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Why we're worried about Marvel's Avengers

Superheroes have never been bigger thanks to the work of Marvel Studios. Spanning more than a decade of high-budget, action-packed films, the first major saga culminated with Avengers: Endgame, which swept box offices worldwide. Nowadays, it's hard to find someone who doesn't know who Iron Man and Captain America are, as these characters have been elevated to new pop culture heights.

Because of all this success and good will surrounding the Avengers, there's never been a better time to make a high-profile AAA game based on the same characters. So Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, and Square Enix assembled to work on Marvel's Avengers. The game heroically lands on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia on May 15, 2020, but we're worried about how well it can stick the landing.

While it likely won't break records like Endgame did, we still want the upcoming game to succeed. However, we have some concerns that might prevent Marvel's Avengers from living up to its full potential. After all, Marvel will continue to be relevant in TV and movies, so hopefully this game won't be a blemish on its record.

The characters in Marvel's Avengers are too familiar

Marvel has a long history with its characters. Iron Man has been around since the early 1960s, and Captain America is 20 years his senior. Arguably though, these heroes became mainstream thanks to Marvel Studios. Now, Robert Downey Jr. practically is Tony Stark, and Chris Evans has become synonymous with Steve Rogers.

In the reveal of Marvel's Avengers, we got a look at this new interpretation of the heroes, and they look eerily familiar. Of course, the resemblance should be expected — these are the same characters, after all. Nonetheless, the familiarity is uncanny, and the character designs evoke their MCU counterparts. Yet, Downey Jr. and Evans don't reprise their roles. Instead, we have the voice work of Nolan North and Jeff Schine to look forward to.

Unfortunately, memories of the Infinity Saga are still fresh. For every good line North reads, we'll be wondering how Downey Jr. would have done. Marvel's Avengers will live under the shadow of the wildly successful movies, especially since the lineup of heroes just happens to be nearly identical. From the start, we'll always be comparing the game to one of the most successful film franchises on the planet.

The plot of Marvel's Avengers sounds like deja vu

In Marvel's Avengers, a tragic event befalls our heroes, and they ultimately fail to save the world. After experiencing this catastrophe, they go their separate ways. Five years later, they must reunite in order to salvage their reputation as heroes and save the world once more.

Hold on. That sounds like Avengers: Endgame. It's familiar, even down to the five-year time skip. Granted, Marvel's Avengers takes some other liberties that sets it apart. In this universe, it isn't Thanos that causes the disaster, and it doesn't seem like the entire universe was affected. Instead, only Earth experiences the calamity, and the heroes are ultimately blamed for it.

Now, a group of scientists have stepped up to the plate, protecting the planet with technology instead of superpowers. Called A.I.M., this entity now defends humanity, while superheroes have become outlaws. Tony Stark has lost his way, while Thor and Widow return to working alone; Bruce stays in his Hulk form, and Cap seemingly dies. Granted, these situations differ from their MCU counterparts, but the main plot point remains: the heroes must redeem themselves after a past failure.

Nolan North is a bit too Nathan Drake

Most superheroes wear masks, but we can often still tell who lurks under them. We know Tony Stark is underneath Iron Man's red-and-yellow helmet. Unfortunately, there's something awkward and distracting about Iron Man in Marvel's Avengers that we can't help but notice, especially while he wears the helmet.

Prolific voice actor Nolan North voices Iron Man in this incarnation of the Avengers. If you've played a lot of games, you've likely played one with him in it. He's in practically everything, after all. One of his most iconic roles in gaming is none other than Nathan Drake, the star of Sony's Uncharted series. Nate quips as often as he mows down baddies. He might not share Tony's intellect for technology, but the two have a knack for cocky confidence in the face of danger.

Their similar personalities mesh really well — almost too well. During the Iron Man segments of gameplay, there are moments where he sounds just like Nate. We enjoy North's work as much as the next fan, but the similarities distract us from fully buying into Iron Man's story.

Will the story in Marvel's Avengers get its due?

Square Enix, publisher of Marvel's Avengers, claims this game will be a cinematic, story-driven experience. After all, as the MCU has proven, these superheroes can carry a compelling story on their backs. However, Marvel's Avengers, at its core, presents two different types of gameplay.

On one hand, you have Hero Missions. These single-player experiences focus on specific characters, and they push the narrative forward in some way. On the other hand, you have Warzone levels, which let you play with up to three other friends to farm for resources and gear. Considering Square Enix's belief in Marvel's Avengers' years' long lifespan, it's starting to sound more and more like a live-service game. Instead of experiencing the allegedly captivating narrative that Crystal Dynamics has planned, players might be more invested in getting the best loot for their favorite heroes.

In other words, the story of Marvel's Avengers could fall to the wayside. Instead, people will care more about how to get that legendary item, or how to level up faster. That's what happened to Destiny and its story in the face of the co-operative hunt for loot.

Will the heroes stretch too thin?

When you play as Iron Man in Marvel's Avengers, you'll have a lot of customization options at your disposal. He has various skill trees to work through as he levels up. These trees affect different parts of his playstyle, including but not limited to Melee, Laser, and Rockets. On top of those latent abilities, you'll find gear that comes with special perks, further changing how he plays.

Now think of all those possibilities for the other playable characters.

Each character plays differently on the battlefield, but the amount of promised customization feels ambitious. At best, it can be overwhelming. At worst, these options can feel passive or shallow, creating the illusion of choice through meaningless upgrades.

The constant growth puts this on a different playing field when compared to other games with big rosters. Fighting games like Tekken or hero shooters like Overwatch may have more characters, but each one remains static. Once you've learned how to play as Tracer, you can always revisit her, even after playing other characters. With Marvel's Avengers, you have to worry about how at least six different characters play now and then again later as they level up.

How will co-op in Marvel's Avengers work?

Each character varies wildly in their skills and strength. Hulk can crush a car with his bare hands if he wants to, while Iron Man can fly circles around the green giant. With such varied skill sets, it makes sense that certain missions would cater to certain characters' strengths. But how will Crystal Dynamics factor that into the co-op Warzone missions?

Take Iron Man as an example. He flies a lot, so mission segments give him huge levels that let him fly. Contrarily, Black Widow doesn't have that sort of mobility, so her gameplay is more grounded and focused on hand-to-hand combat. How would a co-op mission between the two work? Would Widow just sit back and watch Iron Man during an on-rails shoot-'em-up segment?

For the co-op gameplay to work, every player needs to be engaged. As it is now, it only seems like some heroes will excel in certain moments, while others won't have much to do. This is especially exacerbated by the fact that you can't stack characters. If flying characters have an advantage in a certain mission, only Iron Man and Thor can be used to their best ability.

Is Marvel's Avengers chasing trends?

Marvel's Avengers clearly aims to deliver a cinematic, narrative-driven experience. The trailers are full of suspense and intrigue, like most comic book stories. However, the developers and publisher have pushed another marketing angle that drowns out any semblance of interesting story.

At the end of the day, Crystal Dynamics is developing a game with co-op missions that reward players with loot that has "Gear Levels" tacked onto them. Heroes can then be customized, both via cosmetics and gear, along with expansive skill trees. On top of all that, you can purchase more skins after release, and you can expect more skins to join the years of post-launch content the developer has planned.

Any way you slice it, this sounds like a live-service game. Yet, Crystal Dynamics most recently garnered fame through its work on the story-heavy Tomb Raider 2013 reboot and its subsequent sequels. Now, the developer has suddenly started working with all these live-service mechanics, and you have to wonder if it's all just for the money. Games as a service has been a trend for years now, and it looks like Crystal Dynamics is chasing for that same glory.

Will Kamala Khan be overshadowed?

At New York Comic Con 2019, Crystal Dynamics revealed the newest character to join the Marvel's Avengers roster. Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, will be the sixth playable hero in the game. Furthermore, she'll play the leading role in the story, as she's the reason the team gets back together five years after the catastrophe.

Now, some of you might be wondering who she is, and that's what worries us most. Kamala only recently joined the Marvel canon, with her first appearance dating back to 2013. Compared to the storied histories of Captain America or the Hulk, she doesn't have as much going for her, especially in mainstream recognition.

Kamala will get a TV show on Disney+ soon. Unfortunately, as it stands now, she doesn't have a decade of blockbuster movies under her belt. Fans might be more eager to play as the rest of the Avengers, overshadowing the game's protagonist.