The Answers To All Your Burning ‘Marvel’s Avengers’ Questions
Announced at Square Enix’s E3 2019 press conference, Marvel’s Avengers is a cinematic action-adventure game about our favourite caped, spandex and iron-cladded crusaders. Separate from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Cap and co are played by an all-star cast of voice actors instead of Hollywood’s goodest golden boy and friends – and their faces look like butts.
Developed by the Tomb Raider reboot’s Crystal Dynamics and assisted by Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s Eidos Montreal, the core concept of the game is quite ambitious but is also confusing players everywhere. It boasts a single-player and co-op campaign where players can drop in and out of each other’s game, first experiencing the world as the core Avengers team before playing as nearly every Marvel hero through free updates.
Near moments after the presentation, fans began speculating. Can you really play the single-player campaign with your friends? How would that not ruin the cinematic story Crystal Dynamics wants to tell? Will cutscenes show Black Widow and Iron Man preparing for an incoming attack in the streets of New York before cutting to Rocket Raccoon and Groot goofily standing in their place, laser gun and twig in hand?
As creative director and writer Sean Escayg told Junkee, not exactly. What you’ll play in the single player and multiplayer campaigns are different.
What’s The Story?
The single player campaign is set five years after the events of A-Day, the annual celebration of heroes and the Avengers Initiative. As the Avengers and public celebrate on the Helicarrier in San Francisco, a mysterious group of alien terrorists invade in search of a powerful piece of technology made by Iron Man called the Chimera.
In an extended hands-off demo of what was shown in the Square Enix conference, Junkee saw Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and Black Widow head to the Golden Gate Bridge to protect the city and fend off the invaders while Cap stays behind to guard the artefact and people there.
As Thor, Iron Man and Hulk clear a path and save the civilians in danger, Black Widow fends off a jet-pack flying Taskmaster in an epic battle that sees her swapping blows with him in the air. Meanwhile, overwhelmed by the unknown figures before him, Cap and the Helicarrier are sucked into a portal in the ocean and lost forever.
This then leads to catastrophic damage to both the San Francisco city and the world’s belief in the Avengers. Much like the iconic Civil War (and not so great Civil War 2) comic storylines, with their leader lost, the group quickly falls apart: Tony and Bruce blame each other for creating a powerfully dangerous artefact and for losing Steve; Natasha blames herself for not staying back with Steve and handling the aftermath better; and Thor is just, probably causing moody thunderstorms nearby, to be perfectly honest.
This means you won’t be able to play the A-Day story with friends. Although the team weren’t showing the multiplayer feature at E3 — despite emphasising it during the entire presentation in the conference — the multiplayer is treated as a reaction to the events of the single-player campaign. In it, you’ll be able to buddy up with friends as other lovable heroes in various quests and events that unfold as you progress through the main story — a mixture of unrelated events, individual episodes and comic book canon.
It’s unclear whether this ties into the main story, but you’ll earn experience points in co-op to strengthen your heroes in a character progression system Crystal Dynamics weren’t ready to talk about just yet.
What Will The Combat Be like?
The five characters presented in the demo have completely unique playstyles, implying that Marvel’s Avengers is a series of vignettes of what a Marvel video game universe would look like.
As former lead combat designer at Santa Monica Studio behind the fantastically intuitive axe-throwing mechanic of God of War, and Avengers’ combat designer Vincent Napoli explained, they developed combat around each character rather than try to make their powers fit a specific linear system. Each character has an ability that knocks back enemies, an area of effect skill and an ultimate ability that takes a while to recharge.
“I worked [at Santa Monica Studio] for five years,” Napoli recalled. “Yeah, when designing Kratos I was really drawn to Thor and his ability to call back his hammer, so it’s cool to be able to integrate that same gameplay motif into my original influence.”
Thor is a balanced mix of long and close-ranged combat. He swings his mighty hammer and can throw it at enemies, pinning them to walls and calling it back with a mighty swish. As the God of Thunder, he punches with thunderous snaps and sounds, calls lighting down from above and zap foes, and swirls his hammer around to summon a chain of whirlwinds that propel enemies into the air.
Iron Man is designed as a ranged fighter, flying around firing short bursts of lasers from his hand, swerves and outmaneuvers from incoming artillery, and knocks enemies back with a quick shockwave. As the squad’s armoured genetically engineered hero, he can lock onto enemies and fire rockets and summon a blinding mega beam from his chest. The demo showed both Iron Man and Thor flying but it looked like Iron Man had more abilities and animations designed around flight combat.
As expected of our favourite angry green boy, Hulk thrashes, punches and stomps his way through the path before him, can grapple and pick up enemies and debris, throwing them around and smacking them together. When he gets really mad, he can leap up for giant area of effect Hulk Smashes and ground pounds, climbs and runs across walls, and as an ultimate ability, claps his hands together to create a devastating shockwave that pushes back foes.
Captain America is a traditional melee fighter but can throw his shield at enemies, and it can sometimes ricochet off them and returns back like a boomerang. He punches and flips over enemies with heavy momentum, charges up and takes damage before smashing his shield into the ground, creating a powerful area of effect.
Black Widow is a hybrid close and long ranged fighter and gadget specialist. She dual wields guns, tonfas and electric gauntlets and is incredibly dexterous, somersaulting, barrel rolling and dodging out of harm’s way. During the fight with Taskmaster, she flipped him over with and acrobatic finesse turned invisible and charged up her electric gauntlets for a deadly bolt to his chest.
Will Every Avenger Assemble?
The original Ant-Man Hank Pym was teased at the end of the conference trailer, Captain Marvel would bring in some epic cosmic gay energy and mutants like Scarlet Witch and Wolverine have a rich history as members of the Avengers team.
In Marvel's Avengers, fans will assemble into teams of up to four players online, master extraordinary abilities, and customize a growing roster of Heroes. Here’s one recognizable character’s take on how to defend Earth from escalating threats. pic.twitter.com/PR4NzrwYMc
— Marvel's Avengers (@PlayAvengers) June 13, 2019
Escayg told Junkee the dev team wants to include “any and all” Marvel superheroes into the game eventually, but that they’d need to find a way to develop a combat design unique to them. Insomniac Games’ Marvel’s Spider-Man is exclusive to PlayStation, so what would that mean? Square Enix denied to comment when asked, instead revealing that the beta will launch first on PS4. Make of that what you will.
We might just see tie-ins of the biggest events and character arcs in Marvel Comics, including House of M, but details can’t be confirmed just yet. When writing Hulk’s character, Escayg took inspiration from comics like World War Hulk and Planet Hulk. This means we can assume Captain America was teleported to another world or planet, which could lead to a parallel Secret Empire world or literally any other epic battle in the last few decades of Marvel Comics.
We don’t know whether we’ll see everyone’s favourite purple thumb-shaped galactic dictator, but if Crystal Dynamics are staying true to the belief it wants Marvel’s Avengers to be divorced from the branding of the MCU, it might be best he doesn’t appear in the main campaign. It’s already confusing to have a video game called Marvel’s Avengers feature the same characters as the core team of the first ten years of Marvel films, as if it were a decision made to capitalise on the Marvel Cinematic Universe without paying the cost of the original actors.
Marvel’s Avengers assembles on May 15 next year for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Google Stadia.
Julian Rizzo-Smith is a freelance pop culture and games writer. He tweets @GayWeebDisaster.