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E3 2019

Marvel’s Avengers May Need Some Saving

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After years of nothing but scraps of details, Square Enix has properly revealed a substantial portion of Crystal Dynamics’s Avengers game. Those who saw the unveiling may have been torn as a result of strong cinematics marred by lackluster looks. Excitingly, Square Enix was kind enough to allow some E3 attendees a chance to see half an hour of hands-off, raw gameplay. All anticipation came screeching to a halt the second gameplay kicked in, though. Maybe the final product will yield better results, but, for now, Marvel’s Avengers looks heroically boring.

The demo that E3 attendees saw in a behind-closed-doors setting is an extension of the game’s reveal trailer. During the A-Day celebration, a rogue military group attacks the team, causing significant damage to bystanders and supposedly killing Captain America.

The demo showed about 5–10 minutes of gameplay for each character, starting with Thor, then following Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and finishing with Black Widow. While Captain America takes out baddies on a newly-unveiled Avengers heli-carrier, the others defend the city on the ground.

Marvel's Avengers gameplay screenshot - Captain America

Black Widow, specifically, is entrusted with taking out the Taskmaster before the villain detonates a round of explosives. Each section of gameplay is flashy and sometimes even spectacular. However, the problem is that moments are rare where the game looks like it may actually be fun to play.

Marvel’s Avengers takes inspiration from Destiny’s super moves, where players feel all powerful with every hammer throw and ground pound. Crystal Dynamics is trying to implement a similar feeling with every second of gameplay instead of in spurts, but the idea is not so great in practice.

The comparison may be tired by the time this preview goes up, but Thor’s playstyle looks eerily similar to a certain Greek, axe-throwing God killer. Unlike God of War, player control is not the priority, as finishers and cinematic moves take precedent. Throwing Mjolnir hard enough to send soldiers careening into the blue or with enough force to pin them to walls is exactly the balance Marvel’s Avengers so desperately needs, so those moments stick out as highlights. Disappointingly, such moments are few and far between for the son of Odin.

Marvel's Avengers

Next up (and maybe worst of all) is Iron Man. Take away Iron Man’s practically pre-written blueprint for in-game flight and put him on an immovable track and players can picture Crystal Dynamics’s vision of Iron Man. Anthem, despite its talked-to-death flaws, has an unmatched mech-suit free flight system to take advantage of. Marvel’s Avengers takes the idea down to its most barebones, essentially turning most of Iron Man’s time on-screen into an on-rails shooter. The other portion of his time on screen is relegated to slow moving hovering and basic-looking third-person shooter gunplay.

Hulk brings back the attention of any who had lost it following this lukewarm (at best) opening. Hulk not only manages to be both the best-looking Avenger graphically, but also a powerhouse of fun. Hulk packs the speed and unabashed rage seen from decades of movies and media content—and deciding what the team could do to make the character’s gameplay any stronger is hard. Along with pure, beat-‘em-up clobbering, Hulk can jump off walls and slam into the ground. With the exception of the possibility of combat becoming too meat-headed after a while, the big green meanie appears to strike the right balance of dumb fun.

Captain America looks about as good as he can thanks to the character’s lack of fitting lore to pull from. Marvel’s boy scout seems to have combat that is fairly involved, with a solid number of options. What makes Cap look most interesting, though, is the constant pinballing of his shield between cracked enemy skulls. Throwing Captain America’s shield might be the character’s saving grace.

Marvel’s Avengers_ A-Day _ Official Trailer E3 2019 0-44 screenshot

Black Widow takes a step back again thanks to another section that looked sadly on rails. As stated before, Widow takes on the Marvel deep cut villain, Taskmaster. Long story short, nearly half of the boss fight could have been a quick time event and even the battle’s most cinematic moments were obscured thanks to significant framerate drops. At this point, I really just wanted the demo to be over, especially because Black Widow’s boss fight felt overlong in and of itself.

Many commentators have already called out the game’s confusing artistic choices, so players should be sad to know that seeing the action in motion does an already mediocre look no favors. Sometimes, however, Marvel’s Avengers can achieve photorealistic qualities. Even with a few spots of lavish polish, more often than not, Hulk and the others resemble superhuman potatoes.

Not everything is as bad as it seems, as the promise of future content and a genuinely intriguing premise are stronger than most seem to give credit for. Though the dialogue could be less hammy in a few areas, the delivery and some standout interactions were enough to promise a generally engaging cast.

A solid foundation is undoubtedly in place and some maneuvering or, hopefully, even a delay could push Marvel’s Avengers just enough to accomplish something unmatched. The cinematic gameplay is well done and impressive in its own right, but it just needs a certain fun factor to make the game a game and not the next entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel's Avengers

Maybe the disappointment is from the years of hype or maybe it comes from Marvel’s almost flawless track record in terms of its core properties. Even considering Hulk-like expectations, I cannot shake the feeling that something is desperately wrong with this game. Crystal Dynamics not only needs more time to address fan outcry, but to completely reassess Marvel’s Avengers from a gameplay perspective, too. Superheroes should play like superheroes, not just look like them.

As stated toward the beginning of this preview, far too few have actually gotten their hands on the game, so a finished product or hands-on time could totally change this marred perspective. That said, if Square Enix wants to execute its plan to roll out playable heroes, bonus content, and extra modes in the future, players need to see its game is worthwhile and, for now, that guarantee is absolutely not present. Marvel’s Avengers just does not seem to pack the punch it so desperately needed for its debut.

 

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E3 2019

The Outer Worlds is Proof of Obsidian’s Ability to Build a Universe

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The Outer Worlds

Obsidian Entertainment has consistently put out stellar RPGs for the last decade, but all of its creative juices have been strained of originality. Fallout: New Vegas and South Park: The Stick of Truth, while loved by many, are not synonymous with the Obsidian name. Though the developer has taken a crack at its own IP before, The Outer Worlds looks like the world’s first real taste of an unhinged Obsidian. Bringing together everything fans love about Obsidian-led games with the production values of a AAA RPG, The Outer Worlds plans to show players what the team can do when given time and the right tools.

Thanks to Obsidian’s generosity, OnlySP was given the chance to check out a behind-closed-doors viewing of the game at E3 2019. Even though the footage was hands-off, what was shown was more than enough to justify high hopes.

Obsidian has worked up enough goodwill in the last decade to fill a wasteland. From the moment the demo started, The Outer Worlds proved that Obsidian deserves all of its praise. 

Falbrook, a town on the planet Monarch, was showcased in the demo’s early moments and looked to offer Rockstar Games-levels of character. Townsfolk were walking around, talking with each other as business carried on as usual. The western, sci-fi fusion felt lived-in and was a nice reminder that Obsidian can do more than just make gripping RPG gameplay.

From the streets of Falbrook, the player walked into a nearby bar area to talk with an NPC. Here, dialogue and the importance of choice was shown in full effect. Those familiar with Fallout: New Vegas will find similar NPC interactivity here, as dialogue options have varying paths to take. Of course, standard options can be chosen to progress the story or learn more about another character’s background. Again following the example of Fallout was how dialogue can change depending on how the player character is set up. Obsidian did not go into detail about how dynamic this feature can be but did give the example of unique dialogue options for players who choose to have a low-intelligence character.

A true Fallout: New Vegas spiritual successor needs more than the classic RPG developer’s advanced dialogue, though, and The Outer Worlds’s combat offered just that. Though appearing sluggish during the first encounter, combat can pick up quickly. For example, The Outer World’s has a slow-motion mechanic called Tactical Time Dilation, which can most easily be compared to Fallout’s V.A.T.S. mechanic. This spin on an ability familiar to both Obsidian and Fallout fans alike is a great example of the developer’s willingness to blend its past experience with new ideas. Similar mechanics have been a staple of modern games, though normally can only be found in arcade-like games. Seeing such an arcadey ability used in a proper RPG was refreshing and should offer some hope to those worried The Outer Worlds could be all bark and no bite.

Obsidian doubled down on the importance of choice shortly after the first encounter by stressing the choices players can make both outside and inside combat. Again, as seen in many modern games, The Outer Worlds promises the option to take a stealth approach when infiltrating enemy lines.

What was really stunning about everything shown in the demo was the world and universe building. Leaving the town of Falbrook, which was interesting in its own right, led to fungal treetops that towered over the landscape. Pollen and spores filled the air as the player progressed onward. Obsidian claims the game will remind players of the team’s dark sense of humor, and the creatures and environments are unique both in name and appearance. The Outer Worlds looks to be both lived-in and well-realized, thus justifying its existence in the process. The entire reason Obsidian, or any developer for that matter, needed to take a leap of faith with its own IP was to prove it can produce a world worth living in. Despite gameplay and RPG mechanics that may not be wholly unique, the game’s namesake is.

Obsidian is promising outer worlds that are brimming with character. The Outer Worlds, while not promising anything too outside of the box in terms of gameplay, looks to offer a world like no one has ever seen before. Expect a much more polished Fallout: New Vegas with environments built from the ground up when The Outer Worlds finally finds its way to shelves on October 25, 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. 

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