Marvel Avengers: Initiative preview
Disney Interactive and developer Wideload Games (Guilty Party, Stubbs the Zombie) have a proven money-maker on their hands with the Marvel IP, and are poised to launch a brand new Avengers-based action-adventure game for mobile devices tomorrow called Marvel Avengers: Initiative. I recently had a chance to meet with Wideload's Patrick Moran to chat about Initiative's impending launch, and have since gathered some hands-on impressions of the game, myself. In short, fans of the Avengers will probably find a lot to like about Initiative, despite its obviously derivative machinations.
In a huge, green nutshell, Marvel Alliance: Initiative is basically taking the gameplay pioneered by Infinity Blade, and leveraging it to tell combat-driven stories about some of its most beloved heroes. Players navigate the game's environments by issuing taps on highlighted hot-spots, and combat is a swipe-based affair punctuated by dodges, counters, power moves, and finishing moves. Time a counter-block or dodge correctly, and a series of combo strikes can be unleashed. A meter can also be filled to deploy a number of special, unlockable Rage power attacks, for some extra oomph.
Also similar to Infinity Blade are the collectible medkits and ISO-8 mineral deposits hidden in the environments, which can be tapped (even during the cinematic bits) to be collected. ISO-8 can also be purchased for real money and acts as Initiative's in-game currency, at least for the first campaign. It can be used to unlock augments, costumes, and items. Thankfully, expending real-world currency beyond the game's up-front asking price is entirely optional, and really just amounts to a time-saver.
Though only one playable campaign is included in Marvel Avengers: Initiative's release, the game will have a multiple-installment structure. The Incredible Hulk is the star of the chapter due out tomorrow, but other campaigns focusing on different members of the Avengers are planned to release in the near future. Hulk's storyline--which I was told will take about four hours to complete--sends the giant, perpetually angry hero off to the Rocky Mountains to a facility called The Vault. Apparently, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been using the facility to house dangerous creatures and monsters. Thanks to a mysterious pulse emanating from space, electrical grids, communication networks, and the security system keeping The Vault's denizens trapped are on the blink. Hulk's mission is basically to beat the escapees into submission, so that Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. can round them up again.
Hulk also has a number of stats that can be increased when he levels-up, depending on the way you want to play. Whether you want to be a bit more precise during combat--using counters and dodges to your advantage--or simply smash away with abandon, you can build up your own personal Hulk to foot the bill.
When I asked which characters might be up next on the roster for Marvel Alliance, I was directed to a teaser image featuring Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, in addition to David Banner's alter-ego. While not confirmed, it's reasonable to assume that one of those three other Avengers will be the focus of Initiative's next chapter.
Initiative is the second in what Marvel hopes will be a series of new Marvel titles--joining Marvel Avengers: Alliance for Facebook--which will leverage Marvel XP: a persistent experience and achievement system that rewards players across the connected titles. Earn experience in one game, it'll be counted by your Marvel XP S.H.I.E.L.D. profile, and you'll be able to reap in-game rewards in other connected games.
Despite Initiative's less-than-subtle nod to Infinity Blade when it comes to gameplay, I actually find myself enjoying it more than the titles from which it cribs a lot of its ideas. Getting to play as the Incredible Hulk is far more rewarding than playing as a faceless knight for me so far, and the inclusion of little touches like voice-over work done by those who make the animated series go a long way. The promise that future character campaigns will be released for no additional charge is also a plus, and one that helps justify the game's premium $6.99 price point. I'd strongly recommend that Marvel fans check it out, in large part because the admirable level of fan-service therin; and the gameplay itself is fun, despite not being very original.
Marvel Avengers: Initiative hits iOS and Android tomorrow, September 6.