As Square Enix’s E3 conference drew closer and closer to an end, anticipation built for one of the most easily foreseen projects in the industry to finally be announced: Crystal Dynamic’s Avengers game. After a swath of RPGs, remake announcements (including a long overdue Final Fantasy VII Remake demo), and the surprise shooter Outrider from People Can Fly, Avengers finally took the stage. But while all the pieces of a compelling pitch for a modern Marvel game were present, Square’s Avengers reveal failed to soar.
The trailer begins with a shot of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and an Avengers jet hovering in the skyline. The entire team, comprised at this point of only Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, Iron Man, and Thor, lands and participates in an “Avengers Day” convention similar in pageantry to the Stark Expo from Iron Man 2. Tony Stark is clearly having the most fun at the event when all of a sudden, mysterious energy starts ripping up the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Avengers assemble and fly to the rescue, Thor and Iron Man speeding over and seeing the explosions first as Bruce Banner leaps out of the jet into straight into a Hulk smash on the ground. We cut to Iron Man flying through explosions as the Avengers begin to fight an unspecified enemy force with archetypical commando armor and blue laser rifles. At this point in the trailer, the footage starts resembling actual gameplay, albeit heavily edited. Hulk stomps around on foot, making large jumps, Tony shoots lasers as he is wont to do, and Black Widow has little jets that allow her to fly around in a limited capacity, which would solve the mobility discrepancy between her and the rest of the team.
As the fighting continues, Captain America makes his way to a ship resembling the flying aircraft carrier from the first Avengers film, which has been overrun by the mystery foes. The rest of the team stays on the bridge to protect civilians, but the reactor on Captain America’s vessel goes critical, exploding the ship and sinking into the bottom of the ocean, presumably with Cap still inside. The trailer then pulls an Endgame and cuts to several years later with the team moping and fighting over their loss, specifically a (very conspicuous) Nolan North as Tony Stark and Troy Baker as Bruce Banner. Over a shot of a Captain America monument, they proclaim that “that’s not how this story ends” and the trailer goes to fast cutting shots of later story gameplay. Thor is attempting to electrify a ship’s engines as it plummets towards city buildings, Black Widow and Hulk are fighting large enemies that a better comic book fan than I can name, and Iron Man flies around in space hitting solar panels like that EMP bomb scene from Modern Warfare 2.
And that’s where the trailer ends, giving us a vague idea of what the game is… but one we already had from the rumors speculating. Square’s Avengers reveal then introduced an incredibly drawn out presentation after the initial trailer that ran achingly slowly through the cast as if we had never heard of these characters before (paraphrased quote: “Here’s Captain America, a super soldier!”), and threw in a filler interview with the voice actors behind the characters. I’ll gladly listen to Nolan North gab about anything, but filling valuable conference time with remarks such as “Tony Stark is a guy with a mask, he’s actually very vulnerable” feels very… obvious and not very helpful in understanding what the game itself is.
Another pair of developers on stage helped clarify a bit about the game’s structure, indicating it would have updates with new missions and characters, but no lootboxes, pay-to-win strategies, or fees for the new content. Unless they’re selling a ton of cosmetics, (and I bet they are either way,) it’s hard to imagine how the game will make its long-term money, because man that thing looks expensive, and Square Enix is known for wanting lots of money back for these investments.
A final trailer revealed the presence of Hank Pym and not much else, and all I was left with was the feeling that Square’s Avengers reveal was a missed opportunity. E3 showgoers will see a demo, but the general public, potential interested consumers are still very much in the dark. An Avengers game sells itself, and this somehow managed to cast doubt over an almost surefire bet. The game looks potentially great, with fun, agile characters, and impressive graphical fidelity… but I still want to know what the larger game is. What is the mission design like, how do the characters play, what sort of systems encourage teamwork?
No one should be confused about a game this seemingly straightforward after a 20-minute protracted presentation such as this.