E3 2019 Preview | Marvel’s Avengers
We’ve been waiting for the reveal of the Square Enix Avengers Project for quite some time. First announced in 2017, news went radio silent until just recently. Now, revealed for the first time at E3 2019, the Avengers Project is now Marvel’s Avengers. While fans didn’t get to see much gameplay during that reveal, Square Enix gave closed-door demos at E3 2019. We had a chance to check out one of those demos and honestly, it’s a little rough. That isn’t to say that it can’t be salvaged, but there’s a lot to take in for this big project. Please be aware that official screenshots were not made available for the game. Screenshots used here are shots from the initial trailer.
Developed by a large team of talent, including Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, Nixxes Software, and Crystal Northwest, the game definitely has an ambitious scope. The game is meant to be enjoyed both single player or with online mutliplayer. The development team was very clear that despite the game being constantly updated, there would be no loot boxes or pay-to-win mechanics. New characters will also be added free of charge. While this is certainly admirable and appreciated, that doesn’t mean the game had a stellar first impression.
The demo starts in the beginning of the story. It’s A-Day in San Francisco, and the Avengers are invited to attend the ceremony. Trouble suddenly strikes on the Golden Gate Bridge and the Avengers act quickly. This area acts as a sort of tutorial stage, allowing players to experience each of the five core members of the team. This includes Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and Black Widow. Each Avenger has a unique skill set, and their gameplay makes that very clear.
Starting out with Thor, he makes a thunderous entrance onto the scene. Enemies with riot gear and guns will be there to greet the God of Thunder with plenty of firepower. Thor seems to be the one that needs the most work in the performance department. Perhaps it’s because of all the lightning abilities, but Thor’s combat seems to have issues maintaining stability. There are clipping issues as well, both with Thor and the enemies. The game is still in development, so this is likely going to be ironed out in the future.
Despite the performance issues, Thor does offer interesting gameplay options. He can use his hammer Mjolnir to brutally attack foes, and when I say brutal, I mean BRUTAL. Marvel’s Avengers may not be a bloody game, but some of the attacks the heroes can perform are pretty ruthless. Thor can throw his hammer at enemies and send them flying into the distance until he calls it back. He can pin enemies against environments with the hammer and fight hand to hand as well. Eventually, fighting will give Thor access to a special shockwave attack that damages several enemies at once. Each Avenger has an attack like this, and it seems to require a bit of build up to execute.
After finishing several foes, Thor will have to rescue a civilian under a vehicle. This reveals that there are quick time events, showing that the player had to mash a button to save the civilian. After a bit more fighting, Iron Man joins the fray and starts helping out, only for controls to shift to him shortly after. Iron Man seems to have a unique gameplay segment where he will fly in a path, and in this case, he was following enemies using jetpacks toward the Golden Gate Bridge, shooting repulsor blasts at them as more appear in their place. Upon landing, Iron Man gets to utilize his own unique skill set as well.
Iron Man performs a bit better than Thor, and his skills offer a bit more refinement as well. He can aim his blasts or missiles, even capable of targeting multiple enemies at once. It’s worth mentioning that each hero has a sort of aiming mechanic, Thor even able to aim lightning blasts. Iron Man can also fly in combat, allowing him to battle airborne enemies on their level. Some enemies have weapons that can track, so players will have to utilize defensive maneuvers to keep from getting hurt. As the fighting continues, the big guy gets called in, as Bruce Banner jumps from a quinjet and changes into the Incredible Hulk.
The transformation for Hulk was presented much better than the trailer, showing a bit more of a transition before he lands. Hulk has a lot of brutish attacks, allowing him to smash, bash, and crash into his foes. He can jump in the air and slam down into the ground for an area of effect attack. He can jump across chasms and temporarily cling to walls and jump from them as well. Like Thor, Hulk doesn’t play around, slamming enemies into the ground like he did with Loki in the first Avengers film. He can also pick up pieces of the ground and not only throw it, but swing it as a weapon as well. Perhaps the coolest Hulk attack was when he picked up two enemies and slammed them both together with a powerful clap.
After Hulk brings the pain, Black Widow is heard speaking to Captain America. Cap decides to go solo on a helicarrier while Black Widow comes down to assist the other Avengers. Shortly after, the villain of this disaster is finally revealed. Taskmaster, real name Anthony Masters, shows up, hellbent on stealing some tech. The action soon shifts over to the helicarrier where Captain America is. Coming under fire, Cap has to use his shield and super soldier strength to take on oncoming enemies.
Watching Captain America fight, he seems to have the most stable and fun looking gameplay. His shield can be used to attack multiple enemies, seeming to automatically move to his foes before returning to him. Despite this, he can also aim the shield, which is useful for enemies that have special equipment like riot shields. Even Cap gets into the brutality by delivering powerful finishing blows, one of which had him bring the edge of his shield down into an enemy lying on the ground. His super ability allows him to unleash an area of effect attack by slamming his shield into the ground.
Finally, we head back to Black Widow, who takes on Taskmaster herself. Like Captain America, her combat is pretty stable. A unique trait for the ex-assassin is the use of her dual pistols. Able to aim at her foes, she can shoot multiple bullets to whittle away at her enemies life. She can go pretty toe-to-toe with Taskmaster, though he will still put up quite a fight. Luckily, Black Widow has some great evasive maneuvers. Back flips to escape quickly, side dodges, ducking, she’s clearly the nimblest fighter. As Taskmaster tries to get to a change of scenery, Black Widow must jump on his jetpack and fight him in the air with some more quick time events.
When finishing the jetpack fight, Taskmaster takes on Black Widow one more time. After a few blows get exchanged, Black Widow reveals her super ability, invisibility. Going invisible, Taskmaster can’t see the spy, and her attacks come out of nowhere for him. After a few attacks, Taskmaster finally went down, and the story continued. The helicarrier that Captain America was on seemingly blows up, and the Avengers are blamed for failure. While it may not seem like Captain America would be gone for good, the story does jump five years in the future. How the story plays from there, only time will tell.
The game is given an all-star cast of veteran game voice actors. Tony Stark, or Iron Man, is voiced by Nolan North, known for the Uncharted series and many other roles. Travis Willingham, known for roles in Batman: The Telltale Series and Street Fighter, reprises his role as Thor. Willingham’s wife, Laura Bailey, also known for Street Fighter, Batman, and Uncharted, also reprises her role as Black Widow. Troy Baker, known for roles in The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite, plays Bruce Banner. Finally, Jeff Schine, known for his role as Javier in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, is Captain America. A solid cast, though it’s interesting that only some voices return from the current animated Avengers series.
Overall, Marvel’s Avengers has a lot of potential. If the teams behind it can fix the issues, the game could easily be a smash hit. One thing that might help is to make the camera less shaky. Most of the combat involved a very shaky camera and it made it tough to watch sometimes. A bit of optimization, especially with Thor, would also help make this game improve leaps and bounds. It’s a solid foundation of ideas, so the team just needs to see what works and what doesn’t work. They have time before the release on May 15th, 2020, so hopefully they use it. Marvel’s Avengers will release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia.