MultiVersus is a free-to-play platform fighter from Player First Games that brings together a host of characters from across all of Warner Bros.’ history in 1-on-1, 2-on-2, or free-for-all matches.
MultiVersus doesn’t spend much time attempting to explain its circumstances, which is fine. There honestly isn’t any expectation of that from the genre at this point, but the short intro cinematic paints an entertaining picture of how these characters would react to being unknowingly plucked from across the multiverse to face each other.
MultiVersus mostly sticks to the basics of the platform fighter genre, using percent gauges to display player damage, with higher percentages resulting in further knockback from attacks. Fighters all get four directional attacks — up, down, side, and neutral — as well as four directional specials, and all eight moves have aerial variants. There is no grab or block, so players can only rely on jumps and dodges to avoid damage. In the air you’re allowed two jumps, two directional dodges, and two specials before you’re out of options, making recovery easily manageable for pretty much any fighter.
Where MultiVersus attempts to set itself apart is with its focus on team fights. Every fighter has abilities and equippable perks that can grant buffs to a teammate, which enables lots of opportunities to synergize with a partner. Some special moves can even actively affect partners, like Wonder Woman’s ability to lasso an ally back to the stage. The depth makes the 2v2 game type the premiere mode for competition and the metagame. Additionally, items and stage hazards are fairly tame and there are no flashy screen-filling finishers, so full four-player matches rarely devolve into unreadable chaos.
The game overall is a lot slower than many others in the genre, which is one way it separates itself from the pack; however, I wouldn’t call it deliberate. Sluggish animations can lead to floaty combat, which may split players down preferential lines, but MultiVersus is fun nonetheless — and that’s thanks in large part to its selection of well-realized characters.
There is careful attention paid to the depiction of the cast. Not only are they brought to life with the participation of many official voice actors, but their fighting move sets often double as a means to express their personalities, like how Tom & Jerry essentially fight each other but damage opponents in the crossfire. Longtime fans of particular characters will find nods to their history in their move sets or voice lines, and the mid-fight voice lines where characters address each other directly is exactly the kind of fan service that makes a player giddy.
But there’s still much to be desired from its feature set and presentation. The game currently has no way to spectate custom matches and strangely won’t allow three players to start a fight without including an AI bot. Though it boasts rollback netcode, that hasn’t stopped some matches from being borderline unplayable thanks to laggy, teleporting characters. At present there’s a paltry number of stages, and despite also drawing from WB’s numerous IPs, many arenas are bland and don’t feel great to fight in. The music is largely disappointing as well, with a few exceptions, namely the Steven Universe theme. The new orchestral versions of familiar themes like “Come Along with Me” from Adventure Time or Batman: The Animated Series’ theme just fall short of their originals.
As a live-service game, there’s a chance these negatives may change. I’d personally hope that its current monetization system, which locks some really awesome cosmetics behind $20 of premium currency, is first on that list of changes, but I won’t hold my breath. At least there’s functional crossplay.
MultiVersus manages to carve a distinct section of the newly booming platform fighter genre out for itself using some of the biggest fictional names on the planet. The game’s lineup, consisting of cartoon royalty like Bugs Bunny appearing alongside contemporary favorites like Arya Stark from Game of Thrones, is quite telling of how deep WB’s bench can go and how weird the game is willing to get. Over time its roster could easily become a spectacle on par with what Nintendo’s mascot fighter has to offer, and if it can improve the fluff around its solid core, it could very well garner equal levels of hype.
MultiVersus is out now free to play on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X | S.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for MultiVersus.