There have been many pretenders to Super Smash Bros’ crown, but very few have stuck the landing. MultiVersus, a live service-style interpretation of Nintendo’s flagship fighting mash up, is the latest adaptation, featuring characters from Warner Bros brands like DC Comics, Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo, and many more. It borders on the absolutely bizarre at times, and with a co-op focus to its main mode, we thought we’d tackle this review of the open beta as a twosome. Onwards!
Sammy: I guess we should start by saying that, while we’re reviewing MultiVersus as it exists right now, this is a live service game. That means that things are going to improve, expand, and adapt over time. I mean, LeBron James is getting added as an extra character today, and, full-disclosure, I haven’t tested him out yet. I can’t wait to dig in to his move set, though!
Stephen: Isn’t it mad how this game has LeBron James now?! I think we really need to talk about how utterly bizarre the roster is. Warner Bros obviously has a lot to draw from across a wide range of media, and that's represented well in the fighters so far. There are characters here dating back to the 1930s mingling with far more modern creations; seeing Tom & Jerry go toe-to-toe with Iron Giant, Steven Universe, and Game of Thrones' Arya Stark is odd, but definitely entertaining.
Sammy: Y’know, the thing that’s really impressed me is just how differently all of the characters play. So, one of my personal favourite comic book characters is Harley Quinn, so I mostly started out with her, and she skips around the stage joyfully using her mallet to deliver damage. But then I started to gravitate towards Superman, who’s a bit slower but has this move where he can catch enemies in the air and toss them out of the ring. It’s tough to execute, but when you successfully pull it off, it’s just so bad ass.
Stephen: You can tell each fighter has been made with care as their move sets really lean into who they are, as you say. Finn gathers coins as he smacks opponents with his sword, able to spend them on quick upgrades. Playing as Bugs Bunny allows you to briefly burrow beneath the ground and wield a variety of props and weapons. I also really like Wonder Woman who uses her shield and other abilities for more defensive moves. Overall I'd say the game is relatively well balanced and all the characters are fun to toy with, although Taz is currently a nightmare thanks to one seriously cheap, overpowered attack.
Sammy: Oh, I absolutely hate anyone who plays as Taz right now. But yeah, assuming they sort that out, it’s definitely got that Super Smash Bros thing where every single character feels completely unique. I’ve recently got into playing as Velma, for example, and there’s so much going on there. Basically, you launch projectiles from her megaphone, which will sometimes knock evidence out of your opponent. Once you’ve collected enough evidence, you can call the police, who’ll proceed to arrest the culprit and drive them off the stage! It’s so blissfully weird!
Stephen: What's also great is how each character has some way of helping their ally. The game's main mode is 2vs2, and this is built into the roster. I mentioned Wonder Woman before – she can dash to her teammate and give both players a protective shield, good for stopping the damage and knockback of the next hit. Another great example is Reindog (so far the game's only original character) who can tether themselves to their ally and reel them back in, letting the other player take bigger risks. Each character has a little something like this that emphasises co-op play. Perks expand on this as well – before a match you can equip these passive buffs, and they apply to your teammate, too. If you both pick the same Perk, its effects are increased, giving you something extra to think about when playing with a pal.
Sammy: It’s impressive how much depth there is to the gameplay, but I think it’s probably fair to say MultiVersus is quite barebones overall right now. As I said at the start of the review, it’s clearly going to be expanded on – there are even options in the main menu which are currently greyed out. That said, I think playing Free for All is really chaotic and fun as an alternative to the main mode, and I actually enjoy the 1vs1 option because it forces you to be a little more thoughtful with your moves – it’s much more like Street Fighter! It’s worth mentioning that you can play against bots, even in a co-op mode, which is a nice touch.
Stephen: It all feels pretty well polished, too. While the UI can be quite busy in the menus, I think generally the presentation is strong. The developer has done a great job of unifying the look of all the characters while keeping them recognisable. It's also pretty easy to read the battlefield with the default settings, though some might prefer to switch off things like outlines and team colours. The maps are hit and miss; some are just a little bland, but others are better, like Scooby's Haunted Mansion. In terms of audio, the soundscape is surprisingly clean; you can tell which hits connect, when you pull off successful dodges, and all that. The music isn't half bad, though we could go for more tunes brought in from the shows and movies present.
Sammy: I think we’ve got to mention the netcode as well, because that’s one of the big issues with Super Smash Bros, isn’t it? Like, playing online in that game is not good. But speaking personally, I can honestly say I’ve had no issues with lag in the 100 or so matches I’ve played. Like, not at all. Now your mileage may vary, of course, but hand-on-heart I can honestly say that every single match I’ve played has felt like local multiplayer. And, y’know, with the crossplay it takes about two or three seconds to find an opponent. To be fair, the wait is a little longer for modes like Free for All, but not by much. It’s really impressive stuff!
Stephen: I've had a very similar experience so far, which has made it really easy to play match after match. Speaking of which, progression is largely geared towards the Battle Pass. Completing rounds results in points that build the meter to the next tier, with each level rewarding you with cosmetics, in-game currency, and other bits and bobs. There are some great items to earn, especially on the Premium Battle Pass, but progression feels glacial at the moment. Daily and Seasonal missions give you a big boost when you meet their requirements, but in terms of general play, it'll take dozens, maybe hundreds of matches to max it out. Obviously this is the open beta, which features a pre-season Pass, so it's possible the economy will be retuned in the future. We hope so, because for now, progression feels very slow.
Sammy: I completely agree, and to be honest, I think the game will probably attract criticism for its monetisation – although it’s important to remember it is still ultimately a free game with pretty high production values. So, it looks like they’re going to rotate through a selection of free characters, and then you’ll need to unlock them with the Gold you earn. Right now, you earn this quite slowly, so the prices of between 1,500 Gold to 3,000 Gold per character does seem a little steep. You can, of course, use premium currency called Gleamium to unlock almost everything, and it’s more convenient to do so. I think some of the items, like different skins, are priced a little outrageously right now. We’ll need to see how this shakes out, though – to be honest, I think you’re probably best off putting a small amount of money into it, as it’s easier to earn Gold if you own a handful of different characters. But I get it – not everyone will want to do that. I think it’s possible to play the game without spending, and everything is balanced so there’s no pay-to-win, but yeah – I think ultimately you’re probably going to want to cough up a small amount to get started.
Stephen: Even with its shortcomings, though, I think MultiVersus enters the world in a pretty good place. There's a clear path forward for Player First Games, expanding the game with more characters, maps, and modes, and there's lots in the Warner Bros archives for the team to work with. We're still just at the beginning, but it feels like this is already popular enough that it'll have a long life. I think provided the studio can keep on top of balancing and ensure its economy is fair, the future seems bright. The fundamentals are strong, so now it just needs to prove it's worth sticking with for the long haul.
Sammy: I genuinely can’t wait for Harry Potter to be added!
Even in open beta, MultiVersus is a worthy competitor to Super Smash Bros. While it may not be able to quite match the scope and production values of Nintendo’s flagship platform fighter, its gameplay goes toe-to-toe with its incredibly established rival – and its excellent netcode completely outshines it. The most exciting thing is that this release is guaranteed to grow over time, and with the Warner Bros vaults practically bursting with iconic IP, this is one live service that looks to have a lot of life in it.