My fellow fanatics, the big fancy conferences of E3 have come to a close. Everyone’s done talking, which means there are now live demos being held on the show floor, and content creators are hitting you with their hot takes from the show.
So, naturally I need to get something off my chest. I was underwhelmed by how Square Enix officially revealed their Avengers game. The internet was abuzz with rumors of the talented people over at Crystal Dynamics making a major action game featuring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and with Square Enix footing the bill it was practically guaranteed to be an absolutely stellar presentation. Not to mention there was a high bar of expectations set by Marvel’s Spider-Man set last year thanks it’s great mix of superhero action and bold, emotionally gripping narrative. The ending of that game alone justified Marvel’s whole foray into doing these big-budget games to begin with.
But near the end of the Square Enix conference, the big reveal for The Avengers was another sad case of a recurring trend throughout the show. A lot of cutscenes with maybe half a second of gameplay tucked away inside, and large stretches of developers explaining and talking about the game itself rather than expressing it through a vertical slice demo or some visual aid of any kind. Case in point, the only thing of note I gathered throughout the entire showcase for The Avengers was the plot involves the team being decommissioned after some horrible accident they are blamed for and then…some sort of adventure happens. Also a lot of time was given over to the voice-actors for the game. And as much as I love the work of Nolan North and Troy Baker, to dedicate an entire featurette of your big official reveal to say they’re in it is like dedicating the opening of a grocery store to advertising that it has cheese.
Furthermore, there is the fact that the footage we did see didn’t exactly… look right. The presentation of the game looks like it’s trying to ape the appearance and tone of the highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s also clear that they weren’t allowed to use the actual likenesses of any of the actors, leading to this uncanny look of authenticity smashed together against offbrand plastic faces.
Of course as a huge fan of Marvel I was still excited, but with no gameplay to show, a vague idea of what exactly the whole thing will be about, and a fair amount of misused screentime, a lot of that enthusiasm evaporated quickly.
If only there was another major video game at E3 that also presented the heroes of the Marvel universe going on adventures together. Perhaps facing memorable villains and rivals while sporting highly familiar gameplay and an art style that happily marries the MCU’s more modern touches with the pulpy four-color aesthetics of the comics.
Obviously, I am referring to Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order for the Nintendo Switch.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Ultimate Alliance games. The first one was basically my entry point into the bizarre yet beautiful continuity and legacy of Marvel comics, and effectively my first foray into Diablo-style action RPGs with superheroes. While the gameplay itself was always pretty straightforward, just go from room to room and beat down everything in your way, there was an unmistakable energy that crackled throughout each encounter. Making you feel like you were going through a venerable odyssey from New York to Asgard to the Kree Empire and beyond.
And the more I saw of Ultimate Alliance 3 being showcased during Nintendo Treehouse, the more excited I became since it managed to capture that unique flavor of comic book romp. The shear variety of heroes on display, the in-depth RPG elements they showed off. The challenge rooms. The fact that Deadpool joins the team because a supervillain destroyed all of his tacos and he’s out for petty revenge.
It was a game that felt completely comfortable in just being a comic book action game with no real pretense. At least four different diverse teams of heroes working together to save the world from a big threat, and it’s as simple as picking some characters you like, jumping in, and just beating the tar out of the bad guys.
Obviously I want to see the final version of The Avengers, especially considering how sparse their presentation really was, and there are plenty of talented developers working on this project. But in terms of first impressions, it says something that I’m interested in the Nintendo Switch exclusive beat ’em up more than their prestige crack at interactive storytelling.