Last week was a bit of a mixed bag for Marvel’s Avengers. Clint Barton – the second Hawkeye in the game so far – debuted to a lukewarm reception, but one of the biggest surprises of the entire Square Enix showcase saw the reveal of Black Panther, due to arrive in the game sometime in the vague ‘Summer 2021 and Beyond’ window. It also saw the first gameplay footage of Forspoken, previously known as Project Athia, but more on that later. Black Panther is substantially more popular than Barton, and considering we’re now two for two on DLC characters being Hawkeyes, Black Panther offers more variety as well. However, in fitting the ‘one step forward, two steps back’ style for the game, the Black Panther reveal was swiftly followed by the announcement that Spider-Man is going to be delayed.
It’s easy to look at Spider-Man and label him as the upcoming saviour of the game – easier than it is with Clint, certainly – given the fact that he’s one of the most iconic characters of all time, the star of one of the most successful PS4 titles, and has a hotly anticipated movie coming up this year. But I have my doubts. I love Spider-Man and his Sony games, but those games did not succeed simply because Spider-Man was in them. The traversal in those games is fantastic, every part of New York can be interacted with, and there’s an untameable kinetic energy to the overall experience. I didn’t have high hopes that Marvel’s Avengers could recapture this, but Forspoken has done a better job of convincing me than anything I’ve seen from Marvel’s Avengers so far.
Forspoken and Marvel’s Avengers are both Square Enix games, but they’re made by completely different studios. There’s nothing to suggest that Avengers has taken any inspiration from Forspoken, or even that anybody at the studio knew its name before the rest of us learned it during the showcase. But my big questions around Spider-Man in Avengers all had the theme of “how would they even do that?!” After seeing some Forspoken footage, I have the answer – now it’s just a case of ‘will Marvel’s Avengers deliver?’
Most of the action in Marvel’s Avengers takes place in one of two arena types. The first is the wide open wilderness, and the second is the generic HARM training area. Neither are suited to Spider-Man’s skillset. Kate Bishop was such a breath of fresh air because – unlike a lot of the main cast there for starpower – it seemed like she had been chosen with purpose. While hand-to-hand combat is generally more satisfying in Marvel’s Avengers, Kate’s ability to teleport and pick out enemies at range made her ideally suited to the level design of the game. Trying to repeat the same trick with Clint feels like diminishing returns, but that’s beside the point.
Spidey does not seem particularly suited to either of these locales. The wide open spaces don’t allow much for webslinging, and even with suspension of disbelief letting Spidey swing through fresh air with the web extending off screen to nothingness, there’s nothing for him to interact with. Considering the game has a (fairly basic) photo mode, this sneaky swinging seems even less likely. The HARM rooms, meanwhile, offer lots of surfaces for swinging and climbing, but are far too compact for Spidey to ever get going. It seemed like he was another one being brought in for his name alone.
Iron Man, for example, is almost as beloved as Spidey, and he flopped hard in Marvel’s Avengers. With Tony, the style of play never seems suited to him, and he’s been forced into a more bridled version of himself in order to fit the game’s rhythm. It seemed to me like Spidey would meet the same fate – everything that makes him special would be squished out of him like a bug under a boot, and he’d be trading on name brand alone.
Here’s where Forspoken comes in. Forspoken also seems to star a kinetic character in Frey. Her combat is very different to Spidey’s, with her magic shield and a kit that seems to consist of potions, contraptions, and one-on-one encounters. However, her traversal seems similar – or at least I hope it is. Frey also travels through wide open spaces, but does so by leaping forward in aerodynamic twists, springing up walls, and bouncing off trees. There doesn’t seem much there to interact with, and yet she’s able to interact with it all. I hope Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers follows in her rapid footsteps.
There’s no indication that the tight and generic HARM rooms can get the best out of him, but with some Captain America-style hand-to-hand combat and a few web gadgets, Spidey can at least be useful, even if they don’t let him fully be himself.
As I say though, I have no idea how much – if any – inspiration Marvel’s Avengers will take from Forspoken. But it now feels as though Spider-Man actually could work in the game’s typical settings – it’s just up to the devs to make it happen. My hopes aren’t sky high, but they’re higher than they were before. Let’s just say that.
Much like how the save transfer between PS4 and PS5 for the game is mind-bogglingly confusing, everything around having Spidey in the game seems like a headache. Announcing a DLC character (a free one, admittedly) before the game even releases is a strange choice, especially if three other characters then release ahead of him. He’s also a PlayStation exclusive, so this idea that he can resurrect the game’s popularity might be misguided when you consider that neither Xbox nor PC players will even get to use him. I’m not convinced Spidey will be worth the wait – not when we already have two excellent Spider-Man games in recent memory that Marvel’s Avengers will clearly struggle to live up to. But if Spider-Man’s skillset can capture the energy of Forspoken, that might be enough to give him the benefit of the doubt… whenever he eventually releases.
Next: Mirror Mode: The Next Street Fighter Game Should Be About Breaking Up Street Fights
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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