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MultiVersus (Closed Alpha) – Preview

Since 1999, Nintendo has been the pioneer of 2D platform fighting games, and it started with the legendary Super Smash Bros series. Many other franchises have attempted to make their own crossover game using the same gameplay style, such as PlayStation, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and more, but none have come close to the success of the game that started it all. Brawlhalla would be the only exception, but it still hasn’t matched the dedicated communities and huge presence at Esports events that have been going strong for more than 20 years. This time, it’s Warner Bros’ turn to throw their hat in the ring, bringing together their massive library of iconic characters in MultiVersus, coming soon to PlayStation 4|5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

At first glance, MultiVersus may seem like another Smash Bros clone, but it surprisingly feels unique, different, and most importantly, fun. The hard-working team at Player First Games really are trying to develop the best competitive multiplayer game they possibly can by taking on feedback from players around the world, and this current build really shows it.

In this current Closed Alpha build, things are missing but there is also so much to appreciate. The first thing that will grab players’ attention is the varied cast of colorful characters representing DC Comics, Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, Tom and Jerry, Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and even Game of Thrones. To complement these fan favourite brawlers, most of their best-known voice actors reprise their roles to bring these characters to life including Kevin Conroy and Tara Strong as Batman and Harley Quinn respectively from the popular 90s Batman animated series, Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, Jeremy Shada and John DiMaggio as Finn the Human and Jake the Dog, and Maisie Williams returning as Arya Stark from the Game of Thrones TV series. Hearing these iconic voice actors certainly brings a lot of nostalgia and personality to MultiVersus as the mayhem unfolds on screen.

Of course, along with the style, it needs the substance, and MultiVersus has exactly that. It’s beginner-friendly and great for casual play, with the Tutorial Mode teaching everything that players need to know about the game’s mechanics. Smash Bros players will easily adjust, but will also find it’s a very different game at the same time. Much like Smash Bros, the key to victory is to build up the opponent’s damage percentage and knock them off the stage, but the gameplay style of MultiVersus is what sets it apart, giving it its own identity.

Each character’s move set accurately represents them by highlighting their unique skills, tricks, powers, and abilities, from Batman’s many gadgets, Superman’s various powers, Bugs Bunny going underground and using ACME products, Tom and Jerry hilariously trying to kill each other while everyone else ends up as casualties, and so much more. Even the famous internet meme ‘Ultra Instinct Shaggy’ has finally become a playable character.

The controls are basic but have a lot of versatility allowing players to strategise and keep their opponents guessing. There isn’t a block or grab button, but instead a dodge button for all characters. Certain characters, like Wonder Woman, can block which can also lead to attacks, and other characters can grab and throw, like Taz or Jake the Dog by consuming their opponents, chewing and spitting them out. A lot of love and attention to detail was given to every character to showcase everything they have to offer, from all the taunts and little things like Bugs Bunny’s crouch animation of him searching through an ACME box, or Velma crawling to find her glasses. The stages available so far have a lot of fun designs and interactive features for players to utilise and get an advantage.

Another thing that sets MultiVersus apart from other games is its emphasis on teamwork. Players can do more than just fight alongside each other; they can also save each other from falling, shield them, or boost their attacks. This will take some practice, but so worth it and adds to the excitement and intensity.

There are some drawbacks, which of course can be fixed before the game’s actual release. Occasionally there were moments where one character charges up a big attack while standing right in front of the opponent, then completely misses and ends up on the other side. The damage percentage is displayed below each character and follows them instead of being positioned at the top or bottom. This can make it difficult to read the number while it’s moving all over the screen, so an option to change this would be handy.

There are many collectibles to be found by completing certain conditions, including different skins, taunts, icons, announcer voices, and more. Perks can also be earned, which gives players different boosts to their attacks, speed, and defence, etc. This may or may not harm the game’s balance, and other games that have tried this have been banned from official tournaments. It’ll be interesting to see how the Perks impact the balance in future builds of MultiVersus and if they’ll be allowed if the game were to be featured during Esports events. Personally, I don’t feel this is a necessary feature for fighting games overall, but only time will tell.

The rollback netcode provides excellent and smooth online matches and is cross-platform too, creating an even bigger network of opponents to play against. Whether it’s 1v1, 2v2, or Free For All, MultiVersus will definitely bring a lot of fun, intense, and hilarious moments, both online and offline. It is also Free to Play, which has become a hot topic recently with fighting games deciding whether or not they should all follow suit. 2021‘s Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown was the first major game to try this and has proven to be highly successful. MultiVersus also doesn’t require a paid subscription to Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus to play online, instead, players just need to create a WB Games account, which is a quick and easy process, then battle it out online.

What was first seen as another Smash Bros clone, has become something unique and isn’t afraid to try something different, which has so far been received very positively. Some things require a bit more work before its official release later this year, but what it has so far is showing a lot of promise. From the various iconic characters that date back almost a century to the exciting, intense, and fun fast-paced teamwork gameplay with smooth online and cross-platform experience, MultiVersus packs a punch and is a strong contender for the next big 2D platform fighting game.

Written by: Sammy Hanson


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