Marvel’s Avengers gameplay reaction: Cautiously optimistic but not ready to assemble

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After months of speculation since it was first revealed, gameplay from Marvel’s Avengers game has finally been revealed to the public. And it looks, well, fine? I guess?

E3 has the tendency to be the grand mecha of overreactions. You know it, I know it, and everyone who doesn’t know it secretly knows it, too. Many times, initial reveals — especially the cinematic, bereft of gameplay ones — elicit a series of overreactions by the gaming community. One of the most prolific and recent victims of this is Marvel’s Avengers, the upcoming game from developers Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal, and much of the controversy stemmed from the developers’ new visual interpretations of the beloved group of superheroes. But without a proper gameplay demonstration, were fans being a bit too premature about their dissent for the title?

The answer is yes, of course, but seeing the first official gameplay recently might not alleviate all the concerns fans might have. The game doesn’t look bad — in some instances, it even looks quite spectacular — but given the amount of time we’ve waited since the game was first announced, the footage is a tad underwhelming.

The nearly-20-minute footage showcases significant gameplay portions of each of the Avengers — starting with Thor, to Iron Man, then Hulk, to Captain America, and concluding with Black Widow. The context revolves around “A-Day”, a holiday meant to celebrate the Avengers and all of their heroics but ends up turning into a disastrous incident in which the city of San Francisco is attacked. The prologue/tutorial serves as an intriguing way to set up the whole “the Avengers failed and we kinda hate them so they must redeem themselves” kind of storyline. Admittedly, after the MCU, it’s pretty exciting to see an entirely new storyline involving these characters.

And that’s where Marvel’s Avengers is at its most exciting: story and presentation. I’m of the belief that the new character designs look just fine — even Captain America looking like he auditioned to be on Flashpoint — and much of the outcry is due simply to a familiarity with the MCU renditions of the characters we’ve grown so accustomed to.

If anything, it’s exciting to see talented developers like Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal be given the kind of freedom to do what they please with the characters. Plus, the all-star voice cast doesn’t hurt. Remember the last time a developer was able to have the freedom to give their own interpretation of a beloved character? It turned out pretty damn good.

You can clearly tell that the game has had a lot of resources and effort put into it from a graphical perspective, which isn’t something you can always say about comic book games. Thor using his thunder to wipe out enemies, Iron Man flying across an exploding Golden Gate Bridge, or Hulk doing his usual smashing bit are all exhilarating to watch unfold.

However, watching is a bit different than playing, and when you break it down, Marvel’s Avengers looks fairly repetitive. Granted, this is still only a beginning portion of the game, but as previously mentioned, it’s been a long time since we first heard about this game.

Combat looks fairly routine; hit attack button when facing enemies and sometimes use a special move for those that are out of your typical reach. Again, the action looks good, but it also seems like something you can get bored with quickly. I enjoy knocking the snot out of some random soldiers with a hammer or fists just as much as the next guy, but eventually that kind of thing can run pretty stale.

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It’s fun to hear the banter going on between characters, and their personalities are captured quite well. So maybe I’m just being an old curmudgeon by suggesting the game looks like a slog to play. Hopefully, the rest of the campaign will offer different kinds of gameplay aside from giant action-oriented set-pieces, which feel appropriate for guys like Thor and Hulk, but less so for others. I would have loved to see sections that were more appropriate to a character’s skill set, like stealth sections for Black Widow or more high-speed airborne dogfights for Iron Man (assuming the game has them, though).

Of course, the obvious deluge of characters on display — as well as the promise of more to come in the future — suggests that this feeling of repetition can be ameliorated.  But as of this very instant, Marvel’s Avengers looks like a decent 3rd-person beat-em-up that we can’t help but be interested in for the simple fact that it’s a game about the Avengers, who are awesome.

I could also very well be a hypocrite — accusing fans of judging superficial aspects like character models — when projecting what an entire gameplay experience may be like from just a prologue section meant to set the stage for the major plot of the game. I’ll still be buying this thing on day one, but I’d like to have a better, more objective, reason to do so aside from being an unapologetic Marvel fanatic.