MultiVersus is more than just a Smash Bros.

The premise seems completely ridiculous when you read it: The almighty Superman teams up with the cowardly and eternally hungry teenager Shaggy to fight off a shapeshifting dog Jake and a face-stealing assassin Arya Stark. . However, this is real, and it MultiVersus, Warner Bros.’s upcoming platform fighter. and is the latest game to challenge Smash Bros. for its platform fighter throne. We got an early look at the upcoming closed beta, and so far MultiVersus is not only a viable challenger to Nintendo’s all-star smasher, but could also be a glimpse into the future. hybrid of fighting games in general.

On the surface, MultiVersus looks a lot like other platform fighting games, as warriors run around a stage with many ledges, launching attacks and trying to knock each other off the screen. The names on the board may vary – Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman from DC Comics, Bugs Bunny and Taz from Looney Tunes, Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, etc. and the correct recipe by Smash Bros.

Now playing: MultiVersus Preview… More than just a Smash Bros.

It’s not quite the same, however, and nowhere is that more obvious than in 2v2 team matches. Teams are divided into red and blue teams, and the first team to score four knockouts wins. This is a slightly different approach than the stock battles of Smash Bros., as the knockout acts more like a score than a player losing a life. This method of scoring allows both players to stay in the match the entire time, instead of having one player left at a disadvantage. Even with this change in scoring, the team battle mode sounds similar to other games that offer it, but there’s a deeper level of strategy to consider here that makes all the difference. for MultiVersus, elevating it from a potential clone of Smash Bros. into a game that can stand on its own two feet.

Each character has at least one move in their arsenal that not only deals damage to enemies, but also provides a small benefit to teammates. For example, when Shaggy charges up to full power with his neutral task, his teammates also get a buff. Wonder Woman’s special attack grants her a shield, but it also increases allies’ defenses if they come close to each other while it’s active. Some characters have a lanyard ability that can cling to teammates, making it harder for both warriors to launch off-screen. Character combinations and synergies to explore are plentiful even here in a closed alpha test of just 15 characters; I’m excited to see how deep this system grows when the full version is released.

There are single-player modes to check out, but they’re more of a quantitative nature than team battles. 1v1 is the best way to really test your skills in competition, as it’s a first-person battle – two simple points with no teammates to worry about. The stages actually have some obstacles, such as the platforms retracting in the Haunted Mansion and some destructible Treefort buildings, but none in the alpha test’s stage as wild as Smash’s Poke Floats, such as Smash’s Poke Floats. Meanwhile, the four-player free-to-play is tailored for parties or less competitive environments with frenetic action happening all over the screen. While they are a lot of fun, neither of these modes bring a new twist to the old gameplay like team battles, so they don’t stand out very much.

All three of these formats benefit greatly from the game’s recovery netcode, delivering a smooth online experience in nearly every match we’ve played. There have been a few instances where characters glitched or randomly teleported from place to place, but in the 50 games I’ve played I can count only two instances of those technical issues. Every other game feels like my opponents are in the same room, which is impressive, especially in games with four players. True, this is an early preview of closed alpha testing, so the number of players logged in may not be large, but it’s still as good a sign as we can hope for at this point.

While the fight isn’t revolutionary, the free-to-play format is what could give MultiVersus an edge. Fighting games that fit the F2P and MultiVersus model are solid proof. The game offers a variety of progression systems: standard battle pass with free and premium options, profile-based leveling system, and character-specific progression. Each offers distinct bonuses: character-specific rewards include various cosmetics and perks that can enhance their abilities, career progression provides in-game currency to purchase New characters and skins from the in-game shop and battle pass offering generic cosmetics like banners and outfits, taunts, and other perks for the entire roster.

Earning rewards is also remarkably quick, as I never felt like I was grinding for more gold or battle pass points. Seasonal timelines and daily quests make the 50-level battle seem to pass, with a seasonal 1,000-point mark earning multiple levels at once. Character progression isn’t all that fast, but earning increased XP through passing the battle can temporarily fix that. Career progression is also slower, but since the rewards earned there don’t affect as much as battle pass or character perks, I really don’t mind.

The way MultiVersus allows you to customize the experience through earned cosmetics also speaks volumes about how relevant a combat pass is to a fighting game like this. One of the cosmetics you can earn is a knockout animation that plays every time you successfully score a knockout. Examples include Darkseid’s Omega Beams, Space Kook from Scooby-Doo, and banners for House Lannister, Stark, and Targayren, but for my money the best banner is “It’s Everyone,” where the screen The ending image of the iconic Looney Tunes – Porky Pig included – appears wherever your opponent is eliminated. It makes me laugh every time, giving the game an extra layer of personality above all the action.

That personality is reinforced by the game’s voice acting, which is one of the best parts of the game. Each character is fully voiced, most of them by the original voice actors: Maisie Williams as Arya Stark, Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, and Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong, and George Newbern respectively. Batman, Harley Quinn and Superman. Each character is shown with authenticity through their voices, throwing out quick lines during battle that will have you chuckling. For example, defeating Tom and Jerry is an absolute joy when Tom tightens iconic scream whenever defeated. It’s not just in battle, as you can eventually unlock announcer voice packs for multiple characters through each specific character’s progression.

More importantly, some dialogue is specific to certain situations, providing an extra layer of depth that shows how much effort Player First Games is putting into this project. In one battle, for example, I played Arya Stark and teamed up with Shaggy versus Adventure Time’s Jake the Dog and Superman. As the battle begins, Jake exclaims, “I can’t believe I’m paired with Superman!!” After we won the match, Arya quipped, “Return to your master, dog” at the victory screen, implying Jake had fallen. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, another game inspired by Smash, has received a lot of criticism for its lack of voice, and that omission seems even more severe in retrospect after seeing how much it added. for the experience in MultiVersus.

While this is a closed alpha test and could change a lot between now and when the game officially launches, MultiVersus is shaping up to be something special. The cast of characters is weird and wonderful, the action is both familiar and new, and the free-to-play progression system allows you to earn rewards without ever getting frustrated. There are even a few hints about the future in the alpha, like how the tutorials use Meeseeks from Rick and Morty as targets or how Wonder Woman says “over here!” when she pulls her opponent towards her with her Lasso of Truth. No matter what surprises are coming with the next MultiVersus, based on this closed alpha test, that future looks as bright as Shaggy at 100% of his strength.

MultiVersus coming to Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC. Closed alpha testing took place from May 19 to 27, and an open beta was announced in July.

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