Marvel’s The Avengers Hands-On Preview – Assembly Required

With more than a decade of popcorn entertainment’s most spectacular and high-grossing films under their belt, many of The Avengers have gone from relative unknowns to household names. Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow have all emerged from obscurity and now put butts in seats helming multimillion-dollar projects for the silver screen.

Marvel’s Spider-Man took a lot of what Rocksteady achieved with their Arkham series and applied it to a sprawling New York City. After the web-slinger rocketed to critical success, the hype-train for Marvel’s The Avengers began feeding on coal, building to levels hitherto undreamt of.

Though it is inspired by the comics, Crystal Dynamics has penned an entirely original story for Marvel’s Avengers. After a plot to attack San Francisco succeeds, Captain America perishes amid the peril, disbanding Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and tearing them down in what promises to be a dark, gritty plot. It’s during this attack that our hands-on time took place as a short tutorial introduce the starring cast and a lot of the basic mechanics. From Thor through to Black Widow we’re thrown from set piece to set piece, taking turns sending enemy’s skyward with Mjolnir and ricocheting Cap’s shield from wall to wall.

Handling each of these heroes feels okay enough even if the combat lacks some of the ease that Arkham’s freeflow mechanics had. It felt a bit sluggish and wasn’t quite as enjoyable as I imagined it would be straight off the bat. Perhaps there’s a steeper learning curve involved that the game’s demo didn’t quite get across, as it was rather guided and didn’t grant a whole lot of freedom. Truth be told, the A-Day experience wasn’t as big a selling point as Square Enix would have hoped. It serves its purpose in establishing this universe’s characters along with the core loop, but it removes you from the experience so often it was hard to truly invest. Based on everything we heard about the game that we didn’t see, this small slice only manages to do The Avengers a disservice.

The extent of Hulk’s involvement is leaping dramatically across a collapsing Golden Gate Bridge so to say it’s easy being green is an understatement. I dare say that Natasha is the one who’s best looked after by this establishing chapter with a hectic, tense skirmish with Taskmaster. It’s a rivalry that I expect will span the entire game and she’s nothing short of a badass. That’s not to say any of the other character’s aren’t honoured in Crystal Dynamics’ world, it’s quite the opposite. I have more faith than ever now that the writers are going to pull off something pretty special.

Of course, as a spectacle, A-Day is incredible to behold. It’s incredibly cinematic and really sets the tone and stakes for the impromptu call of duty. It’s well written and, being a misfit team, The Avengers have a heap of terrific banter that occupies the spaces in between the action.

I feel like Square Enix is still holding a royal flush with Marvel’s The Avengers but that’s only based on our briefing where it was explained to us in more detail just how the game plays out. After getting a better look at the game’s UI, upgrades and skill tree, I was relieved to find there’s much more depth than the opening chapter led me to think there’d be. Marvel’s The Avengers is looking to be a game of substance and though you can’t play with your friends all of the time it’s easy to understand the reasons for a single-player campaign supplemented by a few co-op sandbox activities like Warzones that still advance the story at large.

I certainly wish I could say I came away from my hands-on with Marvel’s The Avengers and scream with assured elation that this is a lock for the very best next year has to offer. Instead, I come away with cautious optimism because all of the pieces are there, there’s just some assembly required. The characters are great, the core mechanics are sound and there’s promise of a deep, robust game with plenty to see and do if it grants you the freedom to do so.