While the Super Smash Bros. series still reigns supreme among platform fighters, many games like Brawhalla, Rivals of Aether, and Nickelodeon All-Stars Brawl have recently attempted and succeeded at providing a similar yet different experience. With Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment having so many instantly recognizable properties (like the D.C Comics characters and the Looney Tunes characters), it was only a matter of time before the publisher would start working on MultiVersus, one of the craziest crossovers ever seen in the world of video games and something that has the potential to rival the Super Smash Bros. series in terms of popularity.
On the surface, MultiVersus doesn't play too differently from other platform fighters on the market. Each playable character performs several regular and special attacks by holding a direction both on the ground and in the air, coming with different properties. The up attacks, for example, can be used as anti-air attacks, while the down attacks for spiking opponents and making them fall. Like in the Smash series, the main goal is to knock them out of the stage instead of just depleting their life. The more a fighter is damaged, the more they will be launched by specific attacks.
While the basics are the same as other similar games, there are many things that MultiVersus tries to do differently. The game does not have a block button, and the only defensive option available is multi-direction dodging regulated by a gauge to prevent dodge spamming. Regular and special attacks cannot be spammed, as the game has a system that enforces Attack Decay if any move is used repeatedly, making it less effective. All characters can also jump and use special attacks twice in the air, making it easy to get back on stage after getting launched in the air. There's also no ledge grabbing, replaced here by a wall-jumping system that lets characters get back on stage even if they managed to grab the lower point of the stages' outer walls. After having played Super Smash 4 3DS and Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for thousands of hours, these different mechanics can feel a little confusing, but it doesn't take that long to get used to them and understand the unique identity of MultiVersus.
However, not all changes made to the Smash series formula are for the best, in my opinion. MultiVersus lacks the snappy feeling of Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, as movement is definitely slower than in these games, and aerial movement feels too floaty. It is clear what the developer tried going for, with a bigger focus on aerial combat, but I have to say I didn't enjoy it all that much. I often tried spiking an opponent, but the effects were very lackluster, and most characters managed to recover unless they were highly damaged. One more change that felt very awkward is having the basic three-hit combo tied to forward, rather than neutral, which really does not feel natural and led to many wrong inputs, even hours into the Alpha. I understand trying to do things differently from the Smash series, but many modern fighting games still use the systems introduced in Street Fighter II while doing their own thing, so it's not like developers need to change everything to make a game feel different. MultiVersus especially doesn't need that, as many are the features that set it apart from the latest Smash.
While the 1 versus 1 mode was thoroughly enjoyable, MultiVersus shines in its primary mode, the 2 versus 2 Team mode. The characters and the Perks system that allows players to equip Perks before a fight to gain an advantage have been clearly designed around team play, and it shows right from the very first fight. Things tend to get a little chaotic in this mode, but it's as enjoyable as the 1 versus 1 mode, as if not even more. Character design is also on point, as the launch roster is exceptionally varied with minimal repetition. I liked how Player First Games designed Arya Stark and took advantage of the character's personal history, such as her training by the Faceless Men, to create a very unique fighter compared to the rest of the cast. I thought ever since MultiVersus' announcement that she felt completely out of place, so it was nice to see the great care that has been put into designing her set of moves.
Being still in Alpha, many features in MultiVersus will be tweaked in the future. While I'm not feeling too good about some of them, chiefly the general floatiness, it is undeniable that I had tons of fun with the Alpha build, also thanks to the excellent rollback netcode that made most matches play smoothly, and I really can't wait to experience more of it in the coming months.
MultiVersus launches on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and Xbox One in 2022.
Tested on PlayStation 5. Closed alpha access code provided by the publisher.
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