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Marvel’s Avengers Game: What It's Like to Play as Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and More

Iron Man Avengers game
(Image credit: Square-Enix)

SEATTLE – It’s fair to say that Marvel’s Avengers, the upcoming superhero game from Square Enix, had a bit of a mixed reaction at E3. Some fans loved its unconventional take on an Avengers story, but others bemoaned its standard action/adventure gameplay and odd character likenesses.

Now that I’ve had a chance to play the game myself, I can say that while the characters don’t look much like their MCU counterparts, players will have a ton of customization options at their disposal, and they make the game feel much more ambitious overall.

Avengers, assemble!

Captain America Avengers game

(Image credit: Square-Enix)

I went hands-on with Avengers at PAX West 2019, and played through an extended version of the hands-off demo I saw back at E3. I won’t rehash the whole thing in graphic detail, but basically: San Francisco is under attack, and the Avengers assemble to stop the threat. Over the course of 20 minutes or so, I got to play as Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and Black Widow in order to rescue civilians, take down legions of armored soldiers and face off against the Taskmaster himself in a climactic boss fight.

Having taken control of the characters for myself, I can say two things about them. First: The gameplay is indeed pretty similar to God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Darksiders or whatever your action fix is lately. Each character has a light attack, a heavy attack, a dodge or block mechanic, and a few super-moves that you can activate after you soften a few enemies up. It all feels fine, albeit pretty similar to half a dozen other games you’ve played before.

Thor is an all-around attacker, able to fight enemies both on the ground and in the air.

However, what’s interesting are the small details that differentiate the heroes from one another. At least in the demo, Thor is an all-around attacker, able to fight enemies both on the ground and in the air. Iron Man blasts foes from afar with a combination of repulsors and lasers. The Hulk can pick up enemies and use them to bludgeon other foes. Captain America can block incoming attacks and stun enemies. Black Widow can fire guns from afar and become invisible to fight foes up close.

Admittedly, it’s hard to appreciate the subtle differences between the characters when you’re zooming through a tightly scripted tutorial scenario. That’s why I was much more interested in a follow-up hands-off presentation, where the devs explained how players could customize these characters to suit their preferences in the main game.

Gear, skills and costumes

The Hulk Avengers game

(Image credit: Square-Enix)

The first thing we learned is that the game will have both single-player and co-op missions. Hero Missions follow a single character, such as Black Widow or Iron Man, as they complete a solo adventure. As such, they will leverage what makes each character unique: flying around expansive environments as Iron Man, or smashing up entire landscapes as the Hulk and so forth. Warzone Missions, on the other hand, will let you play solo or team up with up to three other live players online as you fight against waves of foes or giant enemies.

You’ll have access to Iron Man’s prototype suits, Thor’s Odinson armor and, amusingly, the Hulk’s pinstripe Joe Fixit.

Hero Missions will advance the main narrative, but Warzone missions will provide additional context for the story, so they’re not a contextless horde mode. Furthermore, both types of missions will provide experience and gear for your heroes, whom you can customize to your liking, regardless of which mode you play. The missions will also take you all over the world; I saw a map of the American Southwest, but there will be many other regions to explore.

Earning experience is fairly straightforward. As you level up, you’ll gain skill points for each character, which you can then invest in various trees. Iron Man, for example, has Melee, Repulsor, Laser and Rocket skill trees, and how you invest in those skills will determine how each character plays. Iron Man can juggle multiple enemies from a distance, or get up close and dispatch one at a time. The developer also told us about their two different Thor builds: one as a ground-combat melee bruiser, and one as an elemental aerial warrior.

The gear system also has the potential to be pretty deep. As you progress through missions, you’ll pick up lots of accessories, each of which enhance different stats and skills. Equipment comes with “perks,” which might give attacks an area-of-effect bonus, or bump your health, or something similar. You can mix and match gear, or look to complete elaborate “sets,” which grant more elaborate bonuses. Some of the loot drops will be random, depending on how difficult you make the missions; others are guaranteed, as long as you complete a mission or an optional objective.

You can also customize your characters visually, thanks to dozens of costumes pulled from Marvel’s history, as well as Square Enix’s original designs. I got only a brief glimpse of the costume variety, but you’ll have access to Iron Man’s prototype suits, Thor’s Odinson armor and, amusingly, the Hulk’s pinstripe Joe Fixit outfit. Costumes and gear are totally independent of one another, so you never need to worry about your aesthetics and character build clashing. Unfortunately, some costumes will be available exclusively through paid microtransactions.

There will also be free missions and additional characters available as DLC. While the develops were very tight-lipped about which ones, they mentioned that the upcoming heroes will feel quite distinct from the first five.

Avengers headquarters video game

(Image credit: Square-Enix)

Earning experience is fairly straightforward. As you level up, you’ll gain skill points for each character, which you can then invest in various trees. Iron Man, for example, has Melee, Repulsor, Laser and Rocket skill trees, and how you invest in those skills will determine how each character plays. Iron Man can juggle multiple enemies from a distance, or get up close and dispatch one at a time. The developer also told us about their two different Thor builds: one as a ground-combat melee bruiser, and one as an elemental aerial warrior.

The gear system also has the potential to be pretty deep. As you progress through missions, you’ll pick up lots of accessories, each of which enhance different stats and skills. Equipment comes with “perks,” which might give attacks an area-of-effect bonus, or bump your health, or something similar. You can mix and match gear, or look to complete elaborate “sets,” which grant more elaborate bonuses. Some of the loot drops will be random, depending on how difficult you make the missions; others are guaranteed, as long as you complete a mission or an optional objective.

You can also customize your characters visually, thanks to dozens of costumes pulled from Marvel’s history, as well as Square Enix’s original designs. I got only a brief glimpse of the costume variety, but you’ll have access to Iron Man’s prototype suits, Thor’s Odinson armor and, amusing, the Hulk’s pinstripe Joe Fixit outfit. Costumes and gear are totally independent of one another, so you never need to worry about your aesthetics and character build clashing. Unfortunately, some costumes will be available exclusively through paid microtransactions.

There will also be free missions and additional characters available as DLC. While the develops were very tight-lipped about which ones, they mentioned that the upcoming heroes will feel quite distinct from the first five.

Outlook

Marvel’s Avengers may not rewrite the book on action/adventure gameplay, but the customization options sound impressive, and they’re all in service of an original Avengers story – not an adaptation of a comic book or film. The game will be out on May 15, 2020 for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Stadia.