At Gamescom, Stevivor had the chance to play the opening mission to Avengers alongside the chance to learn more about character customisation and how single-player and co-op works.
The game opens in San Francisco on A-Day, an annual day celebrating the success and heroism of the Avengers, from the perspective of a young girl, assumedly superhero fangirl Kamala ‘Ms. Marvel’ Khan before she gets her powers. As they’re celebrating, a mysterious group of terrorists teleports into their world and begins attacking citizens at the Golden Gate Bridge. From here, the core five-person team — Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Black Widow — split up to save the day. The rest of the Avengers march off to various locations to fend off goons and protect the people of San Francisco, while America’s Ass stays with the ship to protect the people onboard.
Just from this mission alone, Avengers perfectly captures the feeling of being part of a superhero team, teasing a varied and playful combat system that highlights each members’ unique fighting styles. Much like individual singles in a comic book trade, each hero’s fighting style feels reminiscent of some of the best action gameplay in recent years. Essentially, they each have character-specific light and heavy attacks, a ranged attack and an ultimate ability.
For Thor, his thunderous movements, punches and mighty hammer swings feel vigorously heavy and fit for a God. During our demo, I threw Mjolnir at an enemy, pinned them to a car as I punched nearby foes with a thunderous smash, before calling my hammer back like Kratos’ axe and casting a devastating thunderstorm area of effect, which all felt incredible. Similarly, Black Widow is an active mid to close ranged fighter who moves to the same beat at Lara Croft in Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider reboots. She combines dual wield pistols and gadgets with kicks, somersaults, acrobatics and stunts, all to overwhelm her enemies and take advantage of their weaknesses.
Iron Man floats in the air like a mech in a sci-fi third person shooter, avoiding incoming artillery in beautiful spins and twists in the air, locking onto enemies and firing a flurry of missiles and a hypercharged beam of energy from his chest. In much the same way, Captain America fights like a boxer trained in the military, relying on blocks and counters, wrestling and jumpkicking enemies before charging up his shield and recoiling incoming attacks as a deadly area of effect that knocks enemies back to the other side of the room.
Oh and Hulk, he just kinda, smashes anything in sight and picks objects, debris and people and throws them. It’s rad.
Shortly after this, as the rest of the Avengers were left to salvage a crumbling Golden Gate Bridge, Black Widow was tasked with fighting off Taskmaster, (known to non-comics fans as a side quest in Spider-Man) who was wielding an inflamed blade, shield and jetpack like a modern chaotic evil knight. Black Widow climbed onto his back, swapping blows as we tumbled in the air, responding to quick-time events as we flew around Iron Man, Thor and Hulk. Moments after, the Avengers realised it was a trap and witnessed the Helicarrier pulled into a portal in the ocean, Cap and the rest of the crew lost forever.
Avengers follows the events of A-Day five years on. Fear and hatred run the streets as an egotistical politician and his robot sentries control the city. The remaining members of the Avengers are torn, grieving and in denial of being heroes. Bruce even questions if they’re heroes or just vigilantes while Natasha blames herself for not staying with Steve to protect the Helicarrier that took their friend and changed their lives.
From this, Avengers has you experience the consequences of A-Day and revive the people’s belief in heroism from a salvaged Helicarrier. As a developer from Crystal Dynamics explained, you’ll be able to choose from two different types of missions, essentially single-player campaign missions and coop side quests. Hero missions are single-player slices of the campaign that follow a specific hero and advance the plot of the core Avengers team. As you continue them, you’ll meet new heroes that you can then play in Warzone missions, quests that you can play as any hero and with friends.
There’s also a bit of character customisation in upgrading your characters’ gear, choosing funky outfits and improving your abilities with three tier skill trees. Much like a raid or dungeon in an MMO, in Warzone missions, you’ll find rare gear and resources to craft and upgrade your equipment at the base, all of which will carry over in hero missions that said characters star in. Meaning, if you like Iron Man and continue playing him in co-op, you’ll see rewards appear for him in single-player – and vice versa. Throughout this presentation, Crystal Dynamics made it abundantly clear: if single-player is the act, co-op is the reaction to that act and how it affects the game’s world and its superpowered residents.
What these missions will be and who they’ll feature isn’t entirely clear but according to Crystal Dynamics, we should look forward to a few surprise cameos and partnerships, perhaps a certain web-slinging friendly neighbourhood hero as PlayStation exclusive DLC? Regardless, they’re drawing on the eighty years of Marvel Comics history instead of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so expect a plethora of side stories, heroes and costumes from all walks of Marvel’s franchises.
For now though, I can say with confidence that despite the backlash from its initial announcement, Avengers is pretty great. We’ll know more about the single-player world of Avengers and how Warzone missions will play out when the game launches on Windows PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Google Stadia on 15 May next year.
Julian Rizzo-Smith traveled to Cologne, Germany to preview Gears 5 as a guest of Microsoft, though was permitted to cover additional content at Gamescom. Travel and accommodation were supplied by Microsoft.