Lego Marvel Super Heroes Preview
“Can you be in London for 9am tomorrow?” isn’t the way I’m normally talked into playing games, I’ll admit, but when it’s to see the latest in a franchise that I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for, I’m prepared to break with tradition. You see, we love Lego games in my house. I play them, my wife plays them, my children play them. So when the chance to get a first look at the upcoming Lego Marvel Super Heroes game arose, I couldn’t really refuse. I had to go.
Naturally, our hosts didn’t want to give too much of the story away, so the presentation began with a brief description of the opening cut scene, and the set up to the level we were about to see. The overarching plot will see players taking control of a whole host of iconic Marvel Super Heroes to chase down mysterious cosmic blocks, which have been brought to Earth by a certain super cool silver dude with a surfboard. Obviously, the Marvel universe has it’s fair share of iconic Super Villains too, and they’d rather you didn’t take all the Cosmic Blocks away, so our heroes will need to prevent the villains using them for their own nefarious deeds as well. To be honest, once Silver Surfer had been mentioned, I was done. My favourite Marvel character was in the game, so what else did I need to know? Nothing. Luckily I remembered that I would be expected to write a bit more than “it’s got Silver Surfer in it” before I left, and that other, rather strange people might like other Marvel Super Heroes, so I stayed. And boy was I glad I did.
The level opened with a short cut scene of Sandman and the Abomination causing havoc in Grand Central Station. Obviously somebody was going to have to put an end to their mischief, so up stepped the first two heroes revealed to us – Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk. It was the big green ball of rage that really stole the show. Yes I know, Tony Stark’s alter ego has a shiny red suit that flies around and shoots things, but Hulk is what Lego and TT are calling a “BIG-fig”! New for this game, BIG-Fig characters are much larger than the mini-fig guys we’re used to, and they’re much stronger too. The extra size allowed Hulk to leap huge distances, pick up and throw large objects, and pull, well, just about anything heavy. Oh and one other thing, he can smash. Lego Hulk can very definitely smash! I cannot describe the size of the smile I had when Hulk got busy with reducing the environment into much smaller pieces. It was pure childish fun, and exactly the sort of thing only possible with a game world made from Lego.
Our two heroes proceeded through the level in the regular Lego way; smash things up, build things to progress, collect lots of delicious studs, all done in a super hero kind of way, until they came upon the Abomination. To non-marvel fans, I should point out that Hulk versus Abomination is a classic character match up, and it’s something that TT are doing throughout the game, pitting heroes against their arch-enemies. Hulk and the Abomination went at it, Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots style, until eventually the Hulk prevailed and we moved on. All Lego games have had these slapstick kind of moments in them, and thankfully the humour didn’t feel out-of-place here (I’m thinking of you, Lego Lord of the Rings). But Hulk wasn’t done showing us what he was capable of, oh no. You see, what with Hulk being a “un-building things violently” kind of guy, he can’t put things together, and as a result, progress through the level stops. Luckily, he knows someone who can. At this point we got our first demo of the Hulk changing back into Bruce Banner to solve puzzles that the Hulk isn’t capable of. Does being able to switch between the two at will feel slightly wrong? Maybe, just a little.
As the level neared its conclusion, our friendly neighbourhood Spiderman joined the party. Pleasingly, he was realised just as any comic fan would expect. He wise-cracked, he slung webs, and he effortlessly swung across the screen with his webbing. Using his Spidersense allowed him to reveal things in the world not previously apparent, and like all other Lego games, progression relied upon making use of all the heroes’ various abilities. At this point, the level of care that TT are taking with the IP became apparent. Each hero offered different and distinct powers, and combined with the extra voice acting it felt like the developers had paid special attention to making the characters feel really authentic. The level came to an end with our three heroes fighting Sandman, who by this point had become a giant, swirling sand monster. Watching all the bits of sand and Lego brick fly around was quite impressive, though defeating him seemed to be a little simplistic. Sand obviously solidifies when hit with water, so our heroes worked together to reassemble a series of water cannons, and solidify Sandman into submission. As it was only the first level, perhaps calling it too simple is a little harsh, but it definitely felt like the weakest part of what we’d been shown.
One thing that can’t be criticized is the game engine. During the demo it became clear that it’s definitely taken a step forward for this title, and has allowed TT to make the world a lot more solid and believable. As demonstrated in the Sandman boss battle, the engine can handle more items on-screen, so when Hulk smashes something (did I mention he does that a lot?), a great deal of rubble is produced and realistically strewn all over the place. It’s just one of the little touches that add some extra flavour to the world. Also added for Lego Marvel Super Heroes is dialogue during the level. Travellers Tales added voiced cut scenes to their games a couple of titles back, but this is the first one to feature characters talking to each other during game-play. Once again, it’s one of those little touches that adds flavour – Spiderman does wise-crack his way through his adventures, so to hear him doing so during a level feels right.
Our demo wrapped up with a summary of what we can expect from the game, and a short Q&A session that allowed us to see just what they were willing to reveal. The full character list isn’t finalised yet, but they have stated that there will be over 100 of them to choose from. Some characters have been revealed, in addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned, confirmed characters include; Wolverine, Captain America, Loki, Black Widow, and Deadpool. Taking into consideration the desire to have these classic match-ups, I think it’s reasonable to assume that characters like Sabretooth will also make it in.
Like Lego Batman 2, Marvel Lego Super Heroes features a central hub area, this time a Marvel version of New York City. Players can explore famous sights such as a Lego Statue of Liberty, or Stark towers, X Mansion and Asteroid M. Even though we didn’t get to see Lego New York during the demo, the description of it sounded promising; certainly more vibrant than Gotham, with more challenges to find and do in it. Also mentioned when quizzed, was their aim to make “interesting use of the villains”. Personally, I hope that means a Super Villains campaign, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Even though the time during the demo was relatively short, I still left quietly impressed. I was reassured about the level of care TT were taking with the IP, and relieved to see the game was more than just Batman 2 with the heroes swapped out. The controls and game-play mechanics didn’t appear to be too fiddly (something previous games have suffered from), and even in preview code form it looks quite pretty. If I had any criticism at all it’s that it’s still very much a Lego game, and therefore unlikely to win over anyone who hasn’t enjoyed previous titles. But that’s about it. Travellers Tales have taken a technical step forward with this game; the world looked bigger and more alive than ever before, promising much for the full game. I know its early days yet, but based on what I’ve seen, Lego Marvel Super Heroes looks like it could be the best Lego game yet.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes has a projected release date of Autumn 2013, will be released on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, and PC.