Game news Spider-Man 2, Wolverine, Midnight Suns … Marvel’s comeback in video games
For several years now, Marvel has established itself as one of the most successful universes with gamers. As proof, Spider-Man 2 and Wolverine are among the announcements that have excited the public the most during the last PlayStation Showcase. After complicated years, is this finally the start of a solid love affair between Marvel and video games?
On Thursday night, Marvel games once again shone at PlayStation Showcase. In addition to a Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 that has been hinted at for a while, Sony has revealed that Insomniac Games (Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart) is working on another game from this universe of superheroes with Marvel’s Wolverine. To accompany the announcement, a teaser was released in which we see Wolverine leaning against the counter of a ravaged bar. Despite the video’s short duration, many netizens spotted clues that would seem to tease the presence of another major Marvel hero. In different places of the bar, it is possible to read series of letters and numbers that refer to comics featuring Wolverine and … Hulk. Beyond the presence of the green giant of Marvel, one can also wonder if the action of this new title takes place in the same universe as that of the Spider-Man games to lay the foundations of a new extended universe.
While Spider-Man 2 is slated for 2023 and Wolverine on an as yet unknown date, Marvel game fans won’t be left out as at least two other major games are due out in this time frame. The first of these is none other than Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy announced during the previous E3. Scheduled for release next month, this title developed by Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided) is the second project resulting from the collaboration between Square Enix and Marvel. Finally, in early 2022, players will be able to get their hands on Marvel’s Midnight Suns, a tactical-RPG developed by Firaxis (XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Civilization VI), in other words the experts in the genre. So no matter their gender, We note that Marvel games are now the subject of special care on the part of publishers, to the point of becoming truly ambitious projects. However, it must be remembered that until recently, this was far from being the case.
Prolific beginnings for varying results
In its early days, the Marvel Universe has always been a major source of inspiration for video games. Do you realize, between 1982 and 2000, there are nearly fifty games stamped Marvel! Despite this impressive quantity, it must be recognized that the titles released during this period were not of great quality most of the time. Of course, in the batch, there are still titles that have marked players like Silver Surfer on NES, renowned for its legendary difficulty, Spider-Man on PlayStation 1 or even Capcom’s fighting games (X-Men Children Of The Atom Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel vs. Capcom …) to name a few.
At the beginning of the 2000’s, this production calms down to focus on two popular figures from the Marvel universe, namely Spider-Man and the X-Men, as well as film adaptations (Blade, Hulk, The Fantastic Four …), some even checking these two criteria simultaneously, such as X-Men: The Official Game or Spider-Man. However, this does not prevent certain titles that do not fit into these boxes from doing well. We think in particular of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction which acts as an effective vent, or even Marvel Ultimate Alliance, a great owl Action-RPG which offered to play with many heroes of the Marvel universe in co-op.
The end of the 2000s will mark a turning point for the future of Marvel games because of two very specific events. First of all, the release of the film Iron Man in 2008 which launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Over the years, the film saga has managed to put superheroes back in the spotlight and gain momentum to the point of becoming one of the most profitable franchises in history. Next, it’s hard to miss the release of Batman Arkham Asylum in 2009. Developed by Remedy, the title has the effect of a small bomb and proves that it is possible to make good superhero games by giving oneself the means. Even today, the latter has popularized a large number of mechanics found in most current AAAs (detective vision, the Free Flow combat system, etc.).
The Insomniac turning point and Square Enix
If the debut of the MCU will rekindle the public’s enthusiasm for superheroes, the same cannot be said of the video game adaptations that have ensued. If on the one hand we find rather average titles (Captain America: Super Soldier) and others sometimes nice (Thor: Dieu du Tonnerre), there are especially many failures like the Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk games. by SEGA. However, this does not prevent some good titles from seeing the light of day like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, much better than the film from which it is adapted, Deadpool, a nice beat ’em up that offers a funny story and true to the character, or Marvel Heroes, an excellent hack’n’slash which unfortunately closed its doors in 2017.
But after a shower of mobile games, lots of LEGO games and even a storytelling adventure with Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, Marvel’s Spider-Man premieres at E3 2016. Symbol of the ambition of this project, this PlayStation 4 exclusive is developed neither more nor less than by Insomniac Games (Ratchet and Clank, Spyro the Dragon, Resistance …), a studio close to Sony to the point of being bought by this last in 2019. Released in 2018, the game is unsurprisingly a critical and popular success whose standalone Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales will even be one of the launch titles for the PlayStation 5. This shows the importance of this new license. Among the slightly less ambitious projects, we can also mention Marvel’s Iron Man VR, an exclusive VR experience on PS4 published by Sony.
Determined to also ride the wave of the MCU, Square Enix signed an agreement with Marvel in 2017 for the production of several games. Developed by Crystal Dynamics (the Tomb Raider Legend trilogy, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, Tomb Raider Underworld, the Legacy of Kain series …), the first title, then titled The Avengers Project, was none other than Marvel’s Avengers (the second being Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy). Revealed at E3 2019, the game finally released last year after complicated development. Unfortunately, the title does not meet with the same success as Marvel’s Spider-Man, especially because of the public’s misunderstanding of its nature. Despite everything, as a game-service, the latter continues to be regularly updated and incorporates new superheroes, including Black Panther this summer. This week, on the occasion of its anniversary, the title even unveiled a new roadmap to confirm the arrival of Spider-Man before the end of the year.
Between Marvel and video games, it is therefore a complicated love story. After an inconclusive prolific debut, Marvel games ended up boring audiences in the 2000s with botched movie adaptations and over-exploitation of Spider-Man and the X-Men. Thanks to the arrival of the MCU and the evolutions brought by Batman Arkham Asylum, the editors questioned themselves to propose more ambitious projects for the result that we know today. It remains to be seen whether future productions will manage to maintain this level of quality in the years to come.