Behold, the new Avengers Project. Looks awesome right? We're pretty excited about it, because Marvel Entertainment and Square Enix are teaming up to make this new title happen.
Square Enix is known for making good AAA titles and not shovelware, which is unfortunately where most Marvel video games have been for the past 10 or so years. From Activision, to Sega, to random unknown publishers, the Marvel franchise has been abused for far too long. But can that be turned around? We sure hope so.
This new Avengers Project better not be a trainwreck like this list of past Marvel games....
Iron Man (2008)
Do you like Iron Man? How about feeling incredibly barfy with janky camera controls? Lucky for you, the Iron Man game from 2008 has you covered!
Loosely based on the first Iron Man movie, this games succeeds at failing on every level. It looks muddy and gross, especially in the desert levels, and the gameplay is completely boring. You know how in the movies, Iron Man swoops in, fires off some repulsors, then flies away to do something else heroic, almost like he's a jet? Nah, not here. Let's sit in the middle of the arena and just fire away until things die.
There's also very little dialogue to carry the story along, making the game that much more boring. But perhaps the worst atrocity this game committed was convincing the publisher that a sequel was warranted.
Fantastic Four (1997)
First of all, I would like to say that you're welcome. Instead of a video, I have provided a still image instead. A video preview of this game would make grown men cry, particularly because the animation is so god awful.
Fantastic Four (1997) was a side-scroller beat-em-up -- which sounds pretty great at first, but Acclaim made sure to dash those hopes by making this game. The animation is near comedic, as this was the time where developers thought 3D was better than anything they could do in 2D. So instead of having a sprite of the Thing throwing punches, the tied it to a very archaic 3D model and had him throw his fists like nobody had ever taught him how the human muscle system works. It featured terribly animated versions of the entire Fantastic Four team (and She-Hulk... for some reason) and could even be played in four-player co-op.
I remember renting this game as a child and getting stuck on the first boss. You literally can't seem to damage him. I wasted my entire week's rental trying to defeat him. I thought maybe it was just because I was young, but upon researching it for this article, I found a video of a person recording the game who also gives up on the boss and ends the video. Has anyone actually ever gotten to level two on this game?
X-Men - Mutant Apocalypse (1994)
Some of you 90's kids may take offense to this one making it on this list. But there's something you may have forgotten about this game. So if you have it, go dust it off and plug it in. I'll give you about five minutes. By that time you'll remember that this game was garbage.
Okay, welcome back. Do you remember now? THIS GAME WAS IMPOSSIBLE. The mechanics were fun, if a little floaty, the looks were classic 90s iconic, and even the midi-bass riff music was gnarly. But the game was just too hard.
Yes, we all know games were hard back then, but this one was impossible. Players had to clear every character's level to progress through to the next mission, but failing even one would give a game over. You had far too little health and not enough pick-ups to combat it. Capcom hard is one thing, but there were too many cheap health-eaters in this game.
A few years after this monster, Capcom released a new game, Marvel Super Heros: War of the Gems -- and it was awesome! It was still hard (so hard that I don't remember beating it as a kid), but I do remember beating more levels than in X-Men Mutant Apocalypse. There was more combos, better health management, and you actually felt like a super hero beating regular bad guys instead of a punk who should have just stayed home.
The Punisher: No Mercy (2009)
When you think about a superhero game, what kinds of things do you want to do? At any point during this exercise, did you imagine a generic first-person shooter?
Probably not, because that's a bland idea. But that didn't stop Zen Studios from creating The Punisher: No Mercy -- a hum-drum first-person angst machine. Remember the Punisher's iconic left glove? No? That's a shame, because that's mostly all you see of him except when he dies and ragdolls while saying something a 13-year-old would consider edgy.
There's also no real single-player mode. It's just multiplayer but with bots. It's like they didn't even try with this title. I imagine the dev meetings went something like this:
"Hey, should we make an engaging Punisher story filled with cool characters, vengeance, and all those things The Punisher is known for?"
"Nah, Let's make it Call of Duty and call it a day."
Thor: God of Thunder (2011)
Isn't that image really cool looking? Take a minute to breathe it all in... because it's the only cool thing about this title.
To be honest, the rest of the game looks like garbage. This image just gets Thor in a good light, because Thor: God of Thunder for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 actually looked like Chinese knock-off action figures.
The controls were slippery, the animation was generic, and the game was riddled with bugs -- which took away from the few cool powers it offered.
The fact that stings the most is that Matt Fraction actually wrote the story for Thor: God of Thunder. Matt Fraction is usually god-tier when it comes to writing, but this... Matt, what were you getting yourself involved in? Why don't you just go back to writing Hawkeye? We loved that series.
To be fair, the story wasn't what was wrong with this game. Basically everything was.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Look at those graphics! Those mechanics! So why wasn't The Amazing Spider-Man fun or interesting? I'm asking you, Activision.
Remember the Spider-Man games on the original PlayStation? At the time, they were amazing. Even going back, they may not hold up, but you can feel the heart put into them.
But it seems like Activision put a ton of money into graphics and forgot to hire a good story writer and level designer. The streets of New York were devoid of life and the beautiful looking playground was boring once you got past the fun of web-slinging around town.
What about the story? It feels like they hoped you watched the movie and that would be enough to get you through the generic plot instead of giving it its own life.
Also, because Activision had movie tie-in rights at the time, they forced out a sequel with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which was somehow worse.
X-Men: Destiny (2011)
Oh X-Men: Destiny, the game we never asked for. Remember the X-Men Legends games? They eventually expanded into the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series. The last one of those titles came out in 2009 in the form of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. It was an awesome game that many wanted to see a sequel from.
So what did Activision do in 2011? Tripped all over themselves and released a game nobody actually wanted.
What was the main pull for Marvel Ultimate Alliance? The characters, of course! Playing as iconic Marvel superheroes in a comic book-like battle against evil was hard to resist.
Well if you like that, then Activision has the game for you. It stars generic, made-up mutants that you get to pick from! You'll get helped by iconic characters from the X-Men comics -- but don't worry, we've barred you from playing as them so you can focus on the one-dimensional character you chose in the beginning!
I get what they were going for here. They wanted something new and exciting from the X-Men franchise, but they were completely tone deaf to what the audience wanted. The gameplay was also lackluster and full of button mashing. All we really wanted was Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3... Or X-Men Legends 3... Or literally just anything besides this.
Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (2005)
At least with Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects, they told you right in the title that this game was less than perfect. This 2005 fighting game actually might kick X-Men: Destiny up a couple pegs because it did what X-Men did, but worse.
So X-Men: Destiny lets you pick from three new characters we don't care about, right? Well six years earlier, Rise of the Imperfects outdid that by creating eight new characters. Instead of adding a few new faces and then putting some iconic characters into the mix, EA apparently decided it would be a good idea to start its own fighting game series, stop half way, then shove some Marvel heroes into it to pad it for release.
Maybe that's not exactly what happened, but it sure felt like it. The story actually follows an arc in the comics and the gameplay actually takes note from games like Power Stone, which needs to happen a lot more in the fighting genre. But it did so in a game that didn't know what it was.
The Imperfects fell into obscurity after one out-of-continuity miniseries -- and much like this game, was never heard from again.
The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga (1996)
How hard is an Incredible Hulk game to make? Punch dudes, break stuff, go home. Apparently The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga missed that note by being incredibly boring and horrid to look at.
Remember the Fantastic Four title from earlier? This game has the same pit-falls. It's 3D for 3D's sake, and by that I mean a blotchy, badly animated mess. Remember that time in the comics when the Hulk punched a guy with his right hand over and over, then did the same to the guy next to him? No? Well that's what you're gonna get here.
The sound quality was terrible as well. Everything sounds like it was ripped from a sound effect website. 1997 might have been a long time ago, but around the same time, the earlier mentioned Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems released as a 16-bit game that looked much cleaner, controlled a lot nicer, and actually had impressive fighting animations. And hey, the Hulk was even in it!
Iron Man and X-O Manowar In Heavy Metal (1996)
What a long title that brings up a lot of questions. Why not just Iron Man and X-O Manowar? What's this game about? What does the X-O stand for? Who the heck is X-O Manowar anyway?
Go search YouTube videos of this game, and all you'll find is gameplay of Iron Man because nobody even really knew who Manowar was. It suffers from that same problem Fantastic Four and The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga suffered from-- with being in that awkward teenager year of going from 16-bit to polygons. But it does get one, and I mean ONE, praise: it's not nearly as terribly animated as those two games.
This game feels like it tried to be more than it was, but lost something in development. There were some cool features, like enemies being in the background and being able to attack them without it being a true 3D game. But the repetitive spamming of repulsors and complete lack of story makes this title truly throwaway. Which is a shame for everyone's favorite X-O Manowar... Okay but seriously, who is he? Why is he in this? He's not even a Marvel character!
As we stated before, Square Enix isn't known for dropping the ball too often. We're really hoping this new Avengers Project marks the end of the crappy tie-in/barely tried era of Marvel video games.
There are growing pains involved in video games. Some eras are best left in the past (I'm looking at you, entire 32-bit era) but it's good to reflect upon them so that they don't ever happen again.
Another thing this list has taught us: stop giving Sega video game publication rights to movie series! At least Activision was hit and miss, Sega was throwing darts at the dartboard and hitting the kid across the street.