Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics, and Eidos Montreal unveiled their highly anticipated Marvel’s Avengers game at E3 this year, and the internet promptly freaked out about the character designs. We get it. Iron Man doesn’t look or sound like Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson isn’t the face of Black Widow, and neither Chris Evans nor Chris Hemsworth gave their faces to Steve Rogers or Thor. The only one who looks like himself is Hulk, because Hulk CGI hasn’t come so far since the Avengers movie hit in 2012.
In typical Bleeding Cool fashion, we’ve even had a bit of fun with the controversy ourselves.
However, not looking like the movies was an intentional decision on the part of Crystal Dynamics. The dev studio has been working on the Tomb Raider games for quite a few years now, and they’re ready to put their own stamp on the Avengers franchise with this game. They bill it as “the definitive Avengers game” and are blending both the comics and films into the game.
Which is why the character designs are familiar to fans of the films and the comics. The costumes for Black Widow and Bruce Banner look like they were pulled out of Avengers with only minor adjustments, while Captain America’s suit is a more rugged version of the Age of Ultron body armor. However, Thor’s costume is straight out of the classic comics, and Iron Man’s suit looks a bit like a hybrid of several different comic models. The character’s faces have naturally been blended to look, well, different than the film versions.
And that makes sense from an in-universe perspective. The Avengers aren’t supposed to be A-list celebrities with A-list movie star faces. So the more
Plus, it helps differentiate the game from the films and comics while still making those obvious callbacks.
Modeling their characters after both the comics and the films obviously has its advantages. They’ve got about 80 years of comic history to draw inspiration from, and a blockbuster film franchise all at their disposal. And they’ve decided to craft their own narrative within that. So having an obvious visual separation is, honestly, the best move they could have made.
It just wasn’t the one fans were expecting Marvel’s Avengers to make.
Attendees of E3 this year were able to actually see Marvel’s Avengers in-action during a hands-off demo presentation which showed off all six Avengers in the opening scenario that leads to the game’s central conflict. While the game still appears rough around the edges, there are definitely things in that early mission that should delight fans. The characters’ dialogue is rather tongue-in-cheek, especially from Iron Man and Thor. Black Widow gets a face-off against Taskmaster, which she uses to extract information and distract, in classic Natasha Romanoff fashion. Hulk flings himself around the map in proper rage monster fashion. And even Captain America gets his moment of heroic sacrifice.
The gameplay mechanics, however, are both the real treat of the game and the biggest problem. Every character, by virtue of being one of the iconic Avengers, has to play in a very different way.
Thor’s mechanics are, probably, the most fun to see in action. The God of Thunder is able to pin enemies in place using Mjolnir, can call in localized thunder storms, and can do an electrically charged version of the super hero landing. So he plays a lot like a typical MMO tank – takes big hits, slow to damage but hits hard, and has a lot of crowd control.
Iron Man’s combat is, essentially, a mixture of cooldown management on the unibeam and third-person-shooter mechanics for the repulsor blasts. He is, however, the most maneuverable of the group, naturally. So his combat plays a lot like a mech shooter with strafing, pinpoint targeting, and major abilities for some burst DPS.
Hulk is, well, exactly like you might expect. He moves slow, but hits brutally hard. He’s got some fun abilities for dealing with multiple enemies at once: picking them up and crashing them into each other or flinging them into each other. Honestly, Hulk’s gameplay reminds me a lot of Skyrim‘s werewolf. What really sets Hulk apart is his traversal ability to, essentially, hurl himself through obstacles.
Black Widow is the most diverse of the bunch. She’s got grapples, flashy jumps, dual guns, and even stun batons that attach to her Widow Bites. She also got to tackle the boss fight in the hands-off demo, so she absolutely stole the show. However, avoiding hits is absolutely the goal with Widow, as she’s a bit fragile. As you might expect of a super spy.
Captain America can fling his shield at multiple enemies, and even kick it away from himself in order to keep pinballing it through crowds. His hand-to-hand combat style is a lot more straight forward than Widow’s.
Even Taskmaster stood out, as he combines some of the combat skills of both Captain America and Thor. Which should be a treat comic fans who know all about Tasky’s photographic reflexes.
However, with each character needing to have vastly different combat mechanics, and more characters to be released shortly after the game launches next year…. that’s a lot of work on the dev team. And it’s a lot of work on a game that is very different from what they’re known for.
And when it comes to games, well. If you can nail the gameplay and avoid exploitative micro-transactions, players can forgive a lot.
It will be interesting to see if Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics, and Eidos can stick the Marvel’s Avengers landing as well as the MCU did with Endgame.
Marvel’s Avengers releases on May 15, 2020.