PAX West 2019 Hands-On: Marvel's Avengers

2 Sep 2019

This past weekend out at PAX West 2019, I had the fortune of being able to get hands-on with Earth’s mightiest heroes in the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers from Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics.

As a fan of Marvel, and especially the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve been looking forward to seeing every new pieces of information that’s released about this upcoming May 15th, 2020 title. At Gamescom a couple of weeks ago, attendees were the first in the world to get hands on with the A-Day (Avenger’s Day) demo: A tutorial that showcases the abilities of each hero while also serving as the opening of the game. This demo is what I sat down with, running on a PS4 Pro.

The demo drops you into the gameplay first as Thor, the God of Thunder. While incredibly similar to the video above, one difference in my experience was that enemies had a new HUD element that displayed their health. Equipped with Mjolnir, Thor can melee his opponents, and also toss his hammer at opponents, pinning them against walls and objects in the environment. I couldn’t get enough of lining up a row of enemies and then throwing the hammer through them- only to then recall it and have it come through them again. Of course, there could be a strategic element in play as well if you wanted to pin one enemy while continuing to fight the others bare-fisted or using your thunder. I did this briefly, and when the time came and I decided to use a few harder hitting abilities, Mjolnir returned to my hand automatically to deal the increased damage. I was also to use one of Thor’s longer cool down abilities to rain down lighting onto the enemies. As I battled against these foes, I would have a prompt for me to press the Triangle and Circle buttons together as their health reached a certain point- this delivered a flashy finishing move.

After Thor has his time to shine, the demo moves on to Iron-Man in a short section that’s an on-rails shooter. Using the right thumbstick, I aimed the repulsor blasts at the enemies that were flying around in front of me before landing in front of a group of enemies. With Iron-Man, I could melee and shoot blasts at enemies. I could also hover up into the air, staying there as I continued the attack, destroying the vehicles with the unibeam attack.

As Hulk, I jumped into the battle, smashing down onto the ground and picking up enemies as I used them to attack the others on screen. It was incredibly satisfying while fighting to just simply pick up an enemy and start swinging him around, eventually throwing him off into the distance. Or you can simply slam them into the ground like they’re Loki from the end of the first Avengers film. Hulk also had the ability to jump and grab onto parts of the environment using them to move forward through the destroyed parts of the bridge.

The demo moves up to the Hellicarrier, where Captain America is suddenly under attack by the enemy force. As Cap, you can throw your shield at enemies as well as use it to block. I loved the animations of Cap fighting against the enemies and seeing him use his shield during finishing moves. One of Cap’s cool down abilities gave his shield a hard throw, making it bounce around the area and hitting multiple enemies. Enemies with shields of their own appeared and, just as with Thor’s Hammer, I could aim and throw the shield to hit certain parts of enemies and in doing so, open them up to further attacks.

Last but not least in the A-Day demo is hands on with Black Widow as she finds herself up against Taskmaster. Nat is equipped with her pistols that she can use from a distance, moving to her fists in close combat, and breaking out her batons for harder hitting attacks. I was also able to use her grappling hook to grab onto Taskmaster and use it as a gap closer, which I found to be really satisfying when I pulled it off.

After completing the demo, if I had to pick a favorite Avenger, I would have to say that both Thor and Captain America were a lot of fun to play. I loved being able to throw Mjolnir and Cap’s shield around during combat… plus if I’m being honest, Cap has always been a favorite of mine so maybe that’s slightly biased.

After our hands-on time with the A-Day demo, we got some additional information about the game, including some story and gameplay elements.

A Story That’s Fresh, but Familiar

After the events of A-Day, the Avengers are disbanded and in their absence Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) takes over. Five years after A-Day, heroes are outlawed and A.I.M. has created an advanced synthoid AI to take their place. Of course, left unchecked, this could create a new threat for the Earth and so the Avengers must reassemble in order to stop A.I.M.

Superheroes saving the world? We’ve seen that a lot. But we as the players, we’re actually saving the Avengers themselves…

We need to rebuild the individuals as well as reassembling the team.

Tony Stark is now withdrawn from the world, he has lost his fortune, his tech and his toys. Bruce Banner blames himself for A-Day and is stuck in a purgatory of sorts, unable to revert back to Bruce Banner. Black Widow is heavily impacted by the death of Captain America that she couldn’t prevent, and turns into a lone-wolf spy. Thor feels like he’s no longer worthy of Mjolnir and as seen in the trailer, has left it behind. Last but not least, we have Captain America who is gone but not forgotten after his death in the opening of the game.


After that Golden Gate Bridge level is when the world really opens up. We start having these larger expanses to explore, more difficult enemies to go after, we actually get away from the tutorials and quick time events and start moving into you carving your path through this world…

Using a reclaimed hellicarrier as their base of operations, the Avengers will use a war table to launch into single player and multiplayer hot spots around the world.

In the single player Hero Missions, you’ll go through the main campaign of the game with character specific missions. These levels are crafted for a specific hero, which will give players a great space to make use out of a hero’s specific abilities. Completing these will unlock the next campaign mission, as well as open up Warzone Missions.

Warzone Missions can be played at any time with any heroes you have available in your roster. They can be played by yourself, or 2, 3, or 4 player co-op. All of the Warzone missions will also have their own narrative elements.

The more missions you play, the more missions will appear on your war table. New regions and story will be added to the game post-launch at no additional cost. In addition, your hero progress will transfer back and forth between Hero Missions and Warzone Missions.

Embrace Your Powers

Players will be able to outfit their heroes cosmetically with a variety of different costumes. Examples include Iron-Man’s Original Sin armor, Hulk’s Mr Fixit costume, Black Widow’s original costume, Thor’s Lord of Asgard costume, and Captain America’s scale armor. There will also be new outfits, and outfits added to the game after getting fan feedback. These costumes will be available on a marketplace, though the team isn’t saying anything else about it at this time.

Additionally, in some of the in-development footage we saw, there was a player profile in the corner of the screen with a background showing off Iron-Man’s Original Sin armor. When asked if this was specific to the costume selected, or something else that would be unlocked, we were told there are a lot of them that can be found, unlocked and even purchased- though it’s unclear right now if those will be a part of the same marketplace as costumes or something else.

As you play through missions, different types of character specific gear will be earned. The gear has rarity levels such as common, uncommon, epic, legendary etc. Gear will have perks, which can be unlocked, with the types of perks getting better with more rare gear. There will also be gear sets in the game, which, which equipped, will give the player some additional boosts. The harder fights, such as going up against Taskmaster again, or the Abomination will require this higher level gear.

In addition to the gear and perks you can use to upgrade your character, there are also skills. As heroes level up, they’ll get skill points that can be used to unlock unique skills in their skill trees. Depending on how far you go into these skill trees, you can unlock new combos. Some of these moves will be recognizable from the comics, but some may also be new. As an example, Iron-Man can unlock repulsors, lasers and rockets and then switch between them using the D-Pad and combo them together. Another example is that Hulk could be customized to pick up two enemies at once and swing them around. Heroes will also have Heroics such as Iron-Man’s unibeam or Hulk’s thunder clap that can be customized with skills.

Because of the wide range of options with skill customization, one person’s Thor could be drastically different from anothers, allowing players to be able to pick their favorite hero and then mold them to their preferred style of play.

This game is something I’ve been excited for since it was announced back in 2017. Every time more information and footage is released I get more excited. Coming out of my time with the game at PAX West 2019 wasn’t any different. Even though it’s still in its early stages, I thought the game played great, and with deep the character customization, and elements that feel somewhat reminiscent of Bungie’s Destiny, I believe that Marvel’s Avengers is going to be a great place for Marvel’s gaming fans to invest themselves in, especially with the option to experience it with your friends for years to come thanks to the free updates.

It’s unclear when we might hear more about the game, but the team told us that they hope to talk more about A.I.M. and Co-op early next year.

Marvel’s Avengers launches May 15th 2020 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia and PC.