Is it a loot-based game? Maybe an RPG? All super-hero action? Is there an endgame gameplay loop? We’ve heard plenty of hints about Marvel’s Avengers, but so far we haven’t seen anything substantial enough to answer this question. The reveal at Square Enix’s press conference showed off the characters for the first time and teased an epic story that takes place five years after a terrorist attack wipes out San Francisco and supposedly kills Captain America. Voiced by an all-star cast of video game talent, we got a look at Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hulk, but details on the actual gameplay remained pretty scarce following the show.
When I walked into Square Enix’s booth at E3, I was expecting to finally get those answers. Instead, we were run through what I can only assume is the intro mission of the game, in the moments before the unstable terrigen crystal powering the new West Coast Avengers HQ wipes out the city. We know that Marvel’s Avengers won’t be completely open-world, but the segment we were shown felt very narrow and on rails.
Starting out as Thor, we get a good sense for just how differently each of the heroes plays. There isn’t a whole lot of copy/pasting between the heroes, and the line about building a growing roster of heroes makes a little more sense given each of their unique traits. Thor reminded me a lot of Kratos, tossing his hammer at enemies and recalling it at will while he threw down some hard-hitting attacks. He is a god after all. Thor can also control the weather, and we saw this with a massive lightning storm as well as a bunch of mini cyclones that lifted enemies into the air. For a brief moment, Iron Man shows up to fight alongside Thor, before a scripted gameplay moments whisks us off into flight combat.
A lot of Tony Stark’s attacks are done while he’s flying, whether that’s the on-rails flight segment as Iron Man pushed forward along the bridge, or the stationary encounters where he’s hovering while doing battle. One of his big ultimate attacks is his chest beam, which satisfyingly devastated wherever it hit. After another couple of cutscenes, we swapped to Hulk, who likes to smash things. His attacks and movement betray his enormous nature, including running leaps and bashing enemies’ skulls together in a near sickening fashion. It was right here that I thought about how many people The Avengers were killing, because there’s no way these attacks leave many alive.
Marvels Avengers A-Day E3 2019 Preview – But isn’t Cap Dead?
Next up, we get the opportunity to play as Captain America, which makes me wonder why his death is being pushed as a major plot point? Why would they bother creating unique combat mechanics and hiring a big voice actor just to kill him off early on? Again, I think some of this will play into the wider game that takes place beyond the campaign, and I think it’s part of the reason we haven’t seen many details on it yet. Cap has a lot of really cool moves with his shield, tossing it around the room, bouncing it off of enemies, and one really stylish attack where he puts his shield up against an enemy and punches the back of the shield with an enormous clang.
Finally we catch wind of a villain, Taskmaster, and control switches to Black Widow for the fight. She uses a lot of acrobatic tricks and a pair of pistols to weaken her foes. Finally she concludes the fight by switching into stealth and giving him a beat down. It’s clear from their conversation during the battle that Taskmaster is not the final villain. He’s little more than a grunt that was used as a distraction while the real enemy destabilized the terrigen.
San Francisco collapses. Cap is presumed dead. And The Avengers are blamed for the tragedy, which is having a huge impact on the team five years later. Here we got to see a little bit of extra footage, which showed off what appeared to be some awesome hero customizations and different locations. One quick scene featured a white and gold Iron Man in space, crashing through satellites. Another one showed what seemed to be four players together in a snowy environment.
They quickly told us that there would be plenty to do after the main campaign was complete, as you grow your roster of heroes and defend the earth from ongoing threats. But again, we have absolutely no idea what this will look like in practice. Will there be a loop to grind? Can we level up and customize our characters beyond appearance? Those are the questions on everyone’s mind right now.
Marvel’s Avengers seems to be going through a bit of an identity crisis right now. What we’ve seen most heavily, in the reveal and follow-up gameplay, highlights a linear, scripted, cinematic-based experience that is really at odds with the wider co-op and ongoing updates that the developers keep trying to pitch. I would have provided more actual gameplay to the public during the reveal, and then used the meetings to go more in depth on what exactly Marvel’s Avengers is. For me, this remains my dark horse, a game that can’t edge out my top 5 list, but that I’m still paying attention to anyway.