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- Marvel's Avengers
Bungie’s move towards independence sometimes feels like it was a bad thing. Not only counting its most recent leap away from Activision and somehow sneaked Destiny out with them but its first departure that shifted the Halo franchise to 343 Industries. Looter shooters had existed before, but Bungie’s big project after Halo changed things in ways we’re still dealing with today. It defined service games as narrow in scope and made repetitive tasks into repeatable content all on the back of Bungie’s second-to-none shooter gameplay. As we approach E3 2019, several publishers seemingly want a piece of the Destiny action, possibly including Square Enix and their Avengers project.
Originally announced at the beginning of 2017, the game now known as Marvel’s Avengers seems crafted from the same mold as Destiny, The Division, and Anthem. Leaked gameplay details talk about teams of four players teaming up for “continuous gameplay” and an “ever-expanding world.” If you’ve been paying attention the past few years, you can almost recreate the pitch in your head. While Crystal Dynamics is a good enough studio to put together a fine representation of the Marvel universe, that doesn’t mean that the Avengers is guaranteed to be a success. There are so many unique aspects to this realm of masked marvels. Anything run of the mill just won’t do it justice.
Marvel’s Avengers needs unique gameplay
Due to the very nature of the Marvel Universe, we already know that Marvel’s Avengers won’t be sticking to a standard arsenal of assault rifles and grenades. Unless we end up playing as agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel’s Avengers will have to provide various powers and abilities based on a few hero archetypes. This is the case whether we actually get to play as Captain America and Iron Man or we’re playing as some form of trainee hero. The powers of the Avengers are just too varied to fit into the standard mold.
However, even if we play as a varied cast of characters, a batch of generic objectives could still muck it all up. Even in a well-received game like The Division 2, some missions wind up as repetitive tasks that feel like filler. With the expansive source material that the developers are working with, it would be a crime for any of that filler to seep into Marvel’s Avengers. Even if the objectives are combat-heavy, there are plenty of different goons that should feel different to take down like Ultron clones, the Skrull, or the Chitauri. That variety combined with the variety of powers at your disposal should make for a combat system that sells itself.
Marvel’s Avengers needs an expansive world
Whether Marvel’s Avengers takes place in the Cinematic Universe or the “Marvel Gamerverse,” one thing is clear: in order to reach the heights of past Marvel gaming greats, it has to reach deep into Marvel’s stable of characters. Years before the movies redefined everything, the Avengers was always the red-headed stepchild of the Marvel line. It’s where you’d see a handful of big names team up with less known characters like Tigra, Jack of Hearts, and Darkhawk.
Ultimate Alliance understood that, digging into obscure comics pages before it was cool to represent the entire Marvel Universe. Games are infinitely longer than movies, even when you take Endgame into consideration. There’s no reason why a true Avengers game can’t recapture this aspect of the franchise.
Think about the reasons why Anthem failed to capture the populace’s imagination. It had the structure of a Destiny-type game, and it had some worldbuilding, but it all felt perfunctory. The gameplay of Anthem was perfectly capable, for what it was. But why should players care when the world they’re fighting through feels so limited in scope? This just can’t happen in Marvel’s Avengers. Every mission needs to be bursting with places and events that fans of the universe recognize. With so many iconic characters and locations to choose from, there’s no reason why the developers should ever be grasping at straws.
Marvel’s Avengers needs a sense of humanity
Tune into Square Enix Live E3 2019 for the worldwide reveal of Marvel’s Avengers.
— Marvel's Avengers (@PlayAvengers) May 29, 2019
There’s one thing missing from every game in this subcategory. It’s the same thing that makes Marvel stand apart from its peers. Even if the game ends up with generic gameplay and boring missions, one aspect can make it rise above its competition: a good sense of character. Going back to the comics, people who like Marvel over DC appreciate how the characters talk and behave. They’re not gods overseeing the world, soldiers with mythic destinies, or warriors of the apocalypse. From Peter Parker to Hobie Brown, these are real people that crack jokes and feel pain.
Even at their best, games like Destiny have had a problem making their worlds feel whole. This genre is defined by players who’d rather listen to podcasts than dig up lore on whatever weird cards they’ve sent to a mobile app. A game with the Marvel name just can’t fall down that same rabbit hole. If it does, it won’t feel like the Avengers adventure we’ve all been waiting for since seeing the group assemble on the big screen. If Crystal Dynamics can tell an authentic story with these characters as a part of this service, we may just be in for one of the best superhero games of our time. And if not, it could be one big disappointment.