Player First Games is on track to release its fighting game MultiVersus, a new multiplayer platform brawler that pits the extensive roster of characters from the Warner Bros. catalog against each other in chaotic combat. It’s easy to compare MultiVersus to other fighting games in the genre, like Nintendo’s juggernaut Super Smash Bros., but after spending a few hours throwing fists, kicks, and lasers with the WB crew, there’s a lot about MultiVersus that impressed me , which makes it stand out and should be a game to watch this year.
MultiVersus differs from games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl because of its focus on team fights. 2v2 is the game’s primary mode, in which characters take on roles in the duo of optimal pairings in battle. Fighters are divided into classes that represent the fighting style they are best at. Batman is a thug Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark is an assassin, Bugs Bunny is a mage, Superman is a tank, and Steven Universe supports her. These designations gave me an idea of who would work well on a team and hinted at their playstyle. A tank class like Wonder Woman will naturally try to protect their partner when danger flares up, while mages strike from afar, sometimes with tricky traps or projectiles. Supports work in a variety of ways, offering their bodies as thrown weapons or moves that serve as security, like Reindog’s tether move. Other supports like Steven throw shields at their teammates or enhance their abilities in different ways. It’s fun to try different combinations and see which synergies work well in practice.
Matches play very much like Smash Bros., with the aim of damaging your opponent, increasing flight distance when a strong attack lands, and eventually sending them into the chasm surrounding the stage. A winner is named when a team’s last share or life is taken. Each character has the same control scheme, standard for this type of fighting game, consisting of normal and special attack buttons, each with different movements depending on which direction you move the analog stick, a jump button, a dodge, with the ever more important tilt -inducing taunts mapped to the d-pad. MultiVersus is notable for its recovery mechanics, which doesn’t involve grabbing and hanging on ledges, instead allowing you to jump off walls to get to safety.
To make a character your own, each roster member has a number of perks that can be equipped to modify various aspects of gameplay. For example, Superman has a perk that gives him and all teammates a triple jump when they meet certain conditions, allowing them to stay airborne longer, while Taz can increase his team’s damage if they deal damage with moves that knock enemies back horizontally . Three standard perks can be used by any player, with a fourth signature perk that is character-specific and modifies a special attack by that fighter. Using Taz as an example again, his Tornado movement can be tweaked with a signature perk to reflect projectiles at the expense of slower movement. I’ve enjoyed what perks bring my favorite playstyles to the table, but I’d be lying if I weren’t worried about this system being abused in some way and wrecking the game’s meta for even the most casual of players to scrap online.
The combat UI will look strange at first, but I liked the way MultiVersus presented important information. A character’s damage information is displayed directly below, with buffs and debuffs appearing above the character model rather than in a stationary location out of sight of the battle. It’s distracting for the first match or two, but with the speed at which characters can dash across the screen, I like being able to keep track of how much damage an opponent or I have taken without going off the hook for those numbers Action looking to have hand.
While I’m impressed with many of MultiVersus’ offerings, the combat isn’t as impactful as it needs to be. It makes a lot less sense for me to blast an enemy into the ether when their damage meter is critical. Instead, attacks sometimes feel like they’ll barely budge an opponent, making it difficult to know if landing just one more solid hit will nail the final nail in the coffin. I’d also like to see more impact on attacks in general; Even Superman’s haymakers feel like you’re hitting a pillow.
MultiVersus is a free-to-play game and will have microtransactions and a Battle Pass, but I was assured by Game Director Tony Huynh that only cosmetic options would cost real money and anything related to gameplay just through playing the game is available . This means that all characters are unlocked by collecting gold in battles and paying with this currency as it currently exists in the Alpha build. The same goes for perks, which are earned by playing and leveling up a character, along with paying earned gold to gain access to them. As for the cosmetics available, the characters will have fairly detailed alternative costumes like Samurai Batman or Jake the Dog’s reskin to Cake the Cat. There are also various animations that can be played when you KO an opponent – I’m a big fan of the Porky Pig “That’s all folks!” animation to add that extra bit of salt to the wound – and interchangeable ones Speaker Language Pack and Taunt. Between the Battle Pass unlocks and each character’s own leveling track, there’s a lot to unlock just by playing the game.
I went into the MultiVersus alpha test with low expectations. Aside from Smash Bros., the big brand mash-up fighters feel hollow and feature unconvincing rosters, but I’m impressed with what I’ve played so far. The cast is great so far, and each character brings unique gameplay and mechanics to the fight. With a star-studded cast (Kevin Conroy as Batman, Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, Maizie Williams as Arya) and detailed animations, it’s clear that much care has gone into bringing these beloved icons of their franchises into the game and doing them justice will. I plan on jamming more matches in the coming days and look forward to trying it out in future tests with hopefully more characters and some minor tweaks to make the fights feel more impactful.
The current Closed Alpha runs through May 27th, and there may still be room to participate in the test. You can register on the MultiVersus website and keep your fingers crossed that a code will be sent to you before the end of the event. Otherwise, the platformer goes into open beta in July, with a full release sometime in the future, though Huynh and Warner Bros. Games wouldn’t give any indication of a timeframe for that just yet.
To learn more about MultiVersus, we have several videos showing gameplay with no commentary, and a New Gameplay Today with me and Alex Stadnik discussing our time with the alpha build of the game and what we like about it and what concerns we have after getting our first taste of the WB fighter.
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