Two years ago Square Enix dropped a trailer for an Avengers video game that was riddled with mystery. Things looked intense. There was no gameplay. There was no story. This was a promise that the Avengers game we’ve been waiting for was on its way from the company best capable of producing it. Did we want more? Of course, we did! But the hype was instantly real. Up until this point the best comic games with teams came from Raven Software’s Ultimate Alliance series. That first X-Men game is still one of my favorite gaming experiences and that’s saying something considering that mine had a glitch that wouldn’t allow me to finish the game. The rosters were huge, the stories epic, and the action a lot of fun. The idea of Square Enix being in charge of these Marvel characters was enough to make the casual video game fan pace around in excitement.
Then for two years, we heard nothing. Perhaps the occasional whisper but there was no follow up to that mysterious trailer. No news. No updates. Nothing… until this year’s E3 where Square Enix was set to drop some major news concerning the game. Suddenly viewings for the trailer increased. Theories circled the internets. The hype train was in full motion, and I got swept the eff up. My video game playing has slowed since I’ve gotten older and taken a bunch more on my plate like writing, reading, comics, and all things pop culture so when I have interest in a game then I have interest in a game. There will be hours spent playing and awesomeness will ensue. Hell, I bought my PS4 because I knew Last of Us 2 would be released for the platform and the game still doesn’t have a release date. Coming off the high of Spider-Man, I was ready for this Avengers game to melt my face.
I’ll tell you Geeklings… that didn’t happen. At all.
Square Enix’s presentation was last night and I watched pretty much all of it on Twitter waiting for the Avengers news. Outside of the Final Fantasy VII remake, there wasn’t a whole lot that got me excited, but I was ready. I was full of anticipation and when the teaser trailer for the game dropped I felt this deep sense of underwhelming disappointment. This is what we’ve been waiting two years for?! There are often times where I set the bar too high in my head, but this didn’t seem like one. Square Enix is one of the premier video game companies. These guys make great games time and time again. The Avengers is a property that almost sells itself, and that was part of the problem here. This trailer made it feel like Square wanted me to buy this game just because the Avengers title was attached to it, and that was problematic.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that this game isn’t supposed to be modeled after the MCU and I respect the hell out of that. Let it be its own thing. This is an original story with an original take on the characters, but this original take doesn’t have to be so… off, does it? Our heroes don’t look anything like the characters I’ve grown up with, and that’s not just an MCU comparison. I’m talking comics too. In all ways, these character designs fell flat for me. Black Widow looks like Lord Farquaad in a red wig. I’m not sure where they got that Captain America design but it wasn’t from Marvel. Thor felt lazy and Tony… sure, I guess that’s Tony. The only one who looked any good was Banner and the Hulk. Keeping the game to an original look and design is great and all, but it’s hard to be completely original when these characters have existed for over eighty years. There has to be some recognition beyond the costume design. To steal from the meme, these guys look like stunt doubles. That immediately took me out of the game. You know that How I Met Your Mother episode where everyone’s bad habits get pointed out? It was like that. Once seen it couldn’t be unseen.
With two years to prep for this moment you would have thought that Square would have brought some gameplay with them, but it was hard to distinguish gameplay from the cinematics. Which is not a good sign. I was hoping for some next-generation graphics, and what we got was very basic. Sure, it looks good but I was holding Square and this game to a higher bar. Make the cut scenes feel cinematic. Make the gameplay feel like gameplay. Make this feel special and epic, like the majority of Final Fantasy titles. This felt slapped together and anticlimactic.
The game’s story feels very much like Brian Michael Bendis’s Avengers Dissembled, which I l dig, but I don’t like that it implies that Captain America dies during “A-Day”. That means we’re going to lose him for a large portion of the game, until he makes his dramatic return, and that bites. I want to play with Captain America, damn it! Don’t kill him off in the intro stages of the game. And who is the big villain of all this? The only villain I caught a glimpse of was the Abomination, and that was okay I guess. Where’s Doctor Doom? Where’s Kang? Where’s anyone?! The last sequence we got should have hyped the big bad, and instead, we got Hank Pym… out of costume with a shrink gun. Yay? Give me a tease of Black Panther and Captain Marvel or Doctor Strange. Give me something to lose my face over. If someone didn’t call the name “Hank” out I probably would have had no idea who I was seeing.
I know there’s a lot of stuff still to come like a clearer story trailer for starters. Not to mention a bunch of the different costume designs and other playable characters. And I really appreciate that there are no loot boxes or anything to purchase and all characters are available to everyone. That’s cool. But give us more! Make me excited about this game because right now, I’m not spending the money on this. Make this at least feel like a Marvel project. Just because you give me characters in Marvel costumes or use the term “true believer” a lot doesn’t mean that this feels like a Marvel game. Spider-Man on PS4 felt like a Marvel game. Ultimate Alliance 3 feels like a Marvel game. This…? This feels like it’s cashing in on the Avengers name and the product shows.
I understand that Square Enix doesn’t want to give away the farm but with the tremendous amount of hype that proceeded this maybe they should have given us something more than a Captain America in hockey pads and the brief hint of Inhumans. I think we deserve better. Who knows, maybe in the coming months things change and I get excited about the game. That’s more than possible. I didn’t like the suit change in Spider-Man at first either, and I grew to love everything about that game pretty hard. I’m hoping that this game wins me over before its March release next year, but it has a lot of work to do to get there because right now it’s just there. And I don’t want any Avengers property to be just there. I’d prefer it get taken in the Snap opposed to just existing. Maybe if that happened I wouldn’t feel so damn underwhelmed…