It’s hard to believe that we’re not that far removed from Marvel almost going bankrupt. Of course, that was before Marvel went all-in on their movie projects. As a result of those efforts, five of the top ten highest grossing movies of all-time are Marvel films.
If you really want to remember the times when Marvel was in trouble, though, just take a look at Square Enix’s Marvel’s The Avengers for a painful reminder.
With the possible exception of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Marvel’s The Avengers was the biggest game Square Enix brought to E3 2019. It was even chosen to close out the publisher’s prime-time show. It’s not hard to understand why. We’ve had three record-breaking Avengers movies in the last seven years, but no proper Avengers game to sink our teeth into.
It wasn’t long into the reveal of The Avengers that many fans recognized something was wrong. Namely, they recognized that the Avengers of the game didn’t look quite right.
Nobody expected Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and the rest of the main crew to reprise their roles for The Avengers game, but that didn’t stop Square Enix (and developers Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal) from modeling the game’s heroes after those actors. Actually, as others have pointed out, it’s more like they tried to model them after the actor’s stunt doubles.
This is the first strike against Marvel’s The Avengers; it’s not based on the MCU but desperately wants to be. Developer Insomniac went out of their way to say that they wanted to make their own version of Spider-Man, and that game turned out all the better because of it. Insomniac asked for – and was granted – free reign to build their own corner of the Marvel universe.
We imagine Square Enix received the same offer, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their game. Simply put, Marvel’s The Avengers looks like some cheap cash-in adaptation of The Avengers we would have gotten in 2007 or 2008. Again, though, this isn’t supposed to be an adaptation of those films. It’s supposed to have an identity that it’s clearly lacking.
This brings us to the other problem with Marvel’s The Avengers: the gameplay. Early gameplay reports suggest that The Avengers plays similarly to the Batman Arkham games, but without a counter feature (yet) and without as much of the challenge. Again, maybe you could overlook that for the hook of playing as The Avengers with friends, but there’s another game in development (Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3) that pretty much lets you do that but benefits from its own identity and smoother gameplay.
Square Enix says they’re trying to make an Avengers game for a broad audience, but that doesn’t explain the game’s outdated looks, reliance on QTEs, and lack of creativity. The MCU (and Insomniac’s Spider-Man) proved that fans are eager for high-quality Marvel stories that represent their creator’s voice and don’t treat the Marvel license as a cash-in.
While we highly doubt that Square Enix will kill the Marvel name with this game, its’ a shame to think Marvel may have regressed to the point where they give the biggest game studio the keys to the kingdom without considering it to be an opportunity and an honor that the studio must live up to.