MultiVersus review: Cartoon carnage

The Warner Bros. platform fighter is good fun, even if it still feels half-baked.

WB Games

MultiVersus made an incredible first impression when its beta began in 2022. Roughly a year after that, developer Player First Games surprised fans by announcing the game would go offline until 2024 while it prepared its 1.0 version. Two years after we first played it, MultiVersus is finally out, and while it’s still quite an enjoyable platform fighter, there are some head-scratching issues at launch.

Super Smash Warner Bros.

Jason raising his foot to stomp on Morty.

Source: WB Games

MultiVersus is a platform fighter, meaning that characters are eliminated by being knocked off stage instead of depleting a health bar. They accumulate damage after being attacked, which makes it easier to send them flying to their demise. If you’ve played any of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. games, it’s that, but with Warner Bros. IP. Batman, Bugs Bunny, Shaggy, and even LeBron James are featured in the game’s base roster.

It’s no contest that MultiVersus is one of the best attempts to create competition in the platform fighting genre to date. Combat has a real sense of weight and gravity that so many other platform fighters fail to achieve. Each character is thoughtfully designed with a diverse move set and several nods to their source material. Seeing Jason trap enemies in a folding bed in an homage to Freddy vs Jason is simply chef’s kiss.

MultiVersus even pulls in the original voice actors for the majority of its characters. I still can’t believe Maisie Williams got into a VO booth and reprised her role as Arya Stark to say things like “The stretchy dog will make a fine trophy” and “Zoinks, indeed,” but it’s awesome. It lends a real sense of authenticity to the multiverse of it all.

MultiVersus’ perk system is one of the key features that set it apart from other genre entries. These provide statistical boosts for you and/or your ally with each character having a handful of signature perks that are unique to them and affect their moveset. For example, I like using a perk that adds a knockback to Wonder Woman’s lasso attack. Several perks have been removed, added, and tweaked from the beta, and I still see them as an excellent way to add depth to strategy for competitive players.

A pie to the face

Black Adam blasting Superman and Garnet off the stage.

Source: WB Games

As I spent more time with MultiVersus post-launch, minor, frustrating issues would pop up. There are server issues—an unfortunate but expected reality for new live-service games—that frequently kicked me back to the log-in screen, stalled the victory/defeat screens, and negated my progress in Rifts mode. These issues were largely menu-related and didn’t impact my enjoyment of the actual fighting; and then I loaded the game up on Xbox.

The Xbox version of MultiVersus launched in an incredibly rough state. There are constant lags, hitches, and dropped frames, all issues that I likely would have attributed to my own internet connection hadn’t four of my friends shared the same experience. It’s something that the developer has already acknowledged, but it sucks that the game is actively fighting against you as you try to enjoy it on a popular console. It especially stings given that the game’s rock-solid connection and netcode were among the main speaking points when MultiVersus was re-revealed.

Even looking at the smaller issues, several features from MultiVersus’ beta aren’t present in the full release. This includes player stats at the end of a match, the ability to swap side and neutral attacks, and toggling team colors. Game Director Tony Huynh attributes these missing features to the studio having to essentially rebuild the game in Unreal Engine 5. It’s a completely fair explanation, but doesn’t remove the feeling that we’re still playing an unfinished product after having it taken away for a year.

The currency system in MultiVersus has also received an overhaul, doing away with gold and settling on four different currencies: Perk, Fighter, Prestige, and Gleamium. Each has its own uses, with the first two being self-explanatory. Prestige and Gleamium are used to acquire cosmetics items, with the former only obtainable by acquiring other cosmetics. I’m not a fan of that system, but it’s mostly harmless if you don’t care about owning all the coolest skins.

Multiverse of Madness

Superman and Iron Giant standing six feet apart.

Source: WB Games

Earlier I mentioned Rifts, a brand-new PvE mode that offers a new way to play MultiVersus. Rifts feature unique themes and a series of NPC battles with unvoiced dialogue between them. Some battles have modifiers that’ll amplify the ability of you or your opponent. There are also optional objectives (ex. win as a villain, play as a DC character, etc.) that’ll net you additional rewards after the fight. You can play through Rifts alone or with a friend.

MultiVersus desperately needed something like Rifts: a dense PvE mode that players can retreat to when online battles are frustrating or they just want a slightly less sweaty experience. Of course, playing Rifts on a high difficulty level brings some challenging battles, but I digress. It’s fun, and while I typically skipped the brief written dialogue between stages, I enjoyed plotting my course through a Rift and snagging the exclusive cosmetics that came with it.

While Rifts are mostly feature fights, there are minigame stages where you’re tasked with… not fighting. Instead, you’ll control a cannon and shoot flying targets or pop balloons for eighty seconds. It’s trivial filler content that’s clearly there to serve as a cooldown after the harder fights but just feels wildly out of place in a game like this.

Back in action

Batman landing in front of Shaggy and Velma.

Source: WB Games

As someone who was quite high on MultiVersus after playing its Closed Alpha in 2022, I was hoping that its 1.0 release would deliver a polished platform fighter that fully realized its sky-high potential. While it still leaves several features and fixes to be desired, I can’t deny that the game is still deeply fun at its core. Now, it becomes a matter of whether or not MultiVersus will be able to achieve its full potential in an increasingly harsh landscape for live-service games.

This review is based on the PC and Xbox Series X versions of MultiVersus. MultiVersus is available now on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, and PS5.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Review for
  • Tight, engaging gameplay
  • Exceptional character design and detail
  • Rifts are a great PvE option
  • Full crossplay and cross-progression
  • Missing features from the beta
  • Server issues
  • Xbox version is hardly playable
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