
This is a little something I figured out solely by messing around in training mode over the first few days, deliberately trying to combine every element in the system. As Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite combos go, it’s actually pretty low-level.
We can’t give you a full rundown of the entire heavy combo system. A single guide just doesn’t have the space for it. So rather than directly instruct you on how to execute these long strings of attacks, we’re going to offer some basic tips. See the in-game missions for some combo ideas.
Press light punch rapidly to perform an auto combo. The combo you get from the auto combo follows the default form: a launcher attack followed by some air hits followed by a slam down to the ground. If you hit hard punch and hard kick at the same time in the process, you’ll get an easy Hyper Combo.
Compared to other possibilities this won’t be very strong, but it’s better than nothing at all, which is what most beginners are stuck with in a game like this. If you don’t know any combos at all for a character, stick with the auto combo.
If auto combos are giving you trouble, block until your opponent is done and counterattack: auto combos leave them wide open.
Starting a combo
The first hit of a combo is the most important. Don’t just start in with standing hard punches that are easy to block. Rather, mix up your approach between attacks that hit low (like crouching light kick) and those that hit high (mostly air attacks).
Forcing an opponent to guess between a combo that starts high and a combo that starts low is key to Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite offense.
When you’re building your own combos, experiment with every move in your character’s arsenal. The default air combo is far from the only way to string together attacks, and you may find something even more powerful if you try messing around with certain special moves.
Though the combos in the game’s mission mode are not really good to use verbatim in serious play, you can get ideas from some of the tricks contained there.
Hits and scaling
Keep in mind that the more hits a combo goes on for, the less damage each individual hit does. First, the opponent reaches a state where your hits aren’t really doing much damage anymore. This is when you should finish with a Hyper Combo.
Next, the combo reaches a state where the game steps in and says no more, popping the opponent away from you no matter what you do.
Generally speaking, you want to string together as many hard hits as possible, to deal as much damage as you can before scaling takes over. Once your combo starts, for example, try to find ways to leave light punches and kicks out of the string. A lot of sophisticated combos in this game are about landing hard punches and kicks over and over again.
We won’t mince words about it: Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is still going to be a lot of work. That said, don’t think of it as such. Explore and have fun. The most exciting time to play a fighting game is when it’s brand new, wide open and full of possibilities. That time doesn’t always last very long, so get to it.