When I saw the Marvel’s Avengers demo at E3 this year, I was willing to give the game the benefit of the doubt. While the title may have come across as seeming a bit stale, as players are fighting one mindless grunt after another, I thought that I would feel differently once I had a controller in my hands. Pummeling foes with Thor’s hammer or smashing faces in as the Hulk may prove to be more entertaining in person, after all. After playing Marvel’s Avengers hands-on for about 15 minutes at this year’s New York Comic Con, my impressions of the title have hardly improved.
People who have been following the game are probably familiar with the A-Day gameplay demo I played. The Avengers fly over to the Golden Gate Bridge after hearing an explosion. Thor slams down into a group of goons, and players are given direct control over the God of Thunder. Afterwords, they fly around and blast foes as Iron Man, jump across platforms as Hulk, fight a couple of lackeys as Captain America, and beat up Task Master as Black Widow. The demo ends with Captain America’s presumed death aboard a Helicarrier.
What I immediately noticed is how limited the game’s combat options are. There are only two standard attack buttons (light and heavy), a guard break move that’s activated by pressing these two buttons at the same time, and a special attack that’s mapped to a trigger button. Thor and Captain America can throw their respective weapons, Hulk can grab enemies and throw them, Iron Man fires lasers, and Black Widow can shoot with her gun, but the novelty for each hero ends there. The light and heavy attacks, guard breaks, and special moves are the same across the board, and there’s hardly any variety between the characters despite each of them appearing to be so different.
It’s certainly great to witness Thor summon a surge of lightning or Iron Man blast a huge energy beam out of his chest, but a degree of spectacle is lost after witnessing these heroes use these attacks over and over. The same goes for tossing around Thor’s hammer or Captain America’s shield, as the sensation quickly loses its novelty after a few throws. I honestly often found myself mashing buttons a lot of the time, as the enemies I faced felt more like punching bags than anything else. Some players may find this fun, but I couldn’t help but come away with the sensation that I was constantly doing the same thing, only with different characters.
One may think that Iron Man is the most interesting of the bunch, given the fact that he’s always flying in the demo. Unfortunately, I found the opposite to be true, as all I did with the hero is point and shoot stuff. The Hulk was just as boring, as I just smashed a few dudes and jumped across gaps as the green menace.
Out of the five characters I played, the most fun to use was Black Widow. Put simply, her arsenal of gadgets felt the most diverse. While the assassin does also have light and heavy attacks, she can grapple onto foes from afar and fly herself to them. Black Widow can also shoot from across the battlefield and activate her invisibility cloak to mess around with the enemy.
It seems like Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal put the most thought into Natasha because her arsenal is less defined. Sure, Iron Man and Thor’s superpowers are flashy, but Black Widow’s abilities are a lot more creative. The developers behind the game have made clear that players will be able to customize their heroes’ abilities once it releases next year, but I didn’t get to see the extent of that promise during my time with the game.
Outside of gameplay, I was a bit disappointed with how my particular demo ran. A few enemies stood idle, waiting for me to knock some sense into them. As the Hulk, I clipped through the ground more than once, which resulted in me having to wait a while before respawning at the last checkpoint. While these issues weren’t deal-breakers, it was a bit strange to witness them present in a preview build on New York Comic Con’s show floor.
My experience with Marvel’s Avengers was by no means a terrible one. The demo I played simply relied too much on the same formula, and thus winded up feeling more unexciting than inspiring. Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal need to show different abilities in the future to convince skeptics that the game won’t be repetitive as they may think. For now, I’ll stick with the movies to get my superhero adrenaline rush.