Does 'Avengers' Game Hint at a Marvel Gaming Universe?
Square Enix stole the show at E3 on Tuesday night. Concluding its panel, which had already opened with the bang of Final Fantasy VII, was the cinematic trailer debut of Marvel’s Avengers. Announced in 2017, the project has been kept tightly under wraps, with gamers being uncertain of even what style of game was in the works. After the record-breaking success of Insomniac’s Spider-Man (still waiting on that inevitable sequel announcement) expectations were even higher for the Avengers. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics, which revitalized the Tomb Raider franchise, showcased Earth’s mightiest heroes in a AAA title that’s sure to have fans talking.
There’s been plenty of online speculation that the Avengers would be an MMO, or a game as service in the form of Destiny or Anthem. Thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least not entirely. The game’s creative director, Shaun Escayg, discussed a few details last night and described the Avengers as “a game where we as players can experience in both single-player and co-op what it’s like to be Earth’s mightiest heroes.” Among those heroes are Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor and the Hulk, voiced by actors Jeff Schine, Nolan North, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham,and Troy Baker respectively. Sadly there’s no Hawkeye (yet), much to the disappointment of vocal E3 attendees. Players will have the opportunity to choose their Avenger, though it’s unknown at this time whether or not you’ll be able to switch between members if you’re playing solo, similar to the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games of the past.
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If there’s one major criticism to be found with our first look at the game, which is still almost a year away, it’s the graphics. Fans online have likened the character models to those of a mobile game or the PS3. They toe the line between the MCU designs and basic Sims models for a result that’s pretty bland looking. After Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics routinely impressed with graphics and character models in its Tomb Raider series, The Avengers looks like a significant step down in that department. They needn’t look like the MCU actors, but they should at least look like more than NPCs in Avengers costumes. Hopefully the designs take a page from Spider-Man and will come into their own over the next year. I see no reason not to be optimistic that will happen.
But back to the good stuff. Most exciting is the fact that the game’s narrative, focused on the Avengers reassembling five years after a tragedy, will play out over two years. Additional storylines, characters and add-ons will be updated with no additional costs or loot boxes. That’s huge! Not only does it show up Bungie and EA in that regard, it could also revolutionize the DLC market. An ongoing storyline that isn’t part of MMO or costly expansion packs moves comic-based games a little closer to comic books. Spider-Man did something similar in format with the monthly releases of The City That Never Sleeps, but in that case players had to buy the additional package. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics’ model will help ensure that The Avengers remains part of our gaming conversation for a while.
The Avengers’ ongoing narrative seems primed for a world familiar with the MCU and stories that play out over years. While there’s no word yet on the central threat of The Avengers, we can spot glimpses of the Abomination and Taskmaster in the trailer. Taskmaster’s appearance and Spider-Man’s mention of the Avengers hanging out on the West Coast in the Insomniac game has lent some credibility to a connected Marvel video game universe. Given that PS4 users will have some exclusives, it wouldn’t a surprise to see Spider-Man swing by in that snazzy new costume of his.
At the center of the San Francisco A-day tragedy seen in the trailer is Terrigen technology. Fans of the Inhumans comics will surely recognize that Terrigen is the source that creates Inhumans and gives them their powers. It’s possible that the game will center on the emergence of new superpowered individuals and the arrival of the Inhumans led by Black Bolt. It could be that Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus the Mad will be the central antagonist, especially given that Marvel Studios missed out on introducing them into the MCU (we won’t talk about the ABC show). Also a mystery is the identity of who’s narrating the trailer. Fans are guessing Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, which would make sense given that she’s become Marvel’s premier Inhuman. As more details are revealed and additional characters and locations are added, The Avengers could end up capturing the spirit of a Marvel maxi-series and have us all shouting Excelsior on a regular basis.
Marvel’s The Avengers will be available on the PS4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and PC on May 15, 2020.
by Richard Newby
by Lesley Goldberg