Marvel’s Avengers Was Missing More than Just Gameplay

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jun 19, 2019

Filed under: Column 81 comments

My column this week looks at the E3 trailer for the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers and talks about some of the shortcomings. I find this footage really frustrating to look at. In some games you can look at substandard art or unpolished gameplay and assume the team didn’t have the time or budget to make something better. But in the case of Marvel’s Avengers, it looks like the publisher is spending money and that money is somehow not showing up on screen. As far as I can tell, this isn’t a problem with publisher priorities. This is a basic project management problem.

I doubt that the publisher would be foolish enough to ask a developer to make a mid-budget Marvel comics game with a large cast of diverse gameplay modes. That wouldn’t make any sense. But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that they did. If that’s the case, then why did Developer Crystal Dynamics aim so high with the scope? If they’re in a limited-budget situation, then it makes no sense to make these epic set-piece battles with large scale destruction of real-world locations. It makes even less sense to aim the visuals at this sort of half-assed photorealism rather than throwing a toon shader over the whole thing and making cheaper assets.

These characters look just enough like their MCU counterparts to create expectations that this game can't possibly meet.
These characters look just enough like their MCU counterparts to create expectations that this game can't possibly meet.

On the other hand: If Square Enix is putting up the money for a big-budget superhero ensemble game, then… where is it? Why does everything look so shoddy? Why does it look like there’s no art directorRead the column itself for my analysis on the character designs and proportions.? Why do the visuals look so last-gen?

Why was this team given this property? For the last decade and change, the only thing these people have made is Tomb Raider games. Crystal Dynamics has no experience with:

  • Large open environments. Tomb Raider games take place in linear ruins, not sprawling cities.
  • Superhero games. How do you handle flight? How do you handle it when the camera slams into a major piece of scenery while the player is moving at high speeds? What about a hero that can plow through dozens of foes at once? A lot of these problems need to be solved on a per-game, per-hero basis. Lara’s tree-climbing and cover shooting with groups of 3-4 dudes is pretty different from (say) Iron Man’s rocket-powered city traversal and mook-shredding repulsor blasts.
  • Ensemble stories. The last two Tomb Raider games from Crystal DynamicsCD Made the 2014 reboot and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is from a different studio.have been kind flat character-wise, and now they’re entering a genre that banks on vibrant characters. Other movie studios struggle to clear the bar set by the MCU. Video games struggle to clear the low storytelling bar set by the movie industry. Crystal Dynamics struggles to clear the lower bar set by the game industry.
  • Live service games.

If I had to use one word to sum up Crystal Dynamics over the last few years, it would be “mediocre”. The team hasn’t made anything horrible, but they’ve been working with well-worn gameplay mechanics, straightforward environments, and standard tropes. They haven’t failed, but they haven’t taken on anything particularly challenging either. And now they’re going to tackle this drastically different style of game, with a massive scope, AND they’re going to offer us a bunch of “live services” promises about ongoing content releasesAnd presumably, ongoing monetization. AND they’re going to tackle an ensemble story that’s more difficult than anything else they’ve ever done?

I know accusations of the Dunning–Kruger effect are really popular these days. I’m just as guilty as anyone else of throwing it around casually, but it seems inescapable here. As I watched the E3 presentation and these developers showed off amateur level work with AAA production values and followed it up with lots of grandiose promises, I got the feeling that something is really wrong with the development of this game. Somewhere in Crystal Dynamics is a leader that’s completely in over their head and they don’t even know it.

Is Black Widow just Thor without the beard? Have I been staring at this art for too long? Am I losing my mind?
Is Black Widow just Thor without the beard? Have I been staring at this art for too long? Am I losing my mind?

On top of this is the fact that “live service” games have an extremely spotty track record. It’s the World of Warcraft effect all over again: One game has huge success and makes tons of money, and then a dozen copycats chase the money and end up making a bunch of crap that nobody asked for. If Borderlands 3 had been a live services game I would have been massively disappointed, but it would at least have been an understandable business move. We have a working model for how looter-shooters work with live services. But what’s the live services model for a superhero game? I guess Crystal Dynamics will have to come up with that business model / monetization system / gameplay loop while they’re also doing all of these other difficult things they’ve never done before.

The MCU didn’t start with the Avengers. Just make a Tomb Raider sized game starring Hawkeye or Captain America. Once you have the basics down, then you can scale up. If you go right for the team-up first without the smaller movies then you’re not making The Avengers, you’re making Justice League.



[1] Read the column itself for my analysis on the character designs and proportions.

[2] CD Made the 2014 reboot and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is from a different studio.

[3] And presumably, ongoing monetization.

From The Archives:

81 thoughts on “Marvel’s Avengers Was Missing More than Just Gameplay

  1. Henson says:

    Is Black Widow just Thor without the beard?


    1. Mephane says:

      To me she looks like someone was clumsily trying to imitate the likeness of Kate Mulgrew and Gillian Anderson at the same time…

      1. Lino says:

        Well, at least those two are women – to me, her face looks more like Prince Charming from Shrek.

        1. Grampy_bone says:

          It’s the Great Character Model Uglification that began with Dragon Age Inquisition and hasn’t stopped since.

          Having attractive women in your game is tantamount to a hate crime now, gotta have weird looking androgynes instead. Just look at the freak-outs about Cyberpunk, FF7 remake, Dead or Alive 6, etc.

          1. RichardW says:

            I have my doubts about how conscious this is, but it is weirdly starting to feel like a bit of a trend. The more recent Tomb Raider games are actually an interesting example, where they took a literal sex symbol in Lara Croft and made her look like somebody’s tired old mother in the space of a few games. More than just appearance, her voice acting became Adam Jensen-level monotone. Handwave it as her being traumatized sure, but it’s a big change in direction.

            The first Crystal Dynamics entry found a good balance between a more realistic looking lead character and the iconic one people have in their heads, but somehow things changed after that one fluke. I know a lot of people left the studio after finishing TR 2013, might go some ways towards explaining things. Then again, that franchise has been having a major identity crisis for the last 18 years.

      2. Gareth Wilson says:

        Looks like Cobie Smulders in a bad wig to me.

        1. Lanthanide says:

          That’s pretty insulting to Cobie.

    2. Steve C says:

      SHIELD could land a hellicarrier on her chin.

    3. Rack says:

      Holy crap, it actually feels plausible.

    4. Modog says:

      The picture of Black Widow looks more like Kurt Russell in a red wig.

  2. Lino says:

    It’s so sad to see Crystal Dynamics sink so low – one of my favourite series of all time is Legacy of Kain, in no small part because of its grand scope and deep characters – it’s rare to get such stories in Ye Olde Video Game Land. And as much as I like the new Tomb Raider games, they’re pretty much Uncharted wanna-bes…

    I still can’t understand how one of my favourite studios lost what made them so unique.

    1. Raion says:

      Well, Amy Henning left, for one…
      And don’t get me wrong, I love the Legacy of Kain series as much as the next Razielim, but have you tried playing any of them recently? They aren’t very good gameplay wise. Maybe CD never were that good.
      Although, dat Soul Reaver tech is mighty impressive (there’s a digital foundry video about it).

      1. Abnaxis says:

        And don’t get me wrong, I love the Legacy of Kain series as much as the next Razielim, but have you tried playing any of them recently?

        Bearing in mind I’m just thinking back on it, I’d say it was good for it’s time. Like, I can think of things that annoyed me about the game design, even at the time, but it was still better than most of the alternatives as I remember

        1. Lino says:

          Same here. Soul Reaver 2 had some very visceral combat, and while Defiance didn’t really give you enough time to play with all of Raziel’s reavers, the games’ mechanics were still among the best for their time. Like everything, they had their flaws, e.g. SR 2 had some overly long cutscenes, but I guess it comes with the territory wheen you’re dealing with such a complex story.

          1. Scampi says:

            Soul Reaver 2 had, imho, the weakest combat of the entire series, including both Blood Omen installments. The series’ combat was, imho at its best in Soul Reaver 1 and Blood Omen 2, followed by Defiance. Even Blood Omen 1 imho has better combat than Soul Reaver 2.
            I have played the entire series multiple times and always came to this conclusion. May I ask what it is that you find so good about the SR 2 combat?
            I enjoy the pickup weapons of SR 1 and BO 2, the use of the environment to combat enemies (Soul Reaver: fire, sunlight, spikes, water; Blood Omen 2: abilities allow for stealth kills, leaping at opponents, evasion or blocking based combat movement etc). I also don’t like the combat animations of SR 2, which I found to be a step down from SR 1 even at the time I played it first, and the enemies encountered in the game. There was very little for me to enjoy in the combat in SR 2, which is why I mostly tried to avoid it-only to find the game forced me to engage in it regularly by cutting off the way via energy barriers which would only disappear after I had cleared the battlefield.

            1. Lino says:

              I never managed to get through SR 1 – I didn’t have a PlayStation, so I only played it through a bootleg PC port which didn’t have the most stellar controls (or performance, or functionality, as the game crashed on a regular basis :D ). I ended up leaving it and watching a playthrough. As for SR 2, I really liked the execution animations, and the general feel of the combat. Even though I’ve watched severl playthroughs of the original Blood Omen, I intend on playing it as well, since itis mechanics also look very solid. As for Blood Omen 2 and Defiace, I’d actually go with the latter – I just remember BO 2’s combat feeling very stiff to me at the time…

    2. Lars says:

      I enjoyed the first 2 CD Tomb Raiders as well. Especially Anniversary. (Underworld was buggy and frustrating with an XBox 360 Pad, Reboot was okay-ish and Rise unbearable dumb, skipped Shadow)
      Never liked Uncharted because, it was a Tomb Raider Wanna-Be with stupid cover based shooter parts in the middle of nowhere against busloads of cannon fodder.

  3. Tizzy says:

    Projects like this in general have such an uphill struggle. Expectations are high (on all sides: game playing public, but also all stakeholders) given how the MCU keeps achieving things that have never been done before in movie history like it’s no big deal. And from what I’ve read regarding games that were developed using other famous movie properties, a studio has very little margin to operate in, as everything must be run past the original IP owners. So in this particular case, I imagine that every decision that puzzles Shamus in his column (and many more) required Crystal Dynamics to run it past Square Enix, Marvel, and Disney. This creates a scenario were the dev is drowned in paralyzing feedback, but also this blurs the lines for who’s responsible for the bad decisions. I feel bad for the devs.

    1. RichardW says:

      I bet the folks at Crystal Dynamics are more than a little envious of the way Insomniac’s take on Spider-Man went. That’s a really high bar to clear. And Sony by all accounts is pretty hands-off with their developers, they didn’t have a super tight deadline or micromanagement and delivered a great game. Square Enix on the other hand doesn’t have the best reputation and I can definitely see that sort of “feedback paralysis” happening.

      Mind you, as someone who was pretty skeptical of Guerilla Games taking on an open world after seeing them do nothing but linear corridor shooters for a decade (HORIZON now being one of my favourite games), stranger things could happen than CD pulling it out of the bag. Just seems like an uphill battle in this case.

    2. Karma The Alligator says:

      Good point, Marvel is now Disney… And considering how much meddling Disney did with KH3, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some already with this game.

  4. Lame Duck says:

    I understand that they can’t use the actors’ appearances but I really don’t understand why they designed the characters to look like off-brand versions of the actors. It somehow makes the whole thing feel like it’s ripping-off its own source material.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Yeah. They could have looked back in the comics, picked a style from a decade ago or more: still recognisably the characters, but without the direct comparison to the MCU.
      As it is, ‘knock-off’ is exactly the right term for their appearence, and really highlights that someone didn’t want to pay to use the big-name actors.

      1. Scampi says:

        As someone who defended the Avengers Assemble-TV-series yesterday, I think it might not actually be the fault of CD in this case. Over the run of the MCU movies, the series regularly made an effort to match the appearances of multiple characters specifically to resemble their MCU-likeness.
        I wonder whether Marvel/Disney wants their heroes to share an appearance over multiple/all current versions of themselves for better recognition, limiting how far they can be changed in the first place.
        I think the villains of Marvel’s Spider Man also were suspiciously depicted in a style that might have been drawn directly from an MCU version of themselves. I’d not like to wrongfully blame Crystal Dynamics for something that I believe might be a result of Disney/Marvel meddling in products using their IP.

      2. Joe Informatico says:

        For that matter, if this isn’t supposed to be set in the MCU, they didn’t even have to use the original MCU lineup. They could have swapped Black Widow and Hawkeye for Ant-Man and the Wasp and gone with the original comics lineup. Or literally any other lineup. Anything to minimize direct comparisons with the MCU.

    2. Henson says:

      I think it’s clear the developers/publisher want to cash into the recent MCU financial success. And despite the puzzled reactions from people on sites like this, it may very well work.

    3. They can use the actor likeness, it’ll just cost more.

  5. Asdasd says:

    I brought this up last post, but take a look at Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, also currently in development. It’s surely a lower-budget title for a lower-specced system, but thanks to smart decisions about the art style, it looks brighter, clearer, and less uncanny. The Avengers are recognisable without being the photorealistic likenesses (or off-brand facsimiles) of their MCU counterparts. I can’t think of a reason Team Ninja’s circumstances would be more favourable than CD’s regarding adapting the IP or dealing with executive meddling from license holders. They just did a better job.

    1. GoStu says:

      What a great example!

      Going with that sort of cartoony cel-shaded look fits superhero games perfectly (after all, their original medium is comics), and is probably cheaper to chase after than photorealism. You can get away with a lot more when you’re not trying to make something look real.

      The gameplay looks like it knows more about what it wants to be. It’s a cooperative brawler sort of thing. It looks like every hero has a different moveset but NOT their own kind of gameplay.

      A lower-budget, tighter-scoped game will probably be enjoyed more and turn better margins.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      This is an interesting example because it even uses the recent major enemies from the MCU (Thanos and the Black Order) yet despite that it invites less to comparison to that universe than this game does. Granted MUA3 does have the X-Men to spice things up, but again, this new Avengers game makes no effort in looking different.

    3. Daimbert says:

      You can compare the Marvel’s Avengers trailer to the cinematic intro to the original Marvel Ultimate Alliance:

      Now, the trailer for MUA is quite a bit different, but it promotes the gameplay so the intro and this trailer seem to be on about the same level. Which of the two gets you more interested in the story and highlights the characters and their traits better?

  6. Christopher says:

    That new Tomb Raider fell quickly from grace. I remember it getting on the denouement list and then get a lower assessment later on, and now we’re down to mediocre. Personally I always liked the gameplay basically fine, and having not played those old Tomb Raider games it sure seems less clunky, but thought it was pretty effin bland.

    I dunno how fair this interpretation is, but I don’t think Insomniac was a surefire hit with Spider-Man. They’d made some classics, but they’d made some clunkers, too. Fuse, Resistance and Sunset Overdrive aren’t the most beloved games out there, and I don’t think Ratchet & Clank: All 4 one lit the world on fire exactly. But the producer of Sunset Overdrive stepped up to the directing chair for Marvel’s Spider-Man, and while it’s not perfect, he knocked it out of the park. And while that achievement is certainly on their team, I also think Sony’s backing on the project helped, Bryan Intihar specifically mentioning the advice he got from old Mark Cerny on how to run a project like this. Insomniac isn’t a first party studio of Sony’s, but when they do work with Sony, the essentially become one. I dunno, I just wonder how much that exclusivity helped push the project to be even stronger. You’d think Sony and Marvel looming over their heads would be a nightmare, but judging from the interviews the relationship was cordial, and the representatives of each were always within reach. Within walking distance even, I think I read. So it’s just like having another expert or advisor on the team.

    Avengers isn’t just on Crystal Dynamics. It’s also on Eidos Montréal, the Deus Ex reboot people, who I’m largely unfamiliar with personally, but they’ve collaborated on the earlier Tomb raider reboot games and were the leads on Shadow. Seems like they’ve got a good working relationship, both being under Square. They’ve also erected another studio in Washington to help suppert the project. Thanks, Wikipedia. So it’s not like it’s just one studio grinding away at this. But they do not have first party support.

    I think Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montréal seem like basically quality devs, as in, they can make AAA games that look and feel expensive, but they’re coming from a pretty damn different place than Insomniac. Insomniac are the Ratchet & Clank people, the Sunset Overdrive dudes. They’ve made some serious stuff now and then but largely they had to button up and be more realistic for Spider-Man. Their games are simple, but fun. With Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montréal, all they’ve been making for the last generations have been the Deus Exes, the Tomb Raiders and that new Thief game nobody liked. Serious games with serious dudes, all generally human and doing regular human stuff.

    In theory they’re a good dev to get if you’re making a movie-like game, but I think it’s pretty clear from the audience reception that their approach just didn’t land. They’ve been taking cues from the MCU, and cues from the cartoon, and all people see are off-brand MCU with bad lines.

    Spidey’s reveal wasn’t super either. It’s a bunch of QTE’s, cutscene clips and cinematic contextual moves. But it got people excited because anyone could smell the Money from a mile away. You were getting quality Spider-Man, and yeah, as expected it was pretty shallow, but odds are you’ve never been better served by a game as a Spider-Man fan. Unlike Shamus, I totally think you can smell the money on the Avengers game too. Compared to something like Ultimate Alliance or Marvel VS Capcom Infinite, it looks like it has ten times the budget, several more years of development time. Some bad casting choices here, yeah, but so are quite a few of the Spider-Man dudes. Ask someone who doesn’t know what it is to recognize what pop culture character aunt May is just from looking at her. It shouldn’t be that big of an issue.

    But their direction here just sucks. Grey, wannabe-MCU, boring lines, it just isn’t the immediate strong impression that Spider-Man was. I’m getting more behind the athletic suit and Mr. Negative by the minute, ’cause those henchmen and that bad guy immediately set it apart from any movieverse, and the beautiful fall New York just looked gorgeous from the start. And at least they saved the bad face reveals for later, lol.

    I just hope that the game starts looking better once we see more of it. But realistically, I think we’re lookin at a pretty bland MCU visual design take on this setting, with far below MCU level writing and banter, and with some well-mocapped but rigid action. It’s not offensive, it’s just disappointing.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      I got the feeling that just like he did with Tomb Raider, Shamus will be more critical of the Spider-Man game in the future. Once the hype wears off the blandness and shallowness start to creep in. I honestly wasn’t very impressed with the game. I don’t see it as bad, but it’s not much better than other Spider-Man games from the past like Web of Shadows, Ultimate Spider-Man or Amazing Spider-Man 2. In fact, I’d argue that Ultimate might still be the better game. There’s more variation on the gameplay thanks to the two playable characters and the cel-shaded art style is much more appealing.

      Spidey’s reveal wasn’t super either. It’s a bunch of QTE’s, cutscene clips and cinematic contextual moves.

      And this is precisely why I wasn’t excited for it despite everyone going crazy. I saw nothing different from previous games except shinier graphics. The fact that people were even excited for the opportunity to play in stealth sections as Mary Jane while they had condemned that sort of thing in other games (like the Hulk game based on Eric Bana’s film) told me that Shamus is 100% right on the money on one thing: there’s a major lack of superhero games out here, so people are just getting interested in every little bit they can chew.

    2. John says:

      I have never played a single Insomniac game, but I have listened to several episodes of the Game Maker’s Notebook podcast, in which Insomniac’s founder Ted Price talks to other game developers. It’s left me with a mixed impression of the studio. Some of the time Ted Price comes across as a genuinely thoughtful person, a man who is deeply and sincerely interested in the process of making games and running a (big) games studio. Most of the time, however, he comes across as a guy who’s really easily impressed by whatever it is other AAA studios have done or are doing. To be fair, Game Maker’s Notebook is sponsored by an industry association, so cheerleading may be part of his mandate for the show. My point, I guess, is that if Ted Price thinks that a bunch of AAA games that I happen to know received middling-to-good reviews are just the most amazing and wonderful things ever then I’m not sure trust Insomniac to produce anything really great.

    3. Cubic says:

      “Ratchet & Clank: All 4 one”

      Shudder. And here I had almost blocked that one out. I seem to recall their R&C remake was done in the same awful style. Never bought it.

      With that said, Insomniac is still one of my top studios and I have spent many an hour in their less recent games. Spiderman might fit into this category too, once I get around to it.

    4. Thomas says:

      In Tomb Raider Crystal Dynamics did some neat things, and then in the sequel they kept doing those things but in places where it didn’t make sense.

      That made me think they didn’t actually know what they were doing.

    5. Anonymous Coward says:

      FWIW, Sunset Overdrive is actually a good game; it just makes a terrible first impression for some reason. Possibly a combination of controls that take some time to get used to, front-loaded tutorials about same that end up blurring together, and then throwing the player directly into a difficult-feeling tower defense mission. I had to force myself to push past that but then I ended up really enjoying the game a lot; it was worth the effort. (And hey, it’s not like we’re going to get Jet Grind Radio 3 any time soon soooo, yeah.)

  7. Christopher says:

    Which studios would you have given the Avengers IP to and told them to make an action adventure/brawler game in the vein of Spidey to? ‘Cause I can think of some devs that could make a really amazing action game based on them, but they’re all Japanese, and the banter wouldn’t be any better than it’s now, that’s for sure. As much as I think giving it to a part of Capcom that really cares (the Devil May Cry 5 devs, not the marvel VS Capcom Infinite devs) would result in the coolest game, I don’t think they’re the best fit for the non-action bits of American super heroes.

    “Another Sony dev” is what springs to mind for me. Marvel wants big mainstream cinematic experiences. That’s sony’s forte, between devs like Naughty Dog and Sony Santa Monica. Or even the high budget adventure games in the ilk of Until Dawn or David Cage’s stuff. I think the God of War devs have proven that they’d do at least alright at a Thor game. They’ve got Mjolnir down, that’s for sure.

    1. Geebs says:

      I’m have to go with FromSoft, because they’d almost certainly make a Hulk game in which, when you died, you’d be stuck as Bruce Banner until you killed the next boss.

      1. Christopher says:

        Yeah okay, now I’m supporting this idea.

      2. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Every time you die as Iron Man, you have to rebuild your suit from scratch.

        If you die as captain America, you get ice cubed and need to melt yourself out to get your proper gear back.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          If you die as Thor, you’re no longer worthy to wield the hammer and have to go on a whole redemption arc to pick it up again.

          1. Lino says:

            If you die as Black Widow, she’s dead forever, and you have to reinstall the game in order to play her again.

            1. Geebs says:

              On reflection, I can think of another reason why From would be an excellent choice for the Avengers property: in the Souls games, archers are completely worthless.

              1. TheCheerfulPessimist says:

                Player character: hawk Ring + poison arrows.

                Enemies: greatbow knights in Anor-Londo.

                …but yeah, otherwise you are correct.

    2. Darren says:

      Sucker Punch has experience with open world superhero games in the Infamous series and with managing an ensemble of characters across all of their games back to at least Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. Sly 2 and Sly 3 also made use of multiple characters with distinct abilities My main qualm would be that their open world design has never been all that amazing, but they have experience with all the fundamental components and it’s more reasonable to expect them to be able to expand upon those than to ask a studio to do something they have no experience with whatsoever.

      1. Cubic says:

        Sucker Punch is another great studio. I thought their open world stuff (Infamous, I guess) were on the level of Saints Row, which is to say, basically half a dozen classes of background missions stenciled out on the map. Workmanlike but lacked some spirit. Still, loved the games and gameplay.

    3. Shamus says:

      It’s less about changing studios and more about managing scope. Regardless of who does the project, they should make Arkham Asylum before they try to make Arkham Knight. I’m not familiar enough with the output of all of the Square Enix partners / studios to know which one could handle something this big, but I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the answer was “nobody”.

      The scope of this project is just too ambitious. Multi-hero AND live services AND photorealish AND “big and epic” AND “open world city” AND “looks like MCU” is just too much. You need to produce expensive art, solve tough technology problems, and meet very high narrative expectations.

      I doubt Square Enix has anyone that’s really up for this job. This is Rockstar-level scope. And even Rockstar didn’t make GTA V as their first game in the open-world genre. They worked up to it.

      Personally I’d push for something like a Captain America / Hawkeye game. MAYBE Iron Man. One city. One hero. Get the mechanics polished and the money rolling in, then scale up. That’s what I’d advise, anyway.

      Edit: Having said that, giving it to the studio behind Infamous as Darren suggested seems like a non-crazy idea.

      1. Hector says:

        You could easily add in some of the not-ridiculously powerful superheroes like Black Widow into something along the lines of that Cap/Hawkeye game, give everyone unique movement options, and make that part of the game. Even “create” missions for yourself where you can split up the characters to tackle different objectives.

      2. methermeneus says:

        Well, I know they’re probably busy with Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, but the teams behind Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts might be up to it. Or maybe Platinum (the Nier: Automata devs). Squenix isn’t really hurting for devs who can do open world, live services (remember FFXIV), epic battles, photorealism, or even stuff that looks like MCU (the last Final Fantasy kinda does, and the space station in Nier) and MCU-like character interactions (though maybe having an American writer on staff to check the Japanese-style humor on a game based on an American property would be a good idea). I just don’t know how many of those things they’ve got on any one team.

        1. Ivan says:

          More importantly, the Wonderful 101 devs.

    4. Joe Informatico says:

      If Japanese devs are on the table, give to the Sega studio who does the Yakuza games. The brawling would be fun, and you could have minigames where you control Tony Stark’s assistant robot Dum-E to build new suits, or a variant of the hostess dating sim minigame where Black Widow has to get information from contacts or prisoners, etc.

    5. Xedo says:

      Late to this but it just occurred to me that Volition would possibly be a great pick for this game. Saints Row 4 was basically a superhero game. The devs make excellent open world cities with lots to do. Their casts have a lot of genuinely funny banter. They even experimented with having a large cast of characters with unique power sets in Agents of Mayhem.

      Y’know how Telltale made the god-awful Jurassic Park game, and then instead of running away from more dramatic games, they iterated on it to make Walking Dead? If Volition could similarly use the foundation of Agents of Mayhem to make a co-op superhero game it could be a good Avengers title.

  8. Darren says:

    Do you think this might be part of the larger problem of Square-Enix’s North American branches being poorly managed? I’ve read about the mess surrounding Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and it sounds like something similar may have happened here.

  9. Hector says:

    The biggest issue that I see isn’t anything to do with the game on-screen, but the phrase “Live Services”. That’s a real issue because there’s a very limited scope of gameplay possibilities when you need to have lots of repeating expenses. You basically need grindy loot mechanics and lots of weird skins. I’m not sure what else you could even do with it.

    1. RichardW says:

      If they let us play as grey Hulk that’s a weird skin I wouldn’t mind.

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    Avengers movie: Thor wears his mother’s drapes.
    Avengers game: Thor wears his mother’s kitchen stoves.
    Can’t wait for the Avengers ride, where Thor finally brandishes his mother’s spatula.

    These characters look just enough like their MCU counterparts to create expectations that this game can’t possibly meet.

    I already mentioned this yesterday, but it’s not just an issue of their uniforms. Everything about them screams “MCU” except their faces. Everything looks similar but not quite the same. Yeah, the uniforms look similar in style and color scheme (even the Hulk is the same tone of grayish green), but the Avengers tower looks similar too. The Helicarrier and Quinjet look similar (granted, it’s hard to make these two too different yet remain recognizable, but still). Their civilian clothes are similar. The fact that Banner can turn into the Hulk at will (and prefers to do it by jumping off planes) is similar.

    Worst of all: the team roster is exactly the same. Sans Hawkeye, apparently, which is weird because they pretty much have the bow and arrow gameplay already set from the Tomb Raider games (maybe he’ll show up later, or he’s just kept as a surprise for whatever reason or worse: he’s saved for DLC). Still, it’s similar enough that there’s no avoiding comparisons, particularly when the team has seen its fair share of different rosters in the comics. Why not Ant-Man and The Wasp instead of Widow and Hawkeye, like in the very first comic? Why not Wolverine or Miss Marvel?

    The clear reason is that they want to attract those millions of MCU fans with as little effort as possible, because obviously film viewers are many more than comic readers. But in the process they refuse to give the game its own identity. Even games that are directly based off movies tend to try and have their own style. This game seems unwilling to make that effort. Even if the storyline isn’t directly based on anything from the MCU (well, except for the obvious similarities to Civil War) it’s still extremely derivative.

    On the flip side, maybe the designers are much more clever than we give them credit for and they’re banking on the whole “They’ll go with really low expectations, so they won’t be disappointed” approach.

    1. methermeneus says:

      You know, I wonder if they’re going for what Scream did. They had a trailer all about Drew Barrymore (back when she was one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars) to generate interest, then killed her character off in the first five minutes. Now I’m wondering if they’ve made a crap trailer just so people will watch streams opening weekend to make fun of it, then be blown away by the awesome game and throw money at the devs.

      (And if not, someone get on it: I wanna see that happen in real life.)

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Drew Barrymore? You mean Janet Leigh, right?

        1. RichardW says:

          I understood that reference.

    2. evilmrhenry says:

      But if they’re going for MCU fans, they really should pay for the actual likenesses. This is not the right place to save money.

    3. RichardW says:

      You can bet your ass there’ll be movie-accurate costumes as DLC. I’m not sure how much fan whining was involved but we eventually got the Sam Raimi era costume for Spider-Man, so I’d predict you might be able to do a lot of dress up with this.

      1. Baron Tanks says:

        Only problem with that is that between costumes and faces there’s a giant legal world of difference. The problem we see here is mostly the faces, that’s not going to be solved in DLC… Your reference is explicitly another faceless costume and that stuff will be way easier (=cheaper) to do.

        1. Scampi says:

          I totally believe RichardW is having a point there, and even more after this apparently is a big topic now. They still have a year’s time to come to terms with either the studio or the actors (whoever has the rights in this case) and strike a deal that seems mutually advantageous and I think that’s something lots of people will pay for.

      2. Christopher says:

        I think their deal is they’re giving out characters and stages for free after the fact, but then are gonna sell cosmetics for money. Which hey, I wish your default looked good, but I might shill out for a 3 buck Good Thor if that’s what I gotta to not look at Hank.

        They also have to change the faces though.

  11. ElementalAlchemist says:

    It’s interesting to compare your take on the graphics vs Digital Foundry’s –

  12. shoeboxjeddy says:

    Regarding Live Service games: I think something that Division and Destiny and Warframe and even Anthem show is that for a live service game based on repeating content and grinding and so on, it’s a pretty good idea to make the player character sort of a cypher. The tasks we’re doing aren’t that exciting on a meta scale? That’s okay, the plot can be about more defined characters with more well paced arcs, our characters are just the soldiers in a long running war. If we need to start over to make the sequel’s power curve make sense? Fine, new cypher PC. What if the powers are getting a bit boring? No problem, new expansion brings us unheard of new skills and powers which we will accept without question, for the same reason we accepted having our initial powerset. We need a nemesis? Okay, we don’t really have a backstory, so this guy over here is your nemesis now, think unkind thoughts of him. Etc.

    If you do a Live Service game and my PC is say, Black Widow… this creates a lot of problems. I already know what kind of character Black Widow is (serious professional with a dark and painful past, no super powers, just training and tech). So I will have trouble accepting an arc where Widow falls into an obvious trap through naivety and needs to be rescued for example. If that happened to my Guardian in Destiny, I’d be like “Sure, why not,”. After all, it’s never been established that that latter character is especially smart or apprehensive of traps. If Widow could suddenly drain enemy’s health with a vampiric touch or shrug off headshots, this would be a jarring surprise and break of my suspension of disbelief. It would also be more satisfying if Widow had some kind of goal or character arc to go through in the story, whereas I have ZERO expectations of that for my Destiny Guardian. And so on. Making world famous characters the principals in a grindy game is not the slam dunk they might think it was.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      In case this doubleposts something seems to have happened with my comment, maybe it was eaten by moderation or the page glitched?

      I think there is a big liveservice potential with superhero games, if not for any other reason than because of the big character roster and many alternate looks and accessories. Of course these would have to be somewhat less character focused, having the player more in the role of a collector like in Pokemon or Warframe. There are/were games that do this though, Marvel Puzzle Quest (a match 3 online game), a now defunct Marvel Heroes diablolike MMO, I think I’ve played Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (3 got some mentions above) and it also levels the playing field between characters and lets you play your pick. Heck, Bandai Namco has almost made a genre out of this with anime based fighting games: One Piece, Naruto, Dragon Ball, Jojo…

  13. Jabberwok says:

    A couple of these issues sound like typical movie tie-in problems. I’m not at all surprised they would shoot for photo-realism over a more manageable or interesting art style, because that’s the safer option, less likely to upset fan expectations over what it’s supposed to look like [and if these are the Tomb Raider people, isn’t that all they have experience with, anyway?]. And the Avengers movies are all about big, epic battle scenes, so the game was always going to be that.

  14. “Is Black Widow just Thor without the beard? Have I been staring at this art for too long? Am I losing my mind?”

    Thor does not even look like “a” Thor (let alone current MCU Thor).
    They look like generic man/woman models that has been tweaked.

    This is Square Enix, remember Deus Ex Human Revolution and the boss battles? I wonder how much of the design of this game has been outsourced? Because to me it looks like a lot of the design has been outsourced. Maybe Crystal Dynamics is doing the game mechanics and some sweatshop in Asia is doing the art stuff?

    Also note that the last game Crystal Dynamics released was in 2015. Now look at the images above, does that look like 4 years worth of design to anyone?

    Also, is it just me or does Iron Man look wrong too? He’s too slender/thin, there’s no room for Stark inside it. Regardless of how good Stark is at his suit design they will always me Stark Size + Suit Thickness (with cavities/pockets of air). As seen in the movies Stark has some “space” inside his helmet too. Here the Iron Man head is thinner than Stark’s facial bone structure.

    I think they might have had more success if they went with a comic cartoon look instead (not just cellshaded but a almost hand drawn look).

    1. John says:

      I have seen very few Iron Man designs, especially in the comics, that aren’t too thin to actually contain a human. The MCU design is surprisingly good, presumably because the CG Iron Man model has to approximately match Robert Downey Jr. wearing a bunch of plastic.

  15. Steve C says:

    Destiny was a huge success? Someone correct me, but I didn’t think it was that successful. I heard it was an advert for Warframe.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Okay I’ll correct you. It’s a very successful franchise. I honestly wonder how the comparison breaks down on Warframe vs. Destiny. Warframe may well have had more players (since it’s always been free to play), but how is the $ per customer there vs. Destiny? How will that change when “New Light” comes out in September?

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        No idea how New Light will change things but as someone who played/plays both I have to say so far I’ve felt much more pressured to pay money in Destiny because it locks actual content behind cold hard cash (and afaik that’s not going to change) whereas Warframe offers shortcuts, completing of collections and putting my spaceninjas in pretty dresses. My point being that they’re very different monetization models that might appeal to different players. Personally my experiences have been generally positive with both and I hope they can both provide for their devs.

  16. Olivier FAURE says:

    PSA reminding everyone that the Duning-Kruger effect is mostly a pop-psychology urban legend.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      So it’s just a thing that uneducated people think they know? Dunning-Kruger-ception!

    2. Jeff says:

      Gonna have to throw a [Citation Needed] tag on that claim, dude.

  17. Jay says:

    I think the problem with Iron Man’s model comes from the armor. If you take a human body and put an inch of armor around it, it’s going to look pudgy and wrong. The joints will have to be where the human’s joints are, not where they’d be on a similarly sized model. The arms and legs are going to seem stubby, because an inch changes the width of the limbs much more than the length. There are three ways to answer this:
    1: Make the suit look pudgy.
    2: Make the human inside off-model (smaller head, wider shoulders, thinner arms), so that the armored form looks human-proportioned. (This is what they did).
    3: Make two subtly different models and switch between them carefully to preserve the illusion (best answer).

  18. Jason says:

    I saw the hate for the character designs before I saw the preview itself and I didn’t really see the problem until I watched the trailer and saw them in action. Woof. Now I understand the comments about the stunt double team. Also, Nolan North as Tony Stark? I love Nolan North, I really do, but I don’t think he fits. He was great in the Deadpool game (and the Lego games where he also plays Deadpool).
    I agree with Shamus about the high ambition of this project. Looking back, Arkham Asylum is very small compared to the later games, but the gameplay was tight and the characters were spot-on (it definitely helped having Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill for that). Nobody has ever complained that the first game didn’t have the entire Bat-family either. Also, Arkham got it right by not trying to copy the aesthetics or universe of the Nolan movies and leaned more heavily on the comics, but still created a universe of its own.
    On a side note, as far as Marvel games, I really loved playing Marvel Heroes, which was a free to play MMO Diablo style game. It was mostly the comic universe and included Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, and just about everyone else. It included costumes and characters from the cinematic universe as well. Not much of a story either, but it was a fun game. I wouldn’t say it was a great game, but it was fun if you were a Marvel comics fan. Unfortunately it was shut down in 2017 for a variety of reasons.

  19. Taxi says:

    To be honest, I can’t stand style just for the sake of style – that includes cell shading, toon visuals and especially ‘pixel art’ which just makes everything difficult to see and looks like ass on everything larger than 8 inches (screen I mean).

    I’ll much rather take even a poor attempt at photo realism.

    Obviously it depends, but in general “if you don’t have the money, just make it look goofy” doesn’t work for me unless the art team REALLY knows what they are doing.

    No clue about what the game will be like, just saying my preferences re graphics in general.

  20. Gautsu says:

    I’ll trade you Marvel’s Avengers for some Marvel Heroes servers or more importantly Avengers Alliance back

  21. Philadelphus says:

    Something I haven’t seen mentioned yet here, but even the voice acting in that trailer felt sort of bland. Not really invested, or excited, or emotional. Like it was going for the sonic equivalent of photorealism and also felt a bit short.

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