E3 2019: Reassembling Marvel’s Avengers With Crystal Dynamics’ Creative Director Noah Hughes

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It is no surprise that Crystal Dynamics’ Marvel’s Avengers is high on many a gamer’s list of most anticipated titles, and with a release date announced at Square Enix’s conference, now everyone wants to know how the game actually plays.

Lucky for us, we were treated to a 30-minute gameplay demo behind-closed-doors at E3 2019 starting right at the attack on the Golden Gate Bridge during A-Day celebrations. While it is not explicitly stated, this is surely in the beginnings of the game, with the main bulk of the story taking place five years later.

As enemy combatants descend upon the bridge, each Avenger is seemingly put through his/her paces. Thor steps up first, and it is hard not to see the resemblance between him and a certain God of War in his combat style.

Bashing foes with Mjolnir, throwing it to take down an enemy at ranged, engage in some bare-knuckle brawls, and summoning back the hammer all looked great and fun. Thor possessed the ability to unleash a shockwave blast that can take out enemies surrounding him, and has an ultimate move that charges him up like in Thor: Ragnarok, bringing down the fury of lightning.

The demo then switches to Iron Man and a on-rails shooting section, and it look kinda rough and not exactly freeing. That could change down the line, of course, and we see Tony Stark firing off repulsors, even some melee combat, and having the ability to fly adds some verticality.

Iron Man’s unibeam attack is a sight to behold, and is also sufficiently powerful on the battlefield.

The Jade Giant, Hulk, then joins in as the enemy ups their firepower. For the sheer joy of pure destruction and power, look no further than Bruce Banner. He treats the combatants like toys, meant to be thrown around and smashed hard. He could even use the enemies as projectiles.

Moving as the Hulk presents opportunities for building up speed and taking massive leaps, perfect as the bridge collapses and showing off the Hulk in cinematic goodness, concluding with a satisfying smash into a group of enemies.

Perspective then jumps onto the besieged Helicarrier, as Captain America holds off swarms of goons with a combat style reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham games. He hits hard, and throwing his trusty shield often results in awesome ricochets and damaging impact.

Not even shielded foes stood a chance against the First Avenger.

The final Avenger, Black Widow, then got her chance to shine as she took on the villain behind the chaos, Taskmaster. Caught up in a jetpack propelled struggle, the cinematic sequence is punctuated by familiar quick-time events, a scripted affair that hopefully does not wear out its welcome.

After crashing, it was time to engage in martial combat. Armed with her baton, her training, and dual pistols, Black Widow engages the Taskmaster in a boss fight. Occasionally, she counters with a signature leg-flip that brings down the villain, but as he learns her moves, she is forced to utilise a stealth device that allows for a quick take-down.

The encounter certainly felt different to the other heroes with their powers, and it will be interesting to see how they balance out the more human Black Widow versus the others in gameplay.

In the process, you get to witness the other Avengers doing their thing, it definitely evokes a feeling of a team of heroes doing what they do best, and it looked so sweet. Noah Hughes, Studio Creative Director at Crystal Dynamics, certainly thought so.

We really try to make sure that these heroes are expressing [their] core personalities,” explained Hughes. “So taking a character like Hulk is maybe a more obvious example.

You really want to feel how powerful he is, and that character. And not only that, just his style of fighting has to be strong and powerful, and really taking on a multitude of things. So he may not have ranged abilities as say, Black Widow who has her pistols and other gear.

“So [the game’s design] kind of starts for us with ensuring that those characters are really individuals and expressing those core personalities and then doing lots of play testing so that we can find even though they’re very different, ensure that they are balanced and that they are complimentary to each other.”

While we haven’t actually seen any team-based gameplay during the demo, we can be sure that that will be the case once the full game launches. What we saw was the single-player gameplay, where different moments in missions will require you to play as a different Avenger in order to make their particular skillset shine. And shine brightly they did.

In multiplayer, however, you’ll be able to see a fully-functional Avengers team assembling to take on baddies like what you’ve seen in the comics and movies.

“[From what you can see in the demo], the enemies take on a variety of forms, from groups of smaller enemies, to giant boss-style enemies. And in each case, players can take on different roles,” said Hughes.

“So one person might be responsible for taking out all the things in the air, whereas someone else is attracting the attention of all the enemies on the ground, and you start to bring that into a boss fight. And you start to get even more responsibilities where one player needs to do one thing, the other players are doing something else.

So that means making sure that the roles of in combat are different. And some people might be a little more successful in melee, or a little more successful at range. But it was actually important to that all the characters are effective in both range and melee, and are ultimately able to balance each other’s pros and cons. They’ll have strengths and weaknesses as a hero, but together, you can build a team who can take on any boss.”

Another aspect of gameplay we haven’t yet seen in the demo is character progression. According to Hughes, Marvel’s Avengers promises an action-adventure-oriented game with the ability to customise your character’s range of abilities as you see fit.

Each of the heroes represents a breadth of abilities, so they’re hybrid heroes of sorts. And part of the player’s choice is to skew that build style per hero, and that can come through their skill choices and their gear.

And we’ve generally tried to create a situation where any two players who [choose to play the same] hero, that they may be choosing different things within a skill tree, and also finding different gear that has different elements that might play into their build type or their play style. So it’s definitely something that we’re committed to is those upgrade paths allow you to sort of tweak your build for your hero the way you want to play them.

While we’re still in the dark about how exactly character progression in Marvel’s Avengers works, what Hughes detailed here certainly sparks some imagination for some really interesting ways in which one might play their favourite Avenger. Perhaps they could play a version of Iron Man who ditches his repulsor blasters at range in favour of boosting his melee attacks with them, or a Thor who zaps enemies to oblivion before they can even close the distance on him.

And if these Avengers aren’t your cup of tea, fret not, as Crystal Dynamics aims to bring more of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to the ranks of Marvel’s Avengers as part of post-launch content.

The entire demo certainly gave off a sense of what Crystal Dynamics is hoping to achieve with Marvel’s Avengers. Awesome, cinematic action with cool powers and gadgets while trying to tell an original Avengers story. With the Tomb Raider reboot franchise under their belt, it would seem that the game is in good hands, at least from what we saw.

Aside from the above, the team promised that more will be revealed in the coming months as they ramp up towards the May 15, 2020 release for all true believers.

Interview stills shot with the Sony a7S II.

Interested in catching all the E3 2019 action? Check out our handy guide, and all of our E3 2019 coverage!

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