MultiVersus preview - Down with the Clown in Townsville

MultiVersus preview - Down with the Clown in Townsville
Images via Player First Games

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes


23rd May 2024 14:18

I really enjoyed MultiVersus when it debuted in 2022. Maybe it's my love for that batsh*t combination of DC superheroes, Looney Tunes, Game of Thrones and, uh, LeBron James that only Warner Bros. can offer.

Maybe it was my need for something to nudge Nintendo into giving Smash Bros. another entry. Or maybe, it's just the fact that it was a damn fine platform fighter that I found myself sinking plenty of time into.

Sure, MultiVersus wasn't perfect (my biggest issue was the netcode, and sadly I've not tried the new version of live servers yet), but I definitely felt a little sad when it went away. Now, it's finally back, and with new characters, a new engine, and even a single-player mode, no less. Does it recapture that early magic? You betcha.

Rift in time

The new MultiVersus is easily distinguishable from the former right off the batarang. While last time we had a series of tutorial fights, this time around we're playing as Shaggy and paired with Batman to do some rudimentary platforming and tackle Marvin The Martian.

It's as good a way as any to set out the stall of the single-player mode, and while it gives off elements of Subspace Emissary from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it's actually closer in execution to World of Light from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

That's because you'll take part in themed battles and challenges called Rifts, earning yourself gems for your trouble that you can use in subsequent encounters. It remains to be seen just how much you can break the game with them, but with status effects and more to be added to your character, including Attack, Defense, and Utility gems, there's the potential for a lot of flexibility.

The earliest Rift I got to work through was DC-themed, as Joker (a new roster addition) recruits baddies while you hunt him down from stage to stage. Given how, last time around, the main PvE component was playing standard battles ad nauseam, I think borrowing liberally from the genre's finest to craft a campaign where developer Player First Games can bolt on constant new Rifts and challenges is a smart move.

Mutators also add a fun wrinkle to things, with variables like infinite flight, as well as minigames like volleyball or matching cards to progress. Honestly, it's the kind of mode I can see myself powering on my Steam Deck every evening just to work through a few of the challenges, and that's pretty exciting.

Send in the Clowns

MultiVersus Joker intro
Click to enlarge

Whether you're in it for PvP or PvE, MultiVersus' characters are still the stars of the show. While I didn't get to check out Jason Vorhees or Agent Smith, their character models offer the same plasticine-like art style that makes the main cast look so good.

Speaking of the cast, Season 1's headline character, Joker, is voiced by Mark Hamill, and he's just perfect as always. It makes Mr. J's tête-à-têtes with the dearly departed Kevin Conroy's Batman all the more special.

He's also great fun to play as, with a variety of weaponry, including a bazooka that can dish out huge damage and send opponents flying and a downward-facing attack with a pogo stick that feels so good when you hit it that you'll wish you could bottle that feeling like shark-repellent bat spray. As we covered before, it's a playstyle built on chaos in a game built for just that.

MultiVersus Joker with a rocket launcher
Click to enlarge

While Joker is great, all of the old favourites are here but a little bit different. That's thanks to a shift to a new engine, Unreal Engine 5. If there was one complaint I had about the initial release that wasn't netcode-related, it was that everything was too busy on screen.

Improved character lighting and subtle changes to proportions make the game much more readable in the moment-to-moment gameplay, while characters have gained new moves, too. It's been a fair while since I tried the first version (I refuse to call it an Open Beta when we could spend money on it), but old favourites like Bugs Bunny's helicopter ears and missile launch feel just as good as they did back then.

Final Thoughts

While it's still a shame MultiVersus had to go away for so long, I am thrilled to have it back. Between new characters, a fun PvE mode that feels perfect for honing skills, and some of the best platform-fighting this side of Smash Bros, I'm so excited for it to return on May 28.

Previewed on PC. Preview access provided by the publisher.

Lloyd Coombes
About the author
Lloyd Coombes
Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.