It seems to be hard work to keep a fan base pleased these days. Marvel’s 2019 smash hit blockbuster movie ‘Avengers: Endgame’ looks like it’s on course to make box office history by knocking ‘Avatar’ off the perch it’s been sat on for years, but it wasn’t able to escape criticism from some fans who felt like it was a letdown. From a dissatisfaction with the ending to various holes in the plot which have been debated at length on internet forums, it seems like a lot of people who spent their money on going to see it soon developed buyer’s remorse.
If criticizing ‘Avengers’ is what the cool kids do on the internet these days, it would seem that the habit has spread from the movies to the world of video games. There’s a lot of hate being directed at the ‘Marvel’s Avengers’ game – and it isn’t even out yet. To much fanfare, Marvel and Square Enix presented a preview of the game for the first time at E3 2019, and they’ve been dealing with backlash from it ever since.
It Shouldn’t Be This Hard
Negativity around the ‘Avengers’ franchise shouldn’t really be happening at all. It’s the most successful superhero movie franchise of all time, it’s generated billions of dollars in revenue, and it’s captured the hearts and souls of a whole generation of movie-goers who’ve watched it for years. Owning ‘Avengers’ is like playing UK Slots. No matter where your customers go inside your casino in the UK, and whichever UK slot game they choose to play, all the profit is going to you. They might win a jackpot here and there, but you’re still up on the deal. With ‘Avengers’ there are so many tie-ins, spin-offs and pieces of merchandise associated with it that it doesn’t matter where customers put their money. You still get the cash at the end of the day. Their ‘jackpot’ is entertainment, and you get to keep all the takings.
It takes a real effort to take something so well loved and so profitable, and make people angry with it, but somehow Marvel and Square Enix have managed to do exactly that – just by releasing a trailer. Fans don’t like it – and they haven’t been shy about saying why.
These Are Not The Avengers You’re Looking For
All of the ‘Avengers’ characters are based on comic book characters, many of whom are decades old. We understand that. Several of them – take Hulk, for example – have been represented on television, in cinema, and in video games multiple times before. Depending on how old you are, you may picture Hulk as Lou Ferrigno, Edward Norton, Eric Bana, or Mark Ruffalo. There is no single definitive appearance for the Hulk.
The game, though, is clearly inspired by the movies. It’s being released in close proximity to the end of the cinematic franchise. The costumes on the characters are almost identical. The audience expects to see the same faces that they’ve seen on their cinema screens, but that isn’t what they get. Instead, they get a series of generic-looking characters who look little to nothing like the Hollywood stars who played them. It’s as if we’re looking at a cosplay version of the real thing.
There will obviously be practical reasons for this. Getting the stars of the films – most of whom are bonafide A-Listers – in for character modeling and voiceover work would have been extremely expensive. Either Marvel or Square Enix didn’t want to foot the bill. That’s understandable. What’s less understandable is designing the characters to look like other people wearing the exact same costumes. The sensible thing to do would have been to create completely new interpretations of the characters, costumes and all, to get around the problem. We could have pretended the game was set in an alternate universe. Instead, we have a foot in each camp, and as a result, it looks strange. The development team behind the design are aware of the criticism, and have no plans to make changes. We believe that’s known as ‘doubling down.’
All By Myself
At the point the game was launched, a few scant details were given about multiplayer modes, with mention being made of the game being playable by one to four players. In the minds of most people, that meant that they could invite some friends round, and perhaps each play as a different character on co-operative missions. That assumption turned out to be wrong. The ‘Avengers’ game has a single-player campaign mode, with no multiplayer option at all. You’re all on your own.
As for that ‘one to four players’ comment made at E3; it apparently relates to online mode. There will be some optional side-games within the single player campaign which allow you to go online and team up with other people in order to complete them. They won’t be necessary, and they won’t be integral to the plot. Essentially, they add nothing to the game at all.
What ‘multiplayer’ means in the world of video games has changed dramatically over the course of the past decade. When players hear about online multiplayer games, they picture something like ‘Grand Theft Auto.’ While that might have been hard to achieve with this game – there are, after all, only a limited number of ‘Avengers’ characters – it wouldn’t have been impossible. How about an option to create your own Avenger, and send them online to complete special missions? Even if that weren’t possible, if multiplayer is so limited, why can’t it be played by two or more people sat in the same room together at home? As with the character design, it feels a little like the developers have tried to capture the best of both worlds, and instead given us the worst.
The Clock Is Ticking
Square Enix and Marvel still have a little time to sharpen the game up before it’s due to be released in May 2020. That’s almost a year to make adjustments, alter the character design, and do anything else they can think of to address the concerns that are being raised online. It’s probably too late to change the fundamental mechanics of the game, but a year is still long enough to make material changes.
If it were to be released according to the current plan, then based on the reception, many potential ‘Avengers’ players will be choosing to ‘end game’ before they’ve even started.