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The Avengers gameplay demo: part brawler, part platformer, all cinematic

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We’ve just been to see a hands-off gameplay demo of Marvel’s The Avengers at E3 2019. It directly followed the reveal trailer at Square Enix’s presentation, and the Avengers were taking the fight to some bad guys – led by classic villain Taskmaster – on the Golden Gate bridge.

We flitted between multiple Avengers, getting a sense of each of their skillsets and how they each contributed to straightening things out. It was reminiscent of an MCU movie in which Thor and Hulk might tackle the big threats while other members of the team handle henchmen, or get civilians out of the way. These action sequences are linked by impressive cinematics and short quick-time-events.

Gameplay borrows from several genres, but if we had to pick one, we’d say: brawler. As Thor, for instance, combat looks weighty and feels personal: each swing of Mjolnir is thunderous and launches henchmen into the air or into the middle-distance. There’s also a nice move in which he knocks a bad guy into the air, time slows, and then he slams them back into the ground again.

You can throw Mjolnir, of course, and we see Thor pin one bad guy to a truck with its weight. Each Avenger gets special powers mapped to the controller’s shoulder buttons, and a ‘super’ power that we think is activated by holding both buttons at once. In the Thunder God’s case, you can call down lightning, destroying everything around you in a spectacular electric storm.

There’s a touch of platforming to Thor’s sections, too: he leaps between broken parts of the bridge and wall-runs on the sides of trucks. We also see him jump and slam the ground to knock enemies back, and pick up broken chunks of the bridge to use as weapons.

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As you’d expect, the Hulk is as punchy if not more so: his blows have comparable force, and he can even pick up henchmen to use as clubs, battering other henchmen with their own mates. Captain America can throw his shield, naturally, and is briefly seen throwing down against enemies who wear electrified knuckle dusters.

Iron Man gets an exciting chase sequence in which he flies around the bridge. The controlling player can take off, hover, and fire his repulsor beams at will, and his ‘super’ move is his chest-mounted unibeam, which basically sets everything on fire. Flexing Tony Stark’s high-tech arsenal, you can also designate targets for, and then release, a salvo of homing micro-missiles.

Black Widow’s section is the most scripted of the lot. She jumps on Taskmaster while he’s trying to detonate a sonic bomb, and the pair struggle as Taskmaster flies around the collapsing bridge with a jetpack. Another punch-up follows, with Widow using her fists and dual-wielded pistols as Taskmaster uses his sword and shield, which he, cribbing from Cap, also likes to throw.

Overall, there’s a lot of punching in the most playable sections, and a lot of gamey contrivances to crowbar some gameplay into the more cinematic sections, which nonetheless look very dramatic.

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