Avengers game: hands-on with Ms Marvel’s embiggening combat

We took control of the super-stretchy Ms Marvel in a combat-based demo for Marvel's Avengers game

Kamala Khan, also known as Ms Marvel, will be a playable character in the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers game from Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montréal and Square Enix. This news was originally announced at New York Comic-Con, where a trailer revealed the character and Sandra Saad was confirmed to be playing the role.

The super-stretchy teenage superhero Ms Marvel has quickly become a fan favourite, after debuting in the pages of Marvel Comics in the summer of 2013 and soon after becoming Marvel’s first Muslim superhero to headline her own comic book series. Ms Marvel is very much having a moment right now, as well, with a Marvel Cinematic Universe TV show lined up for the character on Disney+ as well as this exciting video game appearance.

With all of this in mind, Den Of Geek went along to EGX 2019 – a fan convention in London, where a huge Avengers area was hosted by Virgin Media – to learn a bit more about how Kamala Khan will slot into the upcoming game about Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Scot Amos, Head Of Studio at Crystal Dynamics, was on hand with heaps of information, and he also brought a demo of Ms Marvel gameplay for us to try.

Before we sat down to try the new demo, we saw a presentation that explained how Ms Marvel fits into the game’s story. As a young fan of the Avengers, Kamala entered a fan-fiction competition and won a ticket to an event called A-Day. As we learned during our previous hands-on experience, the Avengers’ unveiled their new Helicarrier at A-Day and everything went horribly wrong: after an altercation with the villainous Taskmaster, a huge wave of Terrigen energy was blasted into San Francisco as a result of the Helicarrier’s experimental engine blowing up. Kamala was one of the people exposed to the Terrigen Mists during this event, and anyone who is familiar with comic book lore will know that these mysterious mists can grant people with extraordinary abilities.

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Jump forward a number of years and the Avengers have disbanded, ashamed at the death toll that A-Day caused. The science company Advanced Idea Mechanics has risen up as an alternative to superheroes on the global peacekeeping scene, but their robotic legion looks awfully sinister and it doesn’t take a comic-book super fan to guess that A.I.M. is actually the big bad of the piece. The fact that they’re trying to cure “Inhumans” like Kamala is also a pretty sizeable clue. Taking inspiration from superheroes including Captain Marvel (her absolute fave), Kamala digs up some dirt on A.I.M. and attempts to reassemble the Avengers.

With all of that knowledge squeezed into our noggins, it was time to jump into the demo, which takes place in a Danger-Room-esque environment where Kamala is testing her superpowers against holographic approximations of A.I.M.’s various robotic goons and gadget-wielding human footsoldiers. Kamala, wearing a homemade-looking superhero suit replete with a yellow lightning bolt on the front, is very much ready for action.

Having already played the A-Day demo, we were familiar with the basic controls that apply to every hero in the game: in PS4 parlance, you use the square button to do a normal attack and the triangle button to do a slightly different attack, while circle is dodge (a slick sliding-out-of-the-way move in Kamala’s case) and X is what you press to jump.

Because of Kamala’s “embiggening” powers, as she calls them, you can also do a double jump that prompts her to stretch one arm out – like Mr Fantastic would – to reach for a surface that is otherwise slightly too far away. This is fairly standard stuff, of course, but already it feels cool to be playing as Kamala in a high-end AAA game that isn’t a LEGO title.

The fun properly begins when you start playing around with Kamala’s more unique attacks, which you can see charging up on a series of dials in the bottom right of the screen. You can press R1 to temporarily embiggen one of Kamala’s arms, which stretches out towards your foes and dishes out a superpowered smackdown attack that looks like a humungous and painful high-five. You can also press L1 to do a simple health replenishing move. As wave after wave of baddies started appearing in the room, we found ourselves eagerly watching the health-based move’s dial as it loaded up.

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There are also different ways to embiggen Kamala’s whole body. Pressing L1 and R1 together, when the relevant bar is fully charged, will allow you to go full-on massive: in this temporary state, Kamala is basically as strong and as massive as the Hulk, capable of punching through the biggest enemy tank or even picking up footsoldiers and smashing them around “puny god” style. Swapping into this mode feels utterly awesome, but you’ll need to keep an eye on how much time you have left. Once Kamala shrinks back down, you’ll need to focus a bit more on dodging, moving around the environment and taking a more tactical approach to each enemy. While you wait for the fully-fledged embiggening bar to fill up again, you can also hold down R2, from time to time, to go into a half-embiggened state: in this middle mode, Kamala is still a force to be reckoned with, but she’s a bit more vulnerable to attacks than she is in her biggest form.

Our main takeaway from this demo is that playing as Ms Marvel is a total hoot. The developers have clearly put a lot of thought into her combat style, and they’ve come up with an interesting hybrid of a young woman and a massive brawler: sometimes you’ll need to dodge regularly, keep topping up your health bar and approach enemies with caution; but, at other points, you’re able to really let loose with over-the-top attacks that dish out massive damage. The graphics are very satisfying to witness, too, leaning into the inherent silliness of stretchiness and baking in some humour too. Sandra Saad, in the voice role of Kamala Khan, seems to be having a lot of fun as well.

This is, put simply, a faithful adaptation of the character from the comics, which plonks her into a playable video game environment and enables players to have fun with her powers. Household-name heroes like Spider-Man have received this treatment umpteen times, but one neat thing that the Avengers game can do is offer that opportunity to newer characters and help them reach fresh fans. There are bound to be people that experience Ms Marvel for the first time in this game, and if this demo is anything to go by, Marvel’s Avengers could quickly convert plenty of people into card-carrying Kamala Khan admirers. We’d wager that her fanbase is set to embiggen. 

Marvel’s Avengers launches on 15 May 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, Windows PC and Google Stadia. Virgin Media hosted the first UK hands-on demo of the game at EGX 2019.