Marvel’s Avengers Preview: Square’s superhero epic is the biggest surprise of Gamescom 2019

Marvel’s Avengers, Crystal Dynamic and Square Enix’s take on the world’s most popular superhero alliance, has been several years in the making, stuck in development for seven years or so at the time of writing. It takes ample inspiration from both the cinematic and comic universes, arriving at a distinct middle-ground that has left fans divided. 

Set to be a unique hybrid of a traditional solo campaign and team-based multiplayer action, Marvel’s Avengers draws from the popular world of live-service titles while trying to remain true to its source material and, perhaps most importantly – be fun to play. 

It’s a delicate balancing act, and one we’re eager to watch unfold. Trusted Reviews has compiled everything you need to know about Marvel’s Avengers, including all the latest news, gameplay, release date, trailers and more. 

Marvel’s Avengers gameplay preview – Hands-on impressions from Gamescom 2019

Crystal Dynamic’s long-awaited Marvel’s Avengers project didn’t receive the warmest of welcomes when it first emerged at E3 2019. The superhero adventure was criticised for its unclear design, uncanny character models and overreliance on linear quick-time events and rampant spectacle.

However, it could be argued that you shouldn’t judge a game by its trailer, since it’s what inside those glossy, live-service pages that really counts. At Gamescom 2019, Square Enix hoped to set the narrative straight with an in-depth look at what Marvel’s Avengers is really about. Turns out, it’s a very ambitious project indeed. 

Developers delved into the nitty gritty of its solo campaign, co-op multiplayer, hero customisation and so much more. I also had the chance to play the opening mission, which introduces each of the heroes and their respective mechanics. It’s an absolute rollercoaster, and one I enjoyed far more than I expected to. 

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Marvel's Avengers

The 25-minute demo I played through at Gamescom 2019 can be viewed online in its entirety, although I’m going to dive into further depth about how each hero plays and will presumably intermingle with one another outside of the solo campaign. Marvel’s Avengers begins on A-Day, a celebratory event sabotaged by a disaster of unimaginable proportions. 

A terrorist cell has attacked San Francisco, devastating the Golden Gate Bridge which is unfortunately filled to the brim with civilians. The Avengers leap into action, immediately noticing something strange is afoot. You begin the demo as Thor, the God of Thunder himself, as you dive onto a wrecked motorway to deal with some pesky mercenaries. 

If you’ve played God of War, Thor will feel immediately familiar. This is largely because Mjölnir plays exactly like Kratos’ Leviathan axe. The chiseled Asgardian can hurl his weapon at enemies, bringing it back with the touch of a button. It feels fantastic as you hurl soldiers into the sky, or summon Thor’s hammer back only to knock down several souls in its wake. 

Thor also has the power to fly, levitating above adversaries before slamming down viciously from above. Exploring this method of movement was limited in the demo, but Crystal Dynamics has promised later levels will take full advantage of how each hero moves and engages in combat. 

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Marvel's Avengers

Once Thor has filled his boots, I took control of Iron Man as he hurtled through the sky toward jetpack-wielding troopers. He’s the weakest hero of the lot if I’m being honest, flight mechanics proving unwieldy and overly linear in the opening’s constrained environments. It’s still enjoyable, but I feel his potential won’t be properly fulfilled until we’re thrown into huge, sprawling levels perfect for flying about in. 

Iron Man can ascend and descend in mid-air, adjusting to a particular angle depending on whether enemies are firing at you from above or below. It’s relatively seamless, and firing energy beams, rockets and other gizmos from the philanthropist’s endless array of weaponry is a treat. If later missions do provide more scope, the act of rhythmically fighting baddies on the ground before stylishly ascending into the sky sounds thrilling, especially with friends by your side. 

Once Iron Man saves some panicked civilians, it’s time to smash. Yes, I’m talking about the Hulk. Bruce Banner’s entrance is spectacular as he jumps from a jet piloted by Black Widow, transforming into the green monstrosity as he does. After arriving in a mist of debris and broken concrete, I’m picking up helpless soldiers and using them as makeshift melee weapons in a matter of seconds.

The Hulk is slow and lumbering, making up for this lacking agility with an excess of utterly absurd power. Standard enemies don’t stand a chance, flying off the bridge and into nearby cars with a light smash from the hulkster. He’s devastating and really fun to play, although isn’t without issue. He’s capable of running across walls and leaping great distances, resulting in platforming challenges which don’t feel good enough right now. 

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Marvel's Avengers

I can see these being improved before release, and once again, the introduction’s linear structure makes it hard for each hero to shine. It’s a set of simple, straight-forward set pieces that showcase what The Avengers are all about, and how players will be utilising their powers in the hours to come. After destroying a futuristic tank and kicking someone to death, we leave to Hulk to join Captain America aboard The S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier. 

Captain America is probably the most pedestrian hero of The Avengers, largely because he plays like a traditional brawler with a few neat tricks up his sleeve. Obviously, his iconic shield plays a major role in proceedings, and is a blast to hurl around the room. Throw it towards a wall and it will bounce around endlessly, hitting anything in its path before returning to Chris Rogers’ hands. 

You can precision aim, targeting enemy weak points before going in for execution-esque final blows. Cap’s fast, frenetic playstyle is a wonderful contrast to Hulk, a juxtaposition that really helps these vastly different personalities gel. It also promises a vast amount of gameplay variety both in terms of combat and exploration. For example, I could see the shield being used to cut ropes as part of a puzzle or even distract foes in a stealth setting. 

Once you take The Avenger’s away from the context of its original reveal,  there’s a bunch of potential here for fun, unpredictable gameplay scenarios. I just sincerely hope it doesn’t turn into corridors of hostiles bookended by epic set-pieces that are all flare and no substance. 

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Marvel's Avengers

The final hero and culmination of the hands-on demo is Black Widow. The confidently deadly superspy is a clear indication Marvel’s Avengers is created by Crystal Dynamics. She feels like an evolution of the Tomb Raider reboot trilogy in terms of movement and gunplay, moving with excellent grace while dodging attacks and pulling foes in with a handy grappling hook. 

It’s a shame much of her section is a visually spectacular yet frightfully linear aerial sequence with The Taskmaster. All I had to do was mash a mixture of buttons before arriving in the next arena, acting as the battleground for the very first boss battle. 

Armed with dual pistols and the power to turn invisible at a moment’s notice, Black Widow isn’t to be taken lightly, but neither is Taskmaster: a former S.H.I.E.L.D agent whose enhanced mind allows him to memorise the skills of heroes and villains alike for his own selfish use. This leads to a fascinating encounter where I timely dodged attacks before diving in to deal small pockets of damage. He could see every move I made coming, so improvisation was key. 

Black Widow’s hand-to-hand combat skills are hugely enjoyable, and I can see her partaking in sprawling battles and intricate stealth missions in the full experience. Unlike Tony Stark, she’s a formidable beast who doesn’t rely on money as his primary superpower. Sorry, Iron Man. 

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Marvel's Avengers

Once Taskmaster is defeated, he reveals the wheels have been put in motion for a far more dangerous plan, one which goes beyond his tired idea of villainy. Seconds later, the Helicarrier explodes, taking Captain America’s life and a huge chunk of San Francisco with it. In the narrative, the Avengers are blamed for this attack, exiled and forced to hide away as superheroes become outlawed in society. 

Five years later, a sinister organization known as AIM has emerged, using its mixture of robotic and synthetic technologies to transform a reluctant society. In other words, they’re the presumed big bads of this adventure. I doubt Captain America is truly dead, with the developers cracking a smile as I asked whether he joins Hydra. My money is on him playing a large part in the overall story. 

Crystal Dynamics confirmed that as a live-service experience, new characters, missions and stories will be introduced to Marvel’s Avengers after launch for years to come, indicating that we’ll see plenty of fan favourite threats emerge. Drawing from over 80 years of comic history, they’ve also stressed this has nothing to do with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite what the initial appearance suggests. 

Marvel’s Avengers will be split into single-player missions focusing on specific heroes, described to me as the traditional solo campaign, while co-op missions will be available for you and a few friends to take on intricate stages and massive boss battles. These will also contribute to the narrative, adding depth to the characters and precious context to on-going events. Now I know how the game is laid out, I feel so much better about. 

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Marvel's Avengers

The progression system is eerily similar to the likes of Destiny and The Division, even adopting its colour-coded rarity system and growing item level as heroes accrue better skills, gear and fabulous cosmetics. Each Avenger has their own dedicated skill tree, allowing players to branch into weapons and abilities suiting their style of play. I only saw Iron Man’s, but it’s fully-featured with so many avenues to pursue. 

Taking into account there will be five distinct characters to level up and customise (and possibly more after launch), players will have plenty to keep themselves and their friends busy in 2020. My only qualm is how long it will take me to reach a crescendo with hero progression in terms of skills, and like Destiny, will a wall be hit while I’m forced to wait for the next major expansion or tantalising content drop? We’ll have to wait and see. 

First Impressions

Square Enix has really turned me around on Marvel’s Avengers. An underwhelming debut has been remedied by diving into what really matters – how it feels to play the game and what players will be doing in the live-service environment. 

The developers told me Marvel’s Avengers will be updated for years to come, suggesting we’ll see all-new story content, heroes and missions to play alongside our friends. Knowing the ambitious future that awaits it, I’m happy to report Marvel’s Avengers has built a foundation I’m so excited to see built upon. 

Marvel’s Avengers release date – When is Marvel’s Avengers coming out?

Square Enix has confirmed Marvel’s Avengers will be launching for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Google Stadia on May 15, 2020. This is a handful of months before we expect PS5 and Xbox 2 to arrive, for what it’s worth. 

Marvel’s Avengers trailer – How does it look?

You can watch all of the latest trailers for Marvel’s Avengers below, including an extensive gameplay demo from Gamescom 2019.

Marvel’s Avengers characters – Who do you play as?

Square Enix is taking a rather traditional approach to the game’s playable roster, opting to focus on the vanilla Avengers instead of branching out to a wider, more ambitious cast. 

We’ve listed all of the confirmed playable characters below, each of which possess their own distinct gameplay styles. In a way, it’s several titles in one: 

  • The Incredible Hulk (voiced by Troy Baker)
  • Iron Man (voiced by Nolan North)
  • Black Widow (voiced by Laura Bailey) 
  • Thor (voiced by Travis Willingham)
  • Captain America (voiced by Jeff Schine) 

Some of the confirmed villains include Taskmaster and Abomination, although we imagine many more high-profile baddies will emerge in the finished game to give our heroes a run for their money.

Marvel’s Avengers story – What’s it about?

Despite the visual similarities to its cinematic counterparts, Marvel’s Avengers is a completely original adventure taking inspiration from both the films and comics. The story begins in San Francisco on A-Day, a public holiday with the sole purpose of celebrating The Avengers and their heroic roles in society. Ironically, this is when everything goes terribly wrong. 

Villains work together to bring the city to its knees, distracting our heroes with the saving of civilians while bringing their ultimate mission to fruition. This involves the infiltration and detonation of The S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier, unleashing an explosion that could level the entirety of San Francisco. To save the day, Captain America sacrifices himself for the greater good. Well, he’s obviously not dead given they’ve built an entire gameplay style behind his character – our money is on him joining Hydra!

 

 

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