I complained about this game when it was first showcased at E3 last year. At the time I didn’t like it because it looked like a lazy copy of the cinematic Avengers with all of the charisma and wit drained out of it. The action looked stilted and scripted. It had a bad case of too many quicktime events, not enough player expression.
But hey, this was just a first impression, right? This is an E3 showcase, so of course they’re going to lean into the more cinematic sections of the game. Star Wars™ Jedi: Fallen Order™ EA™ looked pretty uninspired at E3, and that game turned out great.
But then as the previews began I saw that my initial concerns were just small potatoes compared to the real problems:
- Sony is proud of making Spider-Man a platform exclusive, even though doing so is a straight-up dick move. Hey, if the graphics and multiplayer are better on PlayStation because you built the best platform, then those benefits are a natural and emergent reward of your hard work and investment. Good for you. But if your platform is “best” because you used money / licensing shenanigans to deny content to the rival platforms then you’re not making your platform better, you’re making the other platforms worse. I’m not going to celebrate or reward this sort of product sabotage.
- The game is built around a gross liiiive service If you follow Jim Sterling, then you know what voice to use here. model where you can buy various skins to bling out your Avengers. Check out Alanah Pearce’s preview video and all the sales pitch splash screens that she has to push through when she launches the game.
- The focus is on “cinematic” gameplay in a supposedly multiplayer experience seems deeply misguided. It’s like the worst of both worlds.
- The character designs look just enough like the MCU versions to be a distraction and a disappointment. They didn’t want to pay to use the likenesses of the MCU actors. Fair enough, that would be expensive. But then they also didn’t want to put in the work to make their own versions of these characters.
- You can get branded outfits as promotional tie-in, allowing you to turn these supposed superheroes into unironic pitchmen for real-world corporations.
I Don’t Play Games That Are More Cynical Than I Am.
I see people faulting the “graphics” of the game, but I think it’s more accurate to say the problem is the lack of a coherent art style. It’s not photo-realistic enough to be technically impressive and it’s not stylized enough to match the exaggerated vibrancy of a comic book. It exists in this artistic no man’s land between the two. The world looks boring, which is a pretty big shortcoming in a game where the focus is on selling you outfits for your superheroes. Maybe the intent is to have you pay extra to make the game look interesting, but we need to care about a world before we’ll want to invest in it. If my girlfriendIn case my wife of 23 years reads this: This is a hypothetical girlfriend for the purpose of illustration. drags me to a boring party I don’t care about, I’m not going to run out and spend a bunch of money on a new outfit to wear.
I’m obviously not going to buy Marvel’s Avengers, not even to join in the inevitable dog-pile of disdain and ridicule that this thing is going to get. I’m not above playing deeply flawed games for the purpose of analysis, but this thing is so lacking in creative ambition that there’s nothing to criticize. This doesn’t even feel like a real video game. This feels like the video game equivalent of How do you do, fellow kids?
On top of all of this, it seems like the entire game is built around a massive and obvious missed opportunity. In the game, you get to play as a brand new hero. This seems like a great way to sell people costume bits and super-powers. You give the audience a character creator and let them choose between Jennifer Hale or Nolan NorthActually, North is already voicing Iron Man in this game. But you know what I mean. for their voice. You can sell it with some lame predictable catchphrase like, “Become your own hero!” or “Join the Avengers!”. Imagine the fun people could have making a character to either embrace or subvert the world around them. This would feed into streaming culture and give you the ability to sell the players even more crap that should have been part of the base game. If you’re going to be grasping and artistically bankrupt, the least you can do is be good at being grasping and artistically bankrupt.
But no. The story is built around a new hero, but she’s apparently a fixed character with a fixed design and fixed powers. This is the equivalent of a theater that over-salts the popcorn to make patrons extra-thirsty, but then they don’t bother selling any drinks to capitalize on it. Are you trying to make money, or are you just trying to make things horrible for no reason? Because if it’s the former then you’re doing it wrong.
Ah well. The end of this year is already overflowing with an excess of titles. It’s nice to be able to shorten the list.
EDIT: I was wrong. The new character isn’t a new character. It’s a new version of an existing character that I’ve never heard of before. Still, the point stands that it would have been smarter to let the player create their own character.
 If you follow Jim Sterling, then you know what voice to use here.
 In case my wife of 23 years reads this: This is a hypothetical girlfriend for the purpose of illustration.
 Actually, North is already voicing Iron Man in this game. But you know what I mean.
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