Square Enix recently released the footage they showed back at E3 2019 to the public. When I saw it at E3, and again after it was released, it looked pretty rough. Now that I have had the opportunity at PAX West 2019 to play the game hands-on and have some questions answered by the developers, I am much more interested in Marvel's Avengers than I was. The footage doesn't do that good of a job showing you what the game actually feels like, and it feels pretty great.
Marvel's Avengers Hands-On PreviewThe gameplay I had the chance to play is exactly what was shown in the released gameplay footage. It's A-Day and things go bad of course with the Golden Gate Bridge being attacked. This is the tutorial to the game and introduces you to each of the five Avengers: Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, and Captain America. Each play pretty differently of course and their movesets are a great reflection of their character. Rather than go through them one by one, know that throwing Cap's shield feels great, it was never boring to send enemies flying through the air with Thor's hammer, and picking up enemies to use their body as a weapon against others as Hulk was always satisfying.
I do want to talk a bit about Iron Man, however, as I think the released footage is the most egregious in misrepresenting how awesome to play he is. To be frank, the footage makes him look real boring. He flies around shooting enemies, and that's pretty much it. Nothing too creative was really shown off. Maybe they chose that to show off some of the ranged gameplay (something that all characters have to some extent in their arsenal) to break up the footage, but it made Iron Man seem pretty lame.
He is so not lame. Maybe it's because Iron Man is my personal favorite of the five, but punching enemies in the air and decimating them with a thruster-propelled fist to the face was ... pretty awesome. He is so quick around the battlefield, able to zip from one enemy to the next, creatively thrusting some sort of booster from his Iron Man suit depending on where he needed to be next. He wasn't simply just a dude punching guys in a metal suit, it felt like a dude that knew how to use his suit to its full potential. As you progress as Iron Man through the game, I hope the creativity and the use of the suit is put on display even more.
More than just the gameplay, which was very fun, the spectacle was something awesome to behold. In particular, there's a point you take control of Black Widow and have to fight Taskmaster. This is when almost everything has gone really bad and the other Avengers are running/flying around trying to keep the Golden Gate Bridge from falling apart. In the background there's also the helicarrier right above San Francisco. All of that combined transported you into the world in a wonderfully immersive way.
Duking it out with Taskmaster to see Iron Man fly by to go grab something, Thor's cape whipping in the wind has he grabs an errant cable, made for one of those awesome Avengers moments we all are looking for in the game. Seeing characters many have come to know and love working together, with you in the middle of it, was pretty great. Everything in the demo I played did a fantastic job of putting you in each Avengers' shoes, giving you their unique perspective and allowing you to participate in their contributions to the team. That moment fighting Taskmaster as Black Widow did a fantastic job of making it feel like a team of hereos, not just five really powerful people with the same goal.
In other words, it looks like the Avengers, it sounds like the Avengers, and it plays more or less like I hoped the Avengers would. However, there's some unanswered questions that still have me concerned.
A quick final thing to note is that this entry mission, the footage released, was made specifically for this cinematic feel, to create a big moment. In that, there are quite a few QTEs you'll see. We were told that those are not a big gameplay feature in Marvel's Avengers and were only so prominent in the prologue to create that epic feel and ease people into the game.
Marvel's Avengers Wants To Be Authentic But Also OriginalAside from being able to play the game, Crystal Dynamics Studio Head Scot Amos gave us a quick presentation and let us ask him some questions. Aside from combat, we learned a lot about the other different systems that will be in Marvel's Avengers.
Scot spent a lot of time talking about Marvel, obviously. They have now more than 80 years of Marvel history to draw from, which they definitely are drawing from. That can range from simply different costumes for you to collect, some of which Scot did confirm will only be purchasable on the marketplace, to trying to evoke the feel of a certain panel or panels from a particular comic. So those familiar with Marvel history should see a lot of nods to different moments throughout its long history.
With that said, Scot said they are telling an original story and have their own takes on the different characters. They obviously want Tony Stark to be familiar to us all, but they also want him to be something particular to their game Marvel's Avengers.
One interesting thing Scot mentioned was how great Marvel has been throughout the process. Crystal Dynamics has obviously been in constant contact with Marvel throughout the development, and Scot said Marvel has been incredibly supportive, but also pushing Crystal Dynamics down that road of originality.
What I mean by that is that they helped encourage Crystal Dynamics to push their story and unique take on the world and Marvel characters in the game. Scot was asked if there was a limitation on what they could and could not do in Marvel's Avangers, and he said it has been basically the opposite. Where they could have had some trepidation on doing something, Marvel would come back and tell them to do it more.
Sometimes they of course did something that might be outside of canon or Marvel's ideas, but Scot said nothing was ever a flat "no," from Marvel, but more them asking why Crystal Dynamics was trying to do something in particular in the story. Marvel would work through the idea with them, which Scot said was helpful to them in understanding what it was they were trying to accomplish at the start of that particular idea anyway. So it's not that Marvel said "no" to an idea, but they instead led Crystal Dynamics through an idea to either flesh it out more or to realize maybe it doesn't work as they were intending.
Marvel's Avengers is Mission BasedThere are two type of missions in Marvel's Avengers: Hero Missions and Warzone missions. The Hero missions focus in on one hero and are singleplayer. These are what you can consider the main campaign. Warzone missions are side missions that also tie into the main narrative, but are side stories. These can be singleplayer or co-op.
The Avengers are meant to protect the whole world right? So, that's how the missions are set up. We were shown a tabletop that displayed a map of the world where you then zoom in on the different areas. It's that zoomed in view of the different regions of the world where you find those missions.
Missions are where Scot did not share a ton of detail. He said there will be a deep dive into the co op and missions early next year, but knowing how this works is what will tell us how the game works. Like, how does matchmaking work? How does it work with different level characters? That sort of thing.
Not only that, as Scot says in this presentation, he talks about how Marvel is all about the stories. Spectacle and amazing visuals are cool and all, but they are not gripping without some character and story attached to it. How much of a main story is there to engage with? And just what is going to drive players to the other missions that aren't the main ones? Why will I want to jump in with friends? Learning more of those sorts of things will definitely inform people more on their interest. With the very public flop of Anthem, and Marvel's Avengers seeming to take a similar model, it's something worth knowing.
Heroes Have Custom Gear and Skill TreesOn a similar note, how the progression works will of course affect the game a lot. How much of a grind will there be? Well, in Marvel's Avengers each hero has their own set of unique gear. They don't all share the same sets of gear, like something very techy thing applies to Iron Man and nobody else. They have a bunch of different effects that when all put together give you a power level. Gearing looked a lot like Destiny. Of course, there's still a lot we don't know yet either.
Of course, there are skill trees for each hero as well. Going down them will let you tailor them to how you play. For example, do you want Iron Man to be sitting back some, shooting rockets, lasers, etc at enemies or up in their face? That sort of thing.
A concerning thing I noticed, but was not addressed, was that there were 10 different currencies to handle. They were displayed on the bottom of the character screen, and with so many different ones, it makes one wonder what they're all for. Will we need to grind different ones and have to juggle them all? We'll have to wait and see.
Marvel's Avengers releases May 15, 2020 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia.