Going into a demo of Marvel’s Avengers at E3 2019, there was a singular focus: to find out what the gameplay actually looks like. While the Marvel’s Avengers reveal trailer gives quick glimpses at what appears to be gameplay, nothing is specifically called out and many questions were left unanswered. Crystal Dynamics’ presentation hoped to answer those questions and by and large, it did.
The demo itself focuses on the same Golden Gate bridge level seen in the reveal trailer, only featuring brief sequences of each Avenger fighting broken up by a little traversal and a few quicktime events here and there. It starts with Thor bashing and electrifying thugs with Mjolnir and even using his hammer to pin enemies in place while bashing others with his fist. There is a heft to the hammer hits that feels appropriate for the character and the use of lightning makes for some impressive visuals, and for the most part he seems like a melee weapon-type character.
Then Marvel's Avengers demo transitions to Iron Man chasing and shooting down flying enemies before landing and partaking of more traditional third-person ranged/melee action. The flying chase sequence looked fairly limited in scope but things could expand later in the game, while the combat was everything fans would want out of Iron Man third-person combat, complete with unibeam attacks for big damage.
Hulk comes into play after that and after a little traversal does his typical Hulk smash routine, taking out large groups of enemies in a single blow and reducing tanks to scrap metal in seconds. While Thor and Iron Man would need to focus on one or two targets at a time, Hulk's combat was about showcasing his power through massive ground pounds and a devastating clap attack.
While the four other Avengers are doing their thing on the Golden Gate Bridge, Captain America is up in a helicarrier that is under siege from some enemy troopers. Cap uses his shield in a couple of different ways like slamming it into the ground for an area of effect attack or using it to amplify a strike, but as one would expect there is a lot of shield throws and bouncing right back.
The gameplay portion concluded with Black Widow facing off against Taskmaster back on the Golden Gate Bridge. Her combat seems to be a little more parry and dodge based, with some quicktime events as you might see in a boss fight from Marvel's Spider-Man. It was easily the most action-packed of the five Avengers gameplay sequences and it supported the character’s style well.
But what’s strange about the demo is that it doesn’t really feel like the game. It’s almost as if this is a tutorial mission to get players acquainted with all of the heroes before they eventually pick a specific hero for 4-player co-op. The demo only spends enough time with each character to give a sense of their combat style, and then it transitions to the next Avenger. There was no time spent explaining customization, whether there are skill trees or upgrades, or even if a solo player gets AI teammates.
So what can we glean from the Marvel's Avengers gameplay footage? Everything is based on assumptions because Crystal Dynamics didn’t say much during the demo, but it seems like gameplay is focused on third-person character action with two abilities and an “ultimate.” Each Avenger’s playstyle highlights their unique powers from the comics – Hulk is more destructive, Iron Man uses his repulsors to keep enemies at range – but there were general similarities to be seen and some limitations as well (Iron Man can't freely fly anywhere, for example).
But if you are looking for a game that tells a new Avengers story with combat that appears satisfying no matter who you are playing, Crystal Dynamics seems to be on the right path. Hopefully, they start showing more of the game soon so fans can better gauge what the gameplay actually looks like, though.
Marvel’s Avengers releases May 15, 2020 for PC, PS4, Stadia, and Xbox One.