Since the reveal of Marvel’s Avengers, I have feared that it wasn’t going to meet my expectations. The character designs have some similarities to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, originally giving me thoughts that developer Crystal Dynamics did not have a real vision as to what they want the game to be. They said early on it is going to be a “games as a service,” but from what they showed to the public from E3 there isn’t anything there showing that kind of game in action. And then based on what we we did see, we were less than optimistic about it.
As I went into my PAX West appointment, I hoped that I would walk out optimistic about the title’s future; fortunately, I can happily say after getting my hands on Marvel’s Avengers, it is looking to be great.
During my hands-on time, I got to play the prologue, which you might have seen from previous events. Crystal Dynamics was very clear that this is a tutorial mission meant to set up the story and give a taste of how each Avenger plays. The missions that players will experience in the story after the prologue will focus solely on one of the five heroes. If you don’t already know, the prologue takes place during Avengers Day, a celebratory event for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, that is, until things go awry. An unknown explosion occurs at the Golden Gate Bridge causing the team to leap into action.
Each Avenger has the same kit including a light attack (square), heavy attack (triangle), evade (circle), and jump (cross). Where they differ is in their heroic abilities. There are three types of “heroics”; Support, Assault, and Ultimate. I didn’t have access to all the abilities for each character, but I did get a few of them to try out.
I began my playthrough as Thor, God of Thunder. Equipped with his trusty hammer Mjolnir I began bashing my way through enemies. The most iconic thing about Thor is that he can throw Mjolnir and recall it back to him. By holding down triangle Thor slammed the hammer on the ground shooting out lightning. This is known as a “Power Attack” which all characters have. After stunning an enemy, a prompt appeared above them allowing me to perform a takedown after pressing triangle and circle together. This move can knock out enemies immediately regardless of where their health is at. I don’t know if takedowns are only available to specific characters, but I only experienced them with Thor and Captain America. Hitting adversaries felt good and Mjolnir is fun to throw around. While pinning an enemy to a surface, I was still able to beat down on others with light attacks. When I pressed for heavy attack in the middle of a combo, Mjolnir would return to me as I continued. Thor was probably my favorite character to play as due to how flexible he is in combat. Unfortunately, I could not fly around in battle.
Iron Man is the only Avenger that I think can use some work. For the first half of his portion, I flew smoothly shooting at enemies using his repulsors, dodging explosions and…that’s about it. The flying wasn’t on rails so I was able to move freely. Once combating enemies, my experience became more enjoyable, but my main critique is that he felt too weak. His Assault Heroic is Unibeam, shooting a large laser out of his chest, which is cool, but even then it didn’t feel as powerful as it should have. Iron Man is still fun to play overall, but he was easily my least favorite out of the bunch.
Hulk is simple, yet satisfying — you just smash. Similar to holding down triangle, by holding square I executed Hulk’s “Special Attack” where he snatches up an enemy and can continue hitting others after. Once I had my fun I could just throw them away. Eventually, Hulk will be able to grab a baddie in each hand, which has me excited. Being the big green behemoth that he is, Hulk can hold on to walls to cross giant chasms. After jumping wall to wall I performed an air smash, driving him into the ground demolish threats around. Most importantly, it wouldn’t be the Incredible Hulk if you couldn’t Thunder Clap. As his Ultimate, Hulk claps his hands together causing a devastating shockwave.
Ok I lied, Captain America was actually my favorite Avenger to play as. What he lacks in design he makes up for in combat. Beating down bad guys is a fun time and throwing the shield feels satisfying. It was my favorite thing to use during my playtime. By using his Assualt ability Steamroller, Cap will throw his shield pinballing across numerous enemies. After being surrounded, I activated his Ultimate known as Brooklyn Brawl, an area of effect attack where he slams his shield down onto the ground. You could say that he is the most generic Avenger, but the shield is such a fun tool to use and punching enemies felt the best to me.
I finished the demo as Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow. While she does not possess any superhuman abilities, she is very fun to play. After the demo Crystal said that a big goal of theirs is to make Black Widow awesome and equal to the other heroes. From what I played, I think that shows. Widow begins by pursuing after the adversary behind the bridge explosion, Taskmaster as he tries to escape. This leads to her leaping off of edges eventually landing on top of the foe. During this altercation, I was exposed to a QTE that normally I’m okay with, but the ones presented were less than compelling.
Eventually, I was brought to a true boss fight against the villain. It consisted of three phases and did get consistently more difficult as it went on. Taskmaster can adapt to opponents fighting styles making him a difficult adversary to defeat. Each phase he became harder to hit showing his ability in action. As an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Black Widow is equipped with dual pistols that I always found myself going back to using. With light attacks, Widow will punch while during heavy attacks she will whip out her escrima sticks which felt incredibly good to use. As a whole, she feels well rounded and her movement is smooth as silk.
When combating enemies, a red icon will appear above their head when they are proceeding to attack. If they are not on your screen at the time instead there will be a red circle with an exclamation point in the direction that they’re attacking from. During the Taskmaster fight, a yellow icon would appear at times instead of red. By pressing R2 at the right time Widow used a grappling hook of sorts, taking down Taskmaster along with a chunk of his health bar.
Once I sat down for my presentation showing more about how Marvel’s Avengers is going to work as a “games as a service” is where my optimism began to kick in. Crystal was very transparent throughout. They admitted that they did not give enough information when it came to the reveal of the game and that the presentation I saw was meant to help fix that. Their goal for Avengers is authenticity and originality. Creating an original Avengers story where players can customize their team their way.
After the Avengers Day accident, our heroes go their separate ways and a new organization called A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) comes into power. A.I.M. believes that science is a better answer to the world’s problems than superheroes. Tony loses his tech and fortune. Widow goes back to spy work because she thinks that if she was with Cap, things would be different and he would still be alive. Hulk is conflicted about everything to the point where he won’t change back to Bruce. Thor finds himself unworthy of Mjolnir leaving it behind on Earth and returning to Asgard. Once the heroes recognize A.I.M. as a threat to the world, they decide to band back together and restore themselves as to what they once were.
Your base of operations is a decommissioned Helicarrier. I want to note that this is not a hub world — this is your base and your base alone. To start or view missions, players will approach the war table. While I did not see it for myself, the map begins at a global scale that eventually shrinks down into specific regions of the world and all the available missions in that area. There are two types of missions, Hero and Warzone. Hero missions are single-player missions that progress the story. As I said before, each mission will focus on one hero so players won’t have to worry about jumping between numerous characters. Warzone missions are the cooperative missions that expand the narrative but are not essential to the main story. If you plan on playing through the entirety of the game solo, don’t worry, you can still play Warzone missions by yourself. These missions will have a variety of different goals, but what all those are and how many there will be is yet to be seen. To unlock more missions, whether they be Hero or Warzone, you must complete story missions.
Originally I thought Crystal’s choice of making Warzone missions up to four players instead of five was odd with there being, you know, five Avengers, but the reason behind it makes sense. Once the game launches, the development team will release new heroes for players to enjoy. They would not say as to who those heroes would be, however, each new hero will come with new missions and it will all be free as long as you own the game.
When it comes to customizing each Avenger, there is a wide choice of options. By going through missions players will obtain gear increasing each hero and their “power” level. Gear will come with benefits, but the amount and quality of those benefits will depend on the rarity of the item. This isn’t the case with all gear, but there will be gear sets that will grant bigger bonuses once complete and equipped. There will also be cosmetics which will be exactly that so players do not have to worry about any sort of additional benefit for having them. Some will be obtainable from completing missions while others will only be available through purchasing them. This will be sure to upset some, but at least it isn’t a “pay-to-win” situation.
Another big feature of customization are the skills. I didn’t get an in-depth look, but more a screenshot of what to expect. The image was of Iron Man’s skill page where it was separated into four different categories; Primary, Specialty, Capability, and Utility. The skills shown were under the primary tab with four branches focusing on his melee, repulsor, laser, and rockets respectively. Nothing was confirmed at the time, but my assumption is that there will be four branches for each category making it sixteen in total, which is insane. Crystal gave examples as to how players can build their characters based on how they like to play such as having Thor be a source of crowd control or building him as a tank that’s meant to take all the damage.
After the presentation, my group was able to ask the developer some unanswered questions. What I learned is that Crystal is working on accessibility features, but no detail as to what specifically. It was cleared up that QTEs will not be a common occurrence, but used in situations meant to make the game feel cinematic.
I asked hypothetically if they wanted Spider-Man to be a new hero they could add with Insomniac Games having its own Spider-Man franchise. Unfortunately, the question was deflected by saying that they have access to over one hundred Marvel heroes that they could bring to the game. I’m sorry Spidey fans, I tried. Cross-play and cross-saves was another set of topics that were discussed, but there is nothing confirmed either way as of now. Additionally, I did learn there will be more information regarding co-op missions later this year.
Whether or not you like the direction Crystal Dynamics is going with Marvel’s Avengers having it be a “games as a service” title, it is shaping up to be the vision that they are striving for. Personally, I think a lot of the audience backlash is due to the lack of information shared with the public. Even though I was shown new things, the public hasn’t seen anything to hinder their reservations and hopefully, that will be remedied soon. I had the same fears, but after what I’ve seen, I think Marvel’s Avengers is on the right track. The only thing that worries me is the release date. I don’t know how old the build I played was, but visually, it looked rough. I just want Crystal to have no time constraints to make its launch a success.
Marvel’s Avengers is set to release on May 15, 2020, on PS4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and PC.
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