Since being unveiled at E3 2019, fans of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have been eagerly awaiting more information on the forthcoming Marvel’s Avengers from Square Enix. Though the initial reveal of the character designs became something of a meme on Twitter, fans have nonetheless stoked their excitement for the game. After getting my hands on the game at New York Comic Con, I can happily say the game exceeds my expectations and is worthy of fans’ excitement.
Like many, I was skeptical after seeing the game at E3- it’s a shock seeing anyone other than the onscreen Avengers portraying the characters in 2019. It doesn’t help that Square Enix’s take on the Marvel Universe is coming hot on the heels of Insomniac’s critically acclaimed Marvel’s Spider-Man, giving this new game incredibly large shoes to fill. Much like Insomniac put a new spin on the web-slinger’s story, Square Enix wants to create their own reimagining of Marvel’s beloved characters.
“This isn’t the game of the movies, or the tv shows, or the comics,” said Scott Amos, head of studio at Crystal Dynamics, a subsidiary of Square Enix. “This is literally looking at all 80 years of Marvel history and cherry-picking cool things we can pay homage to, but also inspire us to say ‘this is great, let’s do this our way.'”
By foregoing the idea of adapting a previously established Avengers story or placing the game in any existing continuity, Square Enix is able to create a completely fresh Avengers experience with an opportunity for new powers, new suits, and a new story. The story and looks of the characters may be different, but the game’s main protagonist will be familiar to anyone who has picked up a comic before- Advanced Ideas Mechanics.
Following the events of A-Day in which San Francisco is destroyed and the Avengers disband, AIM rises to prominence with an anti-hero, “science over superheroes” agenda. AIM has since populated the world with advanced robotics and sentries to keep the public safe, but, AIM being AIM, there’s a deeper conspiracy that begins to unravel. Through the course of the game, the Avengers will have to get the gang back together in order to confront AIM and restore justice to the world.
Aside from these minor story details, Square Enix didn’t divulge too much about the narrative. They did, however, give me and other members of the media a hands-on demo of the game’s tutorial level- the cinematic bridge sequence that was seen at E3- which gave us time with each of the Avengers available at launch.
Based on this 20-minute demo of the game, I am actually much more excited for this game than I was after it was first unveiled in June. Overall, the gameplay is diverse and challenging while still giving the player the general feeling of being a real superhero. Black Widow and the Hulk especially stick out as fun experiences.
Natasha Romanoff is an agile fighter who’s dual pistols giver her quick and lethal ranged attacks, making her a well rounded and exciting character. The Hulk is as destructive and cataclysmic as he should be, with the developers placing characters in the shoes of the Hulk, pointing them in a direction, and letting them wreak havoc. Rampaging through squads of henchmen as the Hulk is immensely satisfying, especially once you pick up a minuscule goon and throw them around like a weightless rag doll. I also really enjoyed the brief segment with Captain America, who presents characters with a classic brawler experience reminiscent of Batman: Arkham Asylum– though, the gameplay sequence with Captain America was not long enough for me to form a legitimate opinion just yet.
Thor and Iron Man, however, provide gameplay experiences that are unfortunately underwhelming. Thor’s attacks with Mjolnir don’t feel nearly powerful enough- rather than sending enemies flying with one strike of the mighty hammer, Thor’s attacks make it feel like he’s hitting his foes with a rubber mallet. I understand that he had to be powered down to a certain extent to make the game challenging, but in no way did I feel like a god while controlling Thor.
Iron Man’s gameplay is also sorely lacking in any sort of excitement. Playing as Iron Man transformed the game into a generic third-person shooter experience with little challenge and little variety. You simply hover above the battlefield, repeatedly mashing the right trigger until you can advance. Iron Man is not as agile or maneuverable as his movie or comic book counterpart might suggest, leaving me disappointed after my time with him. Despite the dissatisfaction from the Thor and Iron Man gameplay, the experiences provided by the other characters is so exciting that I still left the demo with an overall giddy feeling, stoked to see more of the game in the coming months.
The demo did feel quite linear and featured a fair amount of quicktime events, however, the rest of the game will not mirror this. “After this Golden Gate Bridge level is when the world really starts to open up,” said Amos. “We have much more expansive spaces, we move away from tutorials and quick-time events and really get into more choices and enemy difficulty. “
Following the Golden Gate Bridge tutorial, the game jumps five years into the future with the Avengers disbanded and AIM essentially in power. The player will then be tasked with slowly piecing the Avengers back together through various missions, broken up into two types- Hero Missions and Warzone Missions.
Players will launch these missions from their new base of operations, a broken down Helicarrier, using the Avengers “war table.” Though Hero Missions and Warzone Missions differ, each will move the narrative forward and provide the player with key unlockables to upgrade their Avengers- both cosmetic and otherwise.
Hero Missions are considered the main campaign missions and will have the most narrative impact. These missions will usually be tailored to one character- though many will feature multiple playable characters- and allow the player to truly unlock the full potential of each Avenger. “If it is Iron Man, for example, we’ll have a larger open area that we can really get a sense of flying and using your repulsors and your rockets and really exploring an open area,” said Amos.
Warzone Missions, on the other hand, allows the player to pick an Avenger of their choice and offers the opportunity for online co-op. While Warzone Missions will still feature narrative content, they’ll be more focused on exploration and combat in more open-world-esque settings. Warzone missions will push players to explore their environments where they’ll be able to find the best and rarest gear, depending on the difficulting of the mission. For those who play online, the difficulty of the enemies will be scaled to each player in order to provide everyone with the best experience.
A big focus of this game is giving players the ability to really customize the Avengers to their liking- hence the inclusion of specific gear and cosmetics. Throughout the game, players will collect new gear that will allow them to tailor their gameplay experience to their liking- the gear selection and the upgrade menus shown are very reminiscent of those found in God of War and seems to deliver on the promise of giving players a vast array of options for each Avenger. There will also be plenty of purely cosmetic suits for players to collect and equip- some completely original and others inspired by familiar looks from movies, shows, and comics.
Players will also be required to level up and customize their Avengers using a Marvel’s Spider-Man style skill tree. This skill tree, like the outfits and the gear, give the player a true sense of ownership of their Avengers. The in-depth customization options aim to give the player complete autonomy over their Avengers, allowing them to create a completely unique and personalized gameplay experience.
I was initially very skeptical of Marvel’s Avengers, but my time spent with the game has me feeling very optimistic about the final game. Sure, Thor and Iron Man still need some work, but the sheer amount of customization options promised, the diverse gameplay experiences, and the fresh take on an Avengers narrative should make players very excited about the opportunity to control Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Marvel’s Avengers drops on PlayStation 4, Xbox 1, Stadia, and PC on May 15, 2020. For all your NYCC news make sure to keep checking AiPT!