It’s been a long time since we’ve enjoyed a new game from Crystal Dynamics – Rise of the Tomb Raider shipped in 2015 – but the wait is almost over, and for the last couple of weekends we’ve had the opportunity to enjoy extended play with the studio’s latest work: Marvel’s Avengers. Take an enhanced version of the Foundation Engine that powered Lara Croft’s adventures, add in some of the most iconic characters from comic book history and then combine both single-player campaign with Destiny-style PVE action and you have a hugely ambitious project from Square-Enix – a game that spans the console generations. It runs well on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, it should scale beautifully to next-gen – but there are clear and obvious challenges for the base PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
The concept behind Marvel’s Avengers is straightforward enough: widely published marketing materials have already set the scene, with the game kicking off with a prologue showing the team at the height of its powers, tackling a terrorist attack on the Golden Gate bridge. Perhaps inevitably, everything goes wrong, the Avengers are ‘played’, a major disaster takes place and the Avengers disassemble – which is where the game kicks off properly. The beta is frankly huge, with at least a couple of hours’ play to see everything there is to see before digging deeper into the multiplayer component.
Throughout, the game technology on display is remarkable. The prologue sees Crystal Dynamics setting out the stall for its revised engine, showcasing a detail-rich, effects-heavy pipeline, able to transition seamlessly from set-piece to cutscene to set-piece. Each of the primary Avengers has a chance to shine and it’s here where the stage is set for what I think is probably the best Hulk game I’ve ever played. The density of the action and the sheer power and glory of the destruction simply doesn’t let up. The Avengers’ character rendering – from a technical perspective, at least – is second to none, with a remarkable level of attention to detail present across the presentation. This is an expensive game with remarkable production values, and it shows.