Marvel’s Avengers Game First Look: Heroes Need Polish

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Perhaps one of the most anticipated games of E3 2019, we got an early look at the gameplay experience for Marvel’s Avengers, developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, at a theater session here in Los Angeles.

In the game's trailer, we saw was part of the single-player story, not the co-op online mode that has also been detailed. On A-Day, a celebration of the new Avengers West coast headquarters in San Francisco, there’s an attack on the Golden Gate Bridge.

The demo started with Thor on the bridge, using the PlayStation 4’s triangle button to slam down and fight soldiers. Thor looks like a heavy hitter with combos using Mjolnir (Thor's hammer) and his fists. Note that while the PlayStation symbols popped up throughout the demonstration, the companies declined to comment on if the game was actually running on PS4 hardware

The God of Thunder

My first impression is that the game looks early. While some fan reactions to the trailer have lambasted the look of the character's face, I didn’t have that issue with the gameplay we saw. But textures, like Thor’s hair and on much of the environment, looked rough. But the game’s not coming until 2020, so there’s time for polish. Like many demos, this was likely put together exclusively for E3 as the game’s development continues.

A cop thanks Thor for the assist. Civilians are behind barricades, and The God of Thunder breaks them with his hammer and lightning, attacking more enemies. He punches with bare. He uses super strength with repeated taps of the square button to release a man trapped under rubble.

Behind him, a bus is being shot at. Thor attacks those soldiers, who carry electric blasters, thus distracting them.

That’s when Iron Man comes in, shooting from the sky. But the player is still Thor, who takes to the sky for a downward attack before returning to the ground. A truck with more baddies come up. They have shields, and Thor winds up a tornado to push them away.

Iron Man, Captain America and Hulk take Action

Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, attacks guys on jetpacks, then chases them away. Then the character playing shifted to Iron Man, shooting, flying and bantering with Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, over The Avengers’ communication channel.

This was a more impressive piece of the demo, with cars flying as Iron Man chases the enemies and shoots at them. Not only was it more exciting, but Iron Man looked more finished as a character with shiny, polished armor.

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Meanwhile, Captain America is on a Chimera, a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier trying to secure a Terrigen reactor on board. The controls seem to have a mind of their own.

Iron Man lands for some ground-based fighting with punches and repulsor blasts. He has air combos and can hover for far longer, including a powerful unibeam shot. Cannons emerge from Shield trucks, which Tony Stark fires at and makes explode.

Enter the pulsar tank.

The Chimera is taking off, but Cap tells the Black Widow and Hulk, both of whom are on board a Quinjet, to focus on the bridge. Civilians are the priority.

Bruce jumps off the jet onto the bridge. When he lands, you’re playing as a fully formed Hulk. He grabs enemies like rag dolls and brutally smashes them and stomps on them. He throws one off of a bridge and claps two together.  The tank fires, and Black Widow advises Hulk to destroy it.

Hulk does some impressive jumping over gaps, slamming enemies in his path. But things are bad. The bridge is falling apart. Hulk uses its rubble as a weapon.

Iron Man jokes over comms. Perhaps too much. For Crystal Dynamics’ own spin on the franchise, he feels very inspired by Robert Downey Jr.’s take on Tony Stark in the recent movie franchise.

While the tanks take the bridge out, Hulk uses a gamma clap to get through a number of enemies, then walks over a truck, using it as a bridge. He smashes the tank with a quick time event, then tosses it at another tank. Then Black Widow lands on the bridge.

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Black Widow calls Cap, who says the reactor is malfunctioning. On board the Chimera, Cap is surrounded by baddies and throws his Shield at them. He also has hand-to-hand attacks, but his attacks and combos seem basic compared to those of Thor, Hulk and Iron Man. Enemies throw smoke grenades and then swarm. The comms start going out.

The electric fisted baddie come again, and the Chimera is catching fire. The reactor isn’t stable. Cap is urged to get to safety but stays to fight.

People on the ground start running for their lives. On the bridge, Black Widow, Iron Man and Thor attack a truck that comms say is carrying a Sonic Bomb.

Black Widow vs. Taskmaster

Taskmaster is driving the truck. He uses a detonator to turn on the bombs, but they haven’t exploded yet. The bridge starts to fall apart, and Hulk tries to hold it up. Stark and Thor also go for the cables. Black Widow chases Taskmaster, and now players are in her shoes.

She jumps on Taskmaster’s jetpack by sliding around the bridge and then punches him with quick time events. They collide into a truck but keep flying. This part felt truly cinematic, as the two combatants were flying between the other Avengers holding the bridge together and catching tucks. Black Widow grabs the detonator and flips onto the bridge

Taskmaster takes out his sword and shield, and Black Widow fires dual pistols at him, dodging sword strikes. There’s hand-to-hand combat, and the two fall to a lower level. He takes his weapons out again and takes out a second detonator. Black Widow uses kicks and batons to fight in close-range. Each hit lands with a thump. Black Widow’s list of moves appeared far more varied than Thor or Captain America’s

Taskmaster starts throwing his blade. Black Widow goes invisible and fights up close again. She then punches him endlessly and shocks him with a concussive blast. He’s covered in rubble, and she disables the bomb on the truck.

“The world will remember this day, the day their heroes failed them,” Taskmsater says before Widows knocks him out.

Under the sea there’s a cyclone sucking in the Chimera and the Terrigen reactor.

“Damn it, they played us,” Black Widow says. Cap races down a hall on the Chimera, and Iron Man and Thor fly to it as the Terrigen reactor explodes, sending the helicarrier into the ocean.

Online Co-op Tease

In some extra footage, we saw four heroes online battling together. The developers said you customize the ever-growing roster of heroes in the online co-op mode, which will feature more scenarios and characters as time goes on. That makes me hopeful, as we’ve seen the existing roster of heroes on screen for a number of years now. It’s unclear if more heroes show up in the single-player game.

Release Date

Marvel’s Avengers, for all of its fan service, felt early but feels like it has potential. We’ll have to wait until it releases May 15, 2020 on PlayStation 4, XboxPC and Google Stadia to find out.

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Threads @FreedmanAE and Mastodon