need to know
what is it? A platform fighter with an eclectic lineup of iconic characters.
expect to pay Play for free
release date August 16, 2022
developer player first game
Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
audit date Nvidia GeForce RTX3070, AMD Ryzen 7 2700X, 16GB RAM
multiplayer game? Yes
association Official website(opens in a new tab)
I’m Jake the Dog from Adventure Time, standing on the edge of a stage featuring Ricky and Morty. I’m about to beat Scooby-Doo’s Shaggy to bloody pulp when my teammate Arya Stark casually steals Batman’s face. A few years ago, this would have given me a serious whiplash, but in a world where tennis star Naomi Osaka shakes hands with Naruto in Fortnite, nothing surprises me. Well, except for one thing: MultiVersus is actually pretty good.
Trust me, I didn’t expect it either. The initial reveal didn’t interest me — it looked like another attempt at being Smash Bros., and I’m not a platform fighter either. I prefer fighting games in tight, enclosed 3D arenas like Tekken and Soulcalibur. I didn’t expect much from MultiVersus, but found that Player First Games has started laying the groundwork for something extraordinary.
Don’t get me wrong, MultiVersus doesn’t try to hide its inspiration. Anyone who spends a little time with Nintendo’s brawler will quickly get the gist: Hit your opponents with a mix of normal, aerial and special attacks to increase their damage meter; avoid letting them do the same to you. Victory has nothing to do with changing health from 100 to 0, it’s all done with a damage meter. Although the numbers are small, you are heavy and hard to knock down the top and sides of the arena. However, as it gets taller, your character becomes a rubber bouncy ball and is vulnerable to all kinds of spikes and knockbacks that can send you right into the dead zone. Kick your opponent out of the arena enough times and you’ll be victorious.
That’s your current standard platform fighter fare, but MultiVersus manages a few key differences that really set it apart. The first is how the game handles its roster – each character is assigned a different category: Tank, Support, Mage, Barbarian and Assassin. Tanks like Wonder Woman and Iron Giant can take more hits and hit harder, but are generally slower. Assassins like human Finn and Arya Stark are nimble warriors who will use every trick in the book to deal massive damage quickly.
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)
The good thing is that there is no pressure to match a specific class – if you have the skills, you can easily manage a team of two supports and successfully defeat heavy artillery and tanks. They’re a good initial indicator of how you can expect to play each role, but it doesn’t feel like any one class is inherently disadvantaged compared to the others.
And the game mode itself. While other platform games feel more at home in a free-to-play or 1v1 environment, MultiVersus thrives in a 2v2 format. There are two other modes in the game, but this game was definitely made for 2v2, and that’s where I spend most of my time. Each character has abilities that can support teammates and damage enemies. Jack the dog can swallow opponents and spit them out, but he can also quickly chew on allies and save them from pesky combos. Wonder Woman’s lasso can grab opponents or serve as a quick rescue for teammates.
It took me a while to get used to the synergy of playing with another person, and the general feel of MultiVersus. It’s far more buoyant than any other fighting game I’ve played — it doesn’t have a bit of weight, and characters can wander around in situations that occasionally feel like a lifetime. But once you’re in the flow of things, it starts to feel good. While I’d still like to go a little faster, a sense of float is largely necessary for decent recovery and the ability to actually utilize teammates.
I didn’t expect much from MultiVersus, but found that Player First Games has started laying the groundwork for something extraordinary.
I have direct access to the entire roster, but those who join for free have to work hard to unlock everyone. Thankfully, there’s a free trial for everyone in training mode, and regular free character rotations let you experiment with relative ease. Reaching your first paid character isn’t too difficult, though subsequent progress will slow down.
As I tinkered with each character, I ended up liking the Iron Giant – he’s about twice the size of the others and is vulnerable to hard hits, but in return he can deal massive damage and protect teammates with ease, Allowing them to safely take a fair amount of hits on the other team. At first, I was utterly disappointed, stomping my foot off the map and getting my car rocking shenanigans off quickly. But oh my God, there’s nothing more satisfying than the moment I can finally land my big shiny metal back on an opponent, when my teammates jump up and poke them straight out of the arena, I launch them into the air.
Playing each character also gets more fun once you level them up and get perks. Every game you play with a character gives them experience points, while leveling up gives you access to unique and shared perks that give you small buffs and extra skills. You can even stack these perks with your teammates for additional perks, which makes pre-match setups more strategic at a higher level. After I’d had enough with Iron Giant, I got the added bonus of having his rocket boots leave a fire mark on the ground. It’s a move that I didn’t feel much need to use before, but once I was able to scorch small enemies under my feet, I found myself incorporating it more into my game.
There are some glaring frustrations with the way MultiVersus plays, though. The hit priority is a mess, even if I can spot a problem at random. For starters, when two moves are connected, which attack has more power is usually prioritized. If both attacks hit at the same time and have similar power levels, they will cancel each other out. It doesn’t seem to exist in MultiVersus at all.
Combine that with the odd-looking hitbox and damage box system, and it’s a bit of a headache to contend with. I especially noticed this about Finn – his backpack has become a meme with a weirdly huge hitbox that has allowed him to win a lot of games he shouldn’t have. It’s worth noting that the hitbox/hurtbox system is already undergoing an overhaul, but it’s a pretty big flaw right now. Those at a hyper-casual level may not perceive it in more detail, but as I spend more time with the game it becomes more and more apparent to me.
I also have some very important complaints about the current map design. MultiVersus currently has eight stages, two of which are variants of another existing map. I had to check it out just now because I only remember two stages: Scooby-doo and Rick and Morty. The latter I only remember because it was unlocked as part of a community challenge. However, Scooby-Doo has the honor of being my favorite and least favorite stage. It’s the only interesting form of interaction I remember – you can hit a small gear on either side of the arena to make part of the platform disappear. It’s also very small, almost suffocating. It doesn’t help that I’m playing a character that’s three times bigger than the rest of the cast, but you can’t go wrong with a bigger map.
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)
Most stages consist of a main platform and two or three smaller platforms above it. they are very good. But they felt so cramped and uninspired, like being trapped in an elevator made of white bread. There are some broken walls here and there, and they look beautiful, but they lack the level of creativity that Player First Games has demonstrated with its roster.
Unsurprisingly, MultiVersus is also home to the Battle Pass. I’ve never been a fan of them and this one is no exception. Right now this is just a short preseason battle pass with 15 tiers. The distribution of rewards across the tier is good, but progress feels unsatisfactory. I spend most of my time farming my seasonal milestones, which are randomly assigned per player and cannot be re-rolled. That means I’m working on ridiculous and uninteresting goals like killing 25 opponents with less than 60 damage or chaining 200 fully charged attacks. Getting more Battle Pass points per game, and the ability to re-roll some of the more frustrating milestones outside of my skill level would go a long way.
As it stands, the MultiVersus has done a fantastic job laying the groundwork for a great platform fighter with potential. Aside from killer backpacks and clunky hitboxes, each character is packed with personality and moves that never feel too out of place. It definitely helps that Warner Bros. was able to recruit original voice actors with a large cast, which you don’t see very often. The game isn’t without initial issues, though – MultiVersus will continue to drop for those with higher skill levels until hit rates and hit priorities are set. But for a game technically still in open beta, MultiVersus is a worthy competitor in the platform fighting genre.
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