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MultiVersus hands-on review: The Smash Bros. killer

With this Warner Bros. fighting game leaving closed beta, it's time to enter the MultiVersus of madness

Multiversus hands-on review
(Image: © WB Games)

Early Verdict

MultiVersus lives up to its promise of delivering battles between iconic Warner Bros. characters. It has a solid foundation that could make it a competitor to Nintendo’s Smash Bros.

Pros

  • +

    Diverse roster of Warner Bros. characters

  • +

    Simple but deep fighting mechanics

  • +

    Inviting art style

Cons

  • -

    Minimal amount of game modes

MultiVersus: Specs

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5 (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Price: Free
Release Date: July 26, 2022
Genre: Fighting

The MultiVersus fighting game has left its closed beta and is now available for free to everyone who owns a gaming console or PC. I’ve participated in the previous closed betas and found that MultiVersus delivers on its promise of pitting Warner Bros. characters against one another. But beyond the novelty of seeing Batman fighting LeBron James or Arya Stark facing Scooby Doo, we get a fairly competent party brawler that’s deeper than you’d expect. There’s a lot for fans of the genre to like.

Since MultiVersus is still technically in a beta phase, this isn’t a formal review. Instead, consider this an overview of the game as it currently stands and what you can expect to see if you decide to download MultiVersus.

If you’re looking for the next Super Smash Bros., MultiVersus might be for you. However, if you’re into fighting games like Street Fighter 6 or Mortal Kombat 11, then you may want to look elsewhere. Read on to find out more. 

MultiVersus hands-on review: Gameplay 

At its core, MultiVersus is a 2-vs-2 party brawler in the vein of Super Smash Bros., Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl or PlayStation All-Stars. Instead of draining your opponent’s health to zero as you would in a traditional fighting game, you must instead knock them beyond the screen’s boundaries. Characters who’ve sustained many hits are easier to knock off the platform.

If you’re used to classic fighters, this path to victory can take some getting used to. It certainly took me a few minutes to acclimate. But the rules are fairly simple, which is no doubt why Smash Bros. is so successful. In this instance, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it definitely applies.

There are only two attack types: Normal and Special. However, pressing a direction along with an attack changes what happens. For example, Shaggy’s neutral attack is a simple punch, but pressing down plus attack makes him pull a sandwich from the ground (which he can then throw). There is also a dedicated dodge button.

As you progress, you’ll automatically unlock different perks. Signature perks are character-specific while ally perks are for one’s team. Perks can reduce cooldown times for special attacks or can be unique attacks for a character. Based on my time with MultiVersus, perks don’t seem to dramatically change how characters play. But this could change in the future. 

I almost never enable perks since the standard move set works well enough. But I’m sure seasoned players will make effective use of perks.

Despite the simple control scheme, there’s a great deal of depth to MultiVersus. This is why it’s a good idea to hop into MultiVersus’ training room to practice your moves and combos. You can program the AI you’re sparring against to perform specific moves or simply have it fight you normally. You’ll definitely want to sharpen your skills before going online.

MultiVersus hands-on review: Multiplayer 

Presently, MultiVersus only offers three multiplayer modes. I emphasize multiplayer since there is no single-player or story mode to speak of. But since this is technically a beta, I suppose the developers wanted to keep things focused.

The aforementioned 2-vs-2 battles are the core of MultiVersus. You and another player team up against another pair of fighters and duke it out in locations like the Batcave and Scooby’s Haunted Mansion. Most characters have abilities meant to aid an ally. For instance, Wonder Woman can use her golden lasso to pull a teammate back into the arena while Bugs Bunny can dig a hole for his team to hide in. You can either fight alongside a random player or with someone on your friend’s list.

MultiVersus

(Image credit: WB Games)

Since this title is focused heavily on 2-vs-2 matches, you and a friend would do well to jump into the Co-op vs AI mode to coordinate and perfect moves you plan to use against real players. Practicing on your own is good, but it’s best to do so with someone you plan to regularly pair with.

If 2-vs-2 battles are too chaotic, you can select 1-vs-1 matches. Conversely, you can jump into 4-player free-for-all matches where there can only be a single winner. I prefer the regular 2-on-2 battles since MultiVersus feels more balanced that way. But those other modes exist if you want them. I’m sure there are plenty of folks who would prefer the insanity of 4-player battles.

MultiVersus hands-on review: Free-to-play 

MultiVersus is a free-to-play live service game. That may turn you off — considering how exploitive titles like Diablo Immortal have been, it’s understandable to find this aspect of MultiVersus off-putting. While you can certainly spend real-world money on this title, I can assure you it’s not as egregious as you may think.

You earn in-game coins simply by playing. You can then use these coins to unlock characters, stages and character skins. There is a premium currency called Gleamium that you only earn by paying real-world money. Presently, you can only buy emotes, costumes and ring-out animations with Gleamium. Considering how none of these impact the actual gameplay, this aspect isn’t terrible. There’s a battle pass but you can ignore it if you want.

For the moment, MultiVersus’ live service aspects remain relatively benign. So long as it doesn’t begin exploiting its player base, that will put it ahead of other free-to-play titles.

MultiVersus hands-on review: Graphics and sound 

MultiVersus has an art style akin to Fortnite. Animations are appropriately cartoon-ish and do a nice job of displaying the characters’ personalities. Backgrounds also have personality, ranging from the bright and vibrant Sky Arena to the dark and moody Batcave. Though I wouldn’t call the art style distinctive, it certainly looks inviting for a broad range of players, which I’m sure was the goal.

MultiVersus

(Image credit: WB Games)

The bombastic sound effects compliment the chaos happening on the screen. If you close your eyes, you’d swear you were hearing a Saturday morning cartoon. Though the sound of combat isn’t particularly brutal, each attack feels impactful and weighty. 

I didn’t notice the music most of the time, but the little that caught my ear sounded decent enough. Overall, MultiVersus’ presentation serves it well.

MultiVersus hands-on review: Outlook 

As someone who doesn’t care much for party brawlers, I think MultiVersus is a solid game with a good foundation. Its strong lineup of iconic characters and simple-to-learn but difficult-to-master gameplay has already made it popular on streaming platforms like Twitch. So long as the developers keep the microtransactions in check, MultiVersus could have lasting power. It’s also possible it could be a genuine rival to Smash Bros.

MultiVersus is available now on PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4 and PC. 

Tony Polanco
Tony Polanco

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.