When the Avengers Project was announced a few years ago in 2017, like any self respecting geek, I was nerding out. Add to that the fact that game is going to be developed by two of the most high caliber AAA game development studios to date Crystal Dynamics (Tomb Raider) and Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex Human Revolution) to published by published by Square Enix and you have a sure fire recipe for success. Or is it?
Two years down the line and with the little we’ve seen of Marvel’s Avengers: the undynamic character design, the middling combat and the segmented, stop/start action, we’re not exactly jazzed about how its shaping up. Let’s dive in shall we? See you in a minute.
The Gameplay is Bland
With the little gameplay we’ve see from Marvel’s Avengers, it looks really bland. A far cry from what’s expected from the team-up between, Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal. For starters, in the recently released gameplay trailer, the game hops through different Avengers each with their own individual sections. But something about it just feels a little bit off. The gameplay isn’t particularly bad it’s just not very interesting.
Thor can hover around calling lightning strikes and beating people up like your typical action brawler. He can also throw and call back his hammer Mjolnir ala God of War’s Leviathan Axe which seems pretty fun.
As Hulk, players can smash people effortlessly as they go flying hilariously into the distance when hit. His moves are brutal and devastating often taking out multiple enemies and bits of the environment with him. This was definitely a high spot in the demo. Hulk could also move through terrain jumping high up and wall-running through the debris in the level. This also looked pretty amazing but it seems as if the Hulk can only parkour across in preset segments marked with the very videogame-y colored markers which feels a little bit constraining.
Then comes Iron-Man and his on-the-rails bullet hell shooter segment which felt so dry and contrived. The action looked so slow and uninteresting. This was the definite low point for me. Even his combat segment barely got a rise out of me. Functioning like a over-the-shoulder thrid person shooter he’d use the old stand bys, the repulsors, missiles and Unibeam to blast foes which felt decent enough but nothing too crazy.
We then get a Captain America segment where good ol Steve Rogers defending the Chimera Helicarrier from a wave of foes. Here Cap can throw his Shield at folks, bouncing across multiple enemies before catching it again. He can use the Shield to block incoming projectiles and strikes as well as dodge roll out of the way. Aside from that, there’s not much to write home about.
From there we get a Black Widow segment in which goes against Taskmaster in the segment’s big boss fight. In the impressive looking Quick Time Event, she manages to hop onto Taskmaster’s Jet Pack and wrestles the villain to the ground while the other Avengers are shown doing damage control on the bridge. The fight with Taskmaster itself felt like it took a Souls/Bourne approach to the combat. Widow would dodge a majority of Taskmasters strikes, taking potshots with her guns then at the opportune moment move in with a flurry of her own, ending with her trademark Huracanrana-style throw.
Perhaps this illustrates what I find bland about Marvel’s Avengers, the gameplay feels so segmented and on-the-rails. Each Avenger has their moment in the sun to show off one or two gimmicks in a relatively limited scope and then it’s on to the next one. I think this goes against the very idea of the Avengers in the first place. The idea is that these mighty heroes are banding together to save the day. The fun is seeing them all interact with each other. In what we’ve seen from the game there’s barely any character interaction apart from quippy voicelines and cutscenes. There aren’t any sort of team up moves and the characters are seldom in a gameplay segment fighting together. I feel like that’s a huge miss. From a gameplay standpoint this is the main thing that fans want to see. If the final version of the game doesn’t have a lot of this then its missing the point completely.
Lack of Marvel Charm
In watching and listening to Marvel’s Avengers, there’s something quite off about the tone and feel of the characters. For starters, the character designs range from basic in Black Widow’s case to downright hideous and clunky in Captain America’s case. On top of all that the voice work and the writing of the characters feel like a relic of the past. They’re far from the lovable and charming characters from the ubiquitous Marvel Cinematic Universe that we’ve come to know and love. Perhaps their trying to differentiate themselves from the cinematic versions to come up with their own take but in doing so the’ve barely given us anything relatable or endearing about these characters. It just feels really dated, as if the developers were trying to present the most raw representations of the characters to a new audience. However in reality, these characters don’t need to be introduced. With the movies and the comicbooks, we’ve known these characters already, we’ve seen them fight their battles and the’ve all come so far in their journeys. No one who’s playing an Avengers game in 2019 is asking himself oh what’s Thor all about? They would know.
Perhaps they should take a cue from the stellar Spiderman PS4: Instead of getting bogged down reintroducing the character, show us a deeper side of these characters that we already know and love. Not just some hollow stereotype of what they are.
All That For A Drop Of Blood
To put my games enthusiast press hat on for a second, it’s very worrying that we’ve seen so little of this game despite it launching in the first quarter of 2019. Usually in these cases we’d have bunch of story trailers and gameplay reveals for us to see the shape of what the game is like but we don’t.
At the Square Enix press conference in this year’s E3, I think it was a big missed opportunity to show what the gameplay looked like. Excited fans had to make due with a flacid story trailer and then some behind the scenes interviews with the voice actors. E3 is the last and biggest high-profile gaming event in the US, where presumably most for your target market will come from in an Avengers videogame. I’t didn’t make sense to show so little of the game at the show.
Months roll by and we arrive at San Diego Comic Con, where I thought for sure they’d finally show us the game. An Avengers game at SDCC seemed like it would be a perfect fit. Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal did show gameplay but it was behind closed doors for only the exclusive members of the press. It eventually leaked of course but it still wasn’t very clear why they’re being so cagey about the game.
Finally we arrive at this year’s Gamescom where they finally reveal Avengers gameplay and it’s just a full version of the same gameplay reveal that was leaked just a few months ago.
For comparison’s sake, Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red’s follow up to The Witcher, also comes out right around the same time as Marvel’s Avengers and we’ve seen so much of that game. We’ve had story trailers, 45-min gameplay reveals, deep dive gameplays and even frickin’ Keanu on stage at the Xbox Presser at E3 this year. That is a game that’s ready for release.
All this makes it seem like The Avengers is in less than stellar shape. It doesn’t look ready, at least with what we’ve seen so far. The way I see it, it looks like one of two things is gonna happen in the near future: Either its gonna come out half baked or it gets delayed. There’s no shame in that however if it means we get the top quality that the game is supposed to be in. The legendary Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario once said, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”