After several years of working behind-the-scenes on the franchise, Square Enix finally lifted the veil off Marvel’s Avengers. The company initially revealed a trailer for the upcoming action/adventure title from Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics back at E3 2019 earlier this year.
There were some who felt mixed about it. Taking control of Earth’s greatest heroes seems to be a dream come true for some players, but there are others that have come up with complaints. For instance, the character models being somewhat unfamiliar compared with those from the Marvel Studios films. Keep in mind that the game property is different than the films, despite the similarity in tone. Then there’s the concern about the first pieces of gameplay, which make the action seem more straightforward and potentially limited.
However, the publisher wanted to answer these questions properly. During our recent trip to PAX West this past weekend, it invited us to go hands-on with the game for the very first time, following a gameplay showcase the week beforehand from Gamescom. Even though there wasn’t anything new present in the demo – it was the same opening level that was previously shown – it does feel like Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal have something special here. In fact, it might just go its own way when it comes to establishing a superhero hit for the teams, outside of what Insomniac Games has done with its Spider-Man property.
Avengers Day Is Cut Short
The game begins with the celebration of Avengers Day, with Tony Stark and company opening a new headquarters in San Francisco. However, it isn’t long before a terrorist attack takes place, with a mysterious benefactor looking to destroy the team with his well-armed soldiers. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Bruce Banner and Black Widow set out to stop them, by whatever means necessary.
It’s here that the game begins to rotate through each of the available characters, giving players a good idea of what they’re capable of doing in Marvel’s Avengers. Surprisingly, there’s a heaping amount of variance for an action/adventure game, instead of the usual tap-tap combo business.
It Must Be Thor’s Day
First up is Thor, complete with Mjolnir in hand. He comes crashing down onto the scene with a powerful lightning strike, as soldiers continue to be dumb enough to move in on him. It’s here that we learn about the combo system that Crystal Dynamics has implemented with the character into the game, as he’s capable of quite a bit.
For instance, he can use Mjolnir to smack a few folks around up close, and he can also break through barriers to get to other parts of the stage as needed, once he’s cleared the area of certain enemies.
The real treat here is being able to throw his hammer at foes from afar. It’s great being able to guide it just as Chris Hemsworth’s character has done in the movies. Not only are you able to hit someone as you hurl it towards them, but you can also do damage as it comes flying back. Sometimes it automatically recalls, so you’re able to continue delivering smooth combos at enemies that get close to you.
Let’s Build an Iron Man Suit
Next up is Iron Man. His gameplay segment starts pretty nicely, as he flies through the sky and shoots enemies that fly within his range with their own rocket packs. Taking them down is fairly easy, though you do have maneuvers where you can dodge incoming attacks should the need arise. This feels like a cool flight sim that puts the older Sega Iron Man game to shame, and that’s with just a few seconds of gameplay.
Once that’s done, Stark can land on the ground and deliver some punishing blows with his suit, mainly with lasers that he can fire at adversaries. For good measure, he can also fire a repulsor beam for several seconds, doing damage to tanks and other well-shielded foes with no problem whatsoever. It does need to charge, so don’t expect to use it all the time.
Overall, Stark’s got some great stuff with his toys here, and from the looks of it, you can unlock new abilities as well.
And as you might guess, Marvel’s Avengers indeed has a Hulk. Bruce Banner enters the scene as his usual calm self, but it isn’t long before Black Widow sends him flying onto the scene as the Golden Gate Bridge starts coming apart from attacks.
It’s here that he transforms into Hulk mid-air and lands on the ground. As adversaries get close to him, he can deliver a number of strikes that can make quick work of them, while taking the least amount of damage out of the characters included within the game. What’s more, he can also pick up enemies and slam them down in a number of innovative, and fun, ways.
There’s also some platforming with Hulk, though this can take some getting used to, mainly due to his size. He’s a big, lumbering guy, so it might take a bit to handle his jumping capabilities across limited platforms. Fortunately, they’re clearly marked to show where they begin or end, so you can proceed to the next section. You can land with precision with the help of his ground smash – which can also take out some unfortunate saps on the ground for good measure.
Hulk can also grab onto some sections of the stage to temporarily gain some leverage, and maybe even do a quick wall jump to another part. Again, it takes some practice, but it shows off his versatility, even for a big dude his size. It’s really cool to watch him play, and even kick some poor idiot that comes flying out of a tank that he just flipped on its head. T Thunderclap is included as a special “cinematic attack” of sorts, as you can clear the area of most foes once you utilize it.
Hulk is probably my second favorite of the bunch behind Thor…but don’t tell him I said that. I don’t need to get punched in the face.
Captain America Needs Your Help
We’ve all seen the gameplay footage by now that shows poor Captain America meeting his fate in the Helicarrier once it’s destroyed. However, before that, we get a great idea of the fighting style he possesses within the game, when he’s available for use.
First off, you can throw his shield, similarly to how Thor throws his hammer. It’s a great tool for taking down an opponent from afar or even messing up someone long enough to land a combo strike on them. His combat style is very cool, filled with all sorts of dynamic moves and suave acrobatics, just like his big-screen counterpart in a way. His shield is also handy for occasional defensive techniques, should his health need a little bit of saving. Overall, he’s a good character, but his opening segment was cut a bit short.
Don’t Mess With the Widow
Last but not least, we get a taste of what Black Widow can do. She uses stun batons and her firearms to take down enemies, along with her quick grab movements. These especially come in handy for the boss battle that takes place at the end of the level, where we’re introduced to Taskmaster.
The former colleague of Natalya pops up and introduces a “sonic bomb” that could easily tear the city apart. As the other Avengers try to keep the bridge from completely collapsing, Black Widow takes it upon herself to take on Taskmaster and stop him from detonating it.
At first, the segment is a quick-time event scene, in which Widow punches her foe in mid-air. Then it settles into a full-on brawl on the ground. She can counter and roll out of the way, and then hit back with her own techniques to throw him off. It’s a boss battle that does pretty well, to say the least, and hopefully sets the tone for other encounters with Marvel enemies later on in the adventure.
There’s one other great segment where Taskmaster comes flying in, forcing Natalya to do quick damage to him with each swoop before he lands on the ground to do one-on-one battle. She can also temporarily turn invisible, as she does in the demo, to throw him off. This adds a neat twist that we wish we had seen more of with other characters, and it’s a great way to tie up the demo overall.
A Smooth Flow, But Merely a Taste
There’s still some questions as to what’s coming with Marvel’s Avengers content following its release, but the opening demo seems to take on a whole new life once you actually take control of it. Sure, some questions could be asked about the character models, and what really happened to Captain America following the events that unfolded on Avengers Day. However, the game just feels naturally cool, giving each character a degree that we didn’t expect from a title on this level.
Thor probably relates closest to Kratos from God of War here, being able to kick opponent’s butts with majesty and grace, while still generating enough lighting and cool Mjolnir throws to barely break a sweat. I also have to give a nod to Hulk, who is just as enjoyable to play here as he was in his classic adventures, namely with The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction from the PlayStation 2 and GameCube days. Granted, the chaos doesn’t get that far out of hand, but you can feel the sheer joy of smashing and having a field day with it.
The other characters have their balance as well. Iron Man is an outstanding hero both on the ground and in the air, and it looks like the final game will offer more than enough opportunities to try both, across single player and multiplayer.
Black Widow is cool as a cucumber here, and her boss battle with Taskmaster shows that she shouldn’t be messed with. My fingers are crossed that we see other weapons introduced over the course of the game.
Again, though, I would’ve liked more Captain America. I can understand why his role was diminished, but something tells me we haven’t seen the last of him here. He’s an iconic character, and there’s something that Crystal Dynamics in store that’s likely to throw us for a loop. The co-developer did note that we could see new heroes enter the fray, and that leaves lots of room for either the Winter Soldier or the successor to the shield, the Falcon.
The Heroes We Need
For now, though, I feel a lot better about where Marvel’s Avengers is heading. The gameplay really has that click that fits in with the visuals that we got a taste of a little while back; and the content that the developers have in mind make this sound very promising.
Also, keep in mind that it took a while for Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man to build up as well. So there’s potential here for Marvel and Square Enix to strike gold again, this time with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
They’ve still got time to get it right, since the game doesn’t ship until May 15, 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Plenty of time to assure that it’s got the polish it needs to truly do these heroes…justice?Related: Marvel's Avengers, PC, Playstation 4, Preview, Square Enix, Xbox One