When the first teaser trailer for Marvel's Avengers debuted back in 2017, the game presented itself as a mysterious enigma, with the main selling point being the inclusion of Earth's Mightiest Heroes together in an action-packed video game from the developers behind Rise of the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. When the first gameplay trailer appeared at Square Enix's E3 2019 press conference, the game remained mysterious, though at least would-be fans were presented with a taste of what Marvel's Avengers will offer to players. For better or worse, after sitting through the E3 show floor demo at Square Enix's booth, Marvel's Avengers is still a wild card, which me feeling cautiously optimistic regarding what the game will offer when it launches next year.
Although a hands-off experience, the E3 2019 demo for Marvel's Avengers did feature live gameplay of the level shown in the trailer. This is almost definitely the prologue of the game, and features all five of the currently confirmed cast (Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Black Widow) kicking butt when Taskmaster and a mysterious group of mercenaries attack an event celebrating the opening of a West Coast Avengers headquarters.
The demo kicks off with Iron Man and Thor flying towards the commotion on the bridge before splitting up so Thor can handle a group of bad guys trying to cause trouble nearby. The game seamlessly transitions from cutscene to gameplay as Thor begins taking down the mercs while quipping one-liners about his godly superiority over meager humans. The combat itself looks impressive as Thor's hammer strikes send enemies ragdolling dozens of feet through the air, a violent spectacle which really sells the true power of Marvel's God of Thunder.
Eventually, Iron Man shows up and starts taking on goons himself, though, of the five Avengers shown thus far, Tony Stark feels the least exciting, at least based on this early look at his melee combos. In the MCU, Iron Man is the type of character who takes down his foes with a single strike, and the sight of this particular hero using fisticuff strikes against regular enemies just doesn't ring true to the spirit of the character. His ranged attacks, on the other hand, are as explosive and efficient as one would expect.
As the fight moves to the Golden Gate Bridge, The Incredible Hulk joins the fray. Dr. Bruce Banner jumps from the Quinjet without first removing his expensive-looking shirt (those things don't grow on trees, Bruce!) and morphs into the Hulk as he lands. The E3 trailer skips the actual morphing moment, but it looks fantastic in action. Hulk's gameplay consists of a mix of Quick Time Events and hand-to-hand fighting as he moves to varying sections of the crumbling bridge, taking out bad guys with visceral ferocity. One noteworthy combat move has the not-so-jolly green giant picking up an enemy in each hand before clapping them together in a comically brutal display of strength.
The action segues to the helicarrier, in which Captain America tries to repel an attack. Visually, Cap is the most distinct of The Avengers, with his default outfit sporting a tactical, "urban combat" look which helps make the character feel distinct from other iterations of Steve Rogers. His moveset revolves around throwing his shield around the battlefield, kicking it back once as it returns to him, and using that window to close the distance and take down enemies with grappling takedowns and powerful punches.
Finally, Black Widow takes on Taskmaster in a one-on-one boss battle interspersed with Quick Time Events. Though the QTE segments look rudimentary and almost archaic, the fight itself does a good job of showing off the personality of Widow and Taskmaster, who quip back and forth about the villain's "photographic reflexes," which allow him to repel any attack after he sees it performed. Indeed, when Black Widow tries to repeat a combat move on the mercenary leader, he is able to easily defend itself, forcing her to use every combat tool at her disposal to fight the skull-faced thug. The fight includes hints of story developments to come, with Widow inferring that someone is pulling Taskmaster's strings, indicating he's "not the brains of the operation." As she delivers the final blow on her foe, Widow quips, "Next time, take better notes." After this, the helicarrier explodes, presumably killing Captain America and many innocents, at which point the demo ends.
As exciting as this prologue is, it raises just as many questions as answers, especially since multiplayer – one of the game's main selling points – was conspicuously absent. Likewise, it's unknown whether or not the every mission will resemble this early section. Will the whole game emphasize fast-paced transitions between combat and cutscene, with little in the way of exploration or downtime? Additionally, there was no talk of microtransactions, DLC, or character customization. In terms of storytelling, the main quest picks up five years after the "A-Day" tragedy, so the tone of this demo does not necessarily represent the rest of the game, which may prove more somber in tone. It's still too early to tell.
While Marvel's Avengers has a lot of potential to destroy expectations in 2020, and this first look at live gameplay proved extremely promising, it's too early to tell if it will be one of 2020's must-play titles when it launches for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia on May 15, 2020.
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