Will Mishandling Spider-Man be the Final Blow for Avengers?
Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have heavily struggled to change the narrative about Marvel’s Avengers since its rough launch. After reportedly losing roughly over 90% of its player base on PC within the first few months of its launch, Crystal Dynamics attempted to reel players back in with multiple story expansions and character additions only coming to no avail. The addition of two Hawkeyes, both Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, in a row and Black Panther simply weren’t enough to bring players back or solve the game’s biggest issues in progression and lack of content.
For most players, Avengers just feels like a dead game walking with how it’s been unable to course correct – that is, unless you’re a PlayStation player that’s been waiting for Spider-Man to enter the fray. Although originally announced as the second DLC character for Avengers, Spider-Man will be the game’s fourth DLC character releasing on November 30th after being the victim of long delays and an overall lack of updates for quite some time. Given that Spider-Man is Marvel’s most popular hero, and this release is just a couple weeks before Spider-Man: No Way Home, it seemed like the web-head could be a good turnaround for the game. Sure, Spider-Man being a PlayStation exclusive made it impossible for it to be a full turnaround, but Avengers could use any kind of positive news at this point.
However, Spider-Man’s gotten a weird rollout treatment that hasn’t exactly instilled a bode of confidence in fans. Not only was the news of Spider-Man’s release date dropped before any trailers were shown, but we didn’t even know what he’d look like until a couple weeks ago and there wasn’t even gameplay footage. When we finally did get a gameplay preview in the form of Simon Cardy’s hands-on preview at IGN, it was far from a dream come true. The gameplay barely impressed and the fact that Spider-Man coming to Avengers is basically just him joining the roster was a poor showing that questions the length of Avengers’ lifespan more than ever.
Gameplay has never been an issue for Avengers since its launch and is its greatest quality. Each hero came with their own unique set of powers and abilities that have made them a blast to play. The ability to recall Mjolnir as Thor continually feels satisfying, Kate and Clint’s different arrows offered great gameplay variety, and Crystal Dynamics actually nailed flying around as Iron Man. Spider-Man’s gameplay still retains the web-slinger’s combat identity, but absolutely pales in comparison to more recent Spider-Man games, mainly Insomniac’s Spider-Man. Now, it was obvious that Avengers’ Spider-Man likely wasn’t going to feel as fluid or freeing as Insomniac’s because Crystal Dynamics can’t suddenly change the environments or style of Avengers to build solely around Spider-Man. However, it’s bad that when looking at the gameplay, Avengers’ version of Spider-Man feels reminiscent of Spider-Man games from the PS1/early PS2 era.
Spider-Man’s combat abilities seem pretty on par for the character with the web-bomb and Spider-Drone acting as ways to wrap up enemies and his Ultimate ability, The Wrecking Ball, letting players drop the hammer. While more in line with Spider-Man’s web combat, these abilities all seem like they pretty much do the same thing in allowing more crowd control and aren’t all that inspired or creative for Spider-Man combat. As for his punching and kicking, it just looks like messy button mashing that sees more whiffs than satisfying smacks. As a whole, the combat looks generic and certainly doesn’t feel like an impactful or ambitious hero design.
Traversal is the biggest step down though as players won’t be able to glide along city skylines by web-swinging. If players try to swing too close to the sun, they’ll be stopped by a “glass ceiling,” an archaic method that really gives off PS1 Spider-Man game vibes. The whole glass ceiling method isn’t too much of a surprise since Avengers has environments that aren’t cityscapes, so there aren’t always towering skyscrapers for Spider-Man to latch onto. However, the web-swinging looks so stiff that players will barely be able to swing off the ground. Even the running animation for Spider-Man looks totally off and the animation for Spider-Man shooting web blasts is a hilarious GIF waiting to happen.
Frankly, the overall look of Spider-Man also doesn’t look right. When his look was initially revealed, it felt like a nice return to the classic Spidey suit but seeing it in action looks terrible. There are no visible textures to it, so it looks incredibly cheap and thankfully Crystal Dynamics is adding a lot of other iconic suits including the Noir and Secret War suit because if they didn’t it would be a total disaster.
The biggest issue of Spider-Man’s arrival to Avengers is that it comes with no new story expansions. For a game that’s struggled to provide story expansions with enough meat on their bones, you would think that having a Spider-Man story that could also bring some of his iconic villains into the mix would be an easy solution, especially given the time that this DLC has taken to be released. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics don’t agree I guess as the only story content fans will be seeing of Spider-Man investigating a suspicious chemical company will be relegated to animated cutscenes and audio files rather than story-focused missions. While the cutscenes have a very nice comic book look to them, the idea of story beats being hidden behind completing familiar objectives is incredibly frustrating and continues to showcase a major problem that Avengers has in building out its story.
From what we’ve already seen from Spider-Man’s arrival in Avengers, it’s going to be a heavily missed opportunity that doesn’t bode well for Avengers’ future. The lack of new content and lackluster gameplay certainly feels that PlayStation and Spider-Man fans are about to get shafted, and this is not how you respect an exclusive deal. It’s another devastating blow for Avengers and another critical error that takes away another chance for Avengers to change its fate that seems grimmer than ever. After Spider-Man drops in on November 30th, there are no planned releases for characters or content rollout leading you to wonder if this will be it for Avengers. Although there were plans for other heroes like Captain Marvel and She-Hulk to join the roster, there’s been no real word about the future of Avengers and maybe it’s because there simply isn’t one.
Square Enix recently threw Crystal Dynamics under the bus with Square Enix President Yosuke Matsuda insinuating at a shareholder meeting that Crystal Dynamics was the wrong fit for Avengers. Discussions around Avengers getting the plug pulled have been swirling for a while now and with there being some issues internally about the game’s development and now this whole Spider-Man mishandling, it doesn’t seem like there’s a bright future for Avengers. It’s simply run out of chances to impress and this lackluster showing of Spider-Man could likely be the final nail in the coffin.