This year saw the end of an epic story told over 22 films. Marvel's cinematic universe closed the grand infinity stone saga, beginning in 2008 with Tony Stark becoming Iron Man in a bunker in Afghanistan and concluding with his demise at the hands of his own selflessness. Global box office mammoth Avengers Endgame marked a shift in gear for comic book movies around the world, subsequently paving the way for new exciting adventures. You might be asking yourselves: Why is the ending of a movie franchise important in terms of video games based on the same groundwork? The answer can be found in our recent hands-on-demo from Gamescom 2019.
Despite stating several times, that it will be an entirely different take on "earth's mightiest heroes", our experience with the game was quite the contrary. Yet, basing a game on the successful movie universe is not necessarily a bad thing and our impressions with the game proved this time and time again.
As we saw at the Square Enix E3 press conference, Marvel's Avengers starts during the Avengers-themed A-day in San Francisco. An abrupt terrorist attack on the Golden Gate Bridge sends the city spiralling into chaos, forcing the Avengers to assemble and stop the terrorists from ruining the day and hijacking control of their powerful aircraft carrier. Acting as a tutorial for the game, this is where we got to try out about 30 minutes of pure action gameplay. The first character we got to play as was the mighty Thor. Fans of the 2018 "soft" God of War reboot will feel oddly familiar with the controls since Thor has a very similar control scheme. Fast attacks are executed with the square button and triangle is slower and more powerful - they can, of course, be combined for various combos. To severely hurt his enemy, Thor can perform special attacks with R1 and L1, ranging from destructive to downright devastating moves. Thor can likewise throw his hammer by aiming with R2 and calling it back whenever he wants with L2, just as in God of War. Regardless of the obvious similarities with everyone's favourite Greek god, Thor is a blast to play with, and best of all, his moves look exactly as they do in Thor: Ragnarok and the Avengers movies.
And while conversing about gameplay, Crystal Dynamics told us repeatedly how every character is unique from the other, which based on our time with Avengers, was not entirely on point. Whether it was controlling Black Widow, Captain America or even the incredible Hulk, the control scheme stayed largely the same as when playing with Thor. Sure, Iron Man can fly and shoot powerful blasts, Black Widow is agile while using her classic wrestling grabs from the movies, Captain America throws his shield around and Hulk is an unstoppable force of destruction. It varies enough to create unique distinctions between the characters but does not offer entirely disparate experiences. The only real downside to the action was a generic boss encounter at the end of the demo, which was too scripted and came of a little anti-climactic. Accordingly, as our time with the game ended, Thor remained the standout character with Captain America being a close second choice.
Fortunately, everything also looks gorgeous in action. The explosion particles, thunder blasts from Mjolnir or Captain America.s gravity-defying shield is as if taken directly from the MCU. We really felt like playing as our favourite Avengers, which is the greatest thing in an Avengers game can strive for. Regrettably, the otherwise detailed character models can at times look a bit off due to an immense familiarity with the MCU. Tony Stark looks a bit too much like how he was portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. and Thor appears to be the body stunt double of Chris Hemsworth.
Albeit not being able to play with it, Crystal Dynamics gave an in-depth overview of the multiplayer component as well. Avengers will be divided into two distinct modes: Single-Player campaign and a multiplayer option called warzones. Whereas the main campaign is made for lone wolves and doesn't allow co-op, the warzones are what will keep the game interesting for years to come. Designed as open levels, warzone takes the Avengers from the dry American southwest to the most distant areas on the globe. Players will engage in missions and level up their character, unlocking a plethora of new abilities assigned to different skill trees - akin to systems from Assassin's Creed Odyssey or even World of Warcraft. These skill trees accordingly change what type of class you want a given Avenger to be. Thor can as an example be both a heavy tank unit or instead be weaker and do tons of damage. In terms of said progression, each Avenger will unlock different gear with perks and extra abilities. These are very similar to what we have seen in Destiny and World of Warcraft with purple symbolizing epic gear, blue rare and so on. It is hardly revolutionizing.
Despite a few low points with the lack of true originality or the sometimes oddly look of the characters, Marvel's Avengers looks to deliver on its premise. A combination of an exciting single-player, fun gameplay and ambitious long-term plan with more characters and missions in the warzone, Crystal Dynamics are on the right track to finally nail the feeling of being a part of the earth's mightiest heroes.