WHAT IS A HANDS-ON REVIEW?
Hands-on game reviews are a journalist's first impressions of a game based on spending some time with it ahead of our full review. In this case, we played 30 minutes of Marvel's Avengers at Gamescom 2019. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves, and we can give you some sense of what it's like to enjoy, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all imagined what it would be like to be a superhero. Maybe you’ve pondered what it’s like to walk through walls or to read people’s thoughts, or simply just wondered what kind of damage you’d do with super strength or lazer eyes. But, alas, the real world doesn’t work like that. We can only dream. Well, we could only dream - until now.
Crystal Dynamics is aiming to capture that exact feeling in Marvel’s Avengers, was the developers told TechRadar at E3 2019. But back then we only got to watch the heroes in action on a screen, and the reception from fans and critics was mixed - to say the least.
We finally got hands on time with Marvel’s Avengers at Gamescom 2019 and, though there is definitely some polishing to do, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have never felt mightier.
With great power...
The Marvel's Avengers hands on demo allowed us to play the same introduction section of the game that we previously watched (hands off) at E3. It's the very first level, used as an introduction to the game and to each hero's individual combat mechanics.
But first, let me set the scene. The story begins on A-Day in San Francisco, a holiday to celebrate the Avengers which, in this iteration, is made up of Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow.
The Avengers have recently harnessed a new technology that leads them to merge with S.H.I.E.L.D., the special law enforcement and counter-terrorism agency that tends to deal with superhuman threats. Tensions are high. However, the celebration is interrupted by the villain Taskmaster and his goons, who steal the new tech and are using it to wreak havoc on San Francisco and the Avengers themselves.
We jump into the game as the team starts fending off the goons on the Golden Gate Bridge. First up: Thor. Thor was perhaps our favorite Avenger to play because the weight of Mjolnir (his hammer) just feels so right - even if Thor's face still remains a bit off.
Each time Mjolnir lands a hit on a goon, you feel the vibration and it's satisfying as hell - smaller vibrations for normal hits and big ones for heavy attacks. This haptic precision is a small feature, but it adds so much, especially when you throw Mjolnir at enemies, pinning them to lorries and then feeling the vibration of Thor snatching the hammer from the air as it flies back. Pair that with raining down some God-like lightning and you feel, to put it simply, powerful.
With Thor's enemies sufficiently downed and zapped like flies in a cantina, we take charge of Tony Stark (aka Iron Man). It's at this point we immediately notice how different each hero plays - it's almost like we've loaded up a totally different game. While Thor's mechanics felt more like rampaging in God of War, Iron Man's is more on par with zipping around in Anthem.
But Iron Man handles better than Anthem's combat suits. His flying handles beautifully, actually. As someone who often becomes frustrated with flying in games, this was a breath of fresh air. The sensitivity wasn't too much; we could seamlessly transverse up, down and side to side without flying off much further than anticipated.
From the ground, Iron Man can flawlessly hover into the air, firing rockets and shooting as he goes - sometimes even lazering enemies into flames (but let's ignore the part where superheroes somehow don't kill people). We did however feel slightly limited in what Tony Stark could do combat-wise, but that could simply be down to a lack of knowledge on our part. We used the moves that we were taught in the tutorial.
...comes great responsibility
With Tony's section complete, it's time for a spin of the Hulk (aka Bruce Banner). Twice we've watched the incredible scene where he jumps out of the airship as Bruce and lands as the green machine, but it still gave us goosebumps watching it here.
The cinematic scenes are fantastic, even if some of the faces look a bit janky. But Marvel's Spider-Man sometimes encountered the same issues - and the story was still one of the best of 2018.
If you've ever wanted to relive the scene from the Avengers film wherein Hulk picks up Loki and smashes him into the ground like a rag doll - well, you're in luck. Hulk can easily pick up little goons and slam them off everything: the ground, other goons, rocks, you name it. It's as easy as you would imagine it to be for the big guy, and a lot of fun.
If that's not enough, Hulk can also pick up rocks (which annoyingly materialize out of nowhere) and chuck them at enemies, and even use his class thunderclap move to clear groups. He's also surprisingly agile, jumping across the debris of the bridge with relative ease and without ever feeling clunky or heavy.
By contrast, Black Widow is Hulk's opposite. The spindly former spy plays like a cross between Tomb Raider and BloodRayne (unsurprising considering Crystal Dynamics, the studio behind Avengers, has made most of the Tomb Raider games, including the reboot series). Natasha Romanova is fast, agile and the ultimate hand-to-hand fighter.
Black Widow's combat mechanics mainly see her in close combat: grabbing, punching and kicking. However, she also starts with a set of dual-pistols to allow for ranged attacks (a la Lara Croft).
Finally, we have Cap. Captain America encompasses the hard hitting weapon of Thor with the agility of Black Widow. Cap dodges and weaves through enemies, using his vibranium shield to block heavy attacks or simply to bash some goon heads in.
But the most satisfying move Cap starts with is the ability to throw his shield and quickly knock out every enemy in the radius: like a boomerang of hurt and justice. It's a shame the captain goes down with the ship when it turns out the whole incident was a set-up...
While some polishing is definitely needed, Marvel's Avengers is shaping up to be the superhero cross-over we've been waiting for. Each hero plays like they are the star of their own title and the combat feels perfectly balanced - it's clear thought went into how each hero should feel.
We're excited to delve further into their individual stories and curious to see how customization and multiplayer will further flesh out the experience.
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