Avengers Initiative Hands-On Preview and Video

When we discovered that Avengers Initiative’s gameplay was based almost entirely on Infinity Blade, we asked Marvel and developer Wideload Games how much credit Epic and Chair Entertainment deserve for inspiring their latest superhero game. They told us that Infinity Blade created a brand-new genre of gesture-based combat games, and that there was plenty of “blue sky” to fill between Infinity Blade and Avengers Initiative.

To a certain extent, they’re right. Some aspects of Avengers Initiative take the one-on-one, swipe-based combat of Infinity Blade to the next level. In particular, the emphasis on well-known characters and a creative story made us excited to play more of the game from the very start. Plus, the outstanding graphics and animation look unreal without actually coming from the Unreal Engine (they’re using Unity).

But for the most part, Marvel’s Avengers Initiative is essentially an Infinity Blade re-skin. Playing as the Hulk, you’ll travel through a town, power plant, and airship fighting mutated monsters. The controls are identical to Infinity Blade: You can swipe to attack, swipe in the opposite direction of an attack to parry (or in this game, “deflect”), evade attacks from side to side, or block. Perfect timing will stun your opponent, giving you a chance to land several hits in a row.

Instead of magic, the Hulk has special powers that you can level up as you progress through the game. You’ll start off with an earthquake-inducing smash, but later you’ll be able to drain health or stun enemies with gamma radiation. These are activated with “rage”, which slowly accumulates during a fight. Instead of slotted gems like in Infinity Blade 2, the Hulk can equip “augments” that give bonuses, like additional strength or health.

Marvel’s copycat approach to Infinity Blade’s gameplay features is very thorough. As you travel between pre-determined locations (with a few branching paths), you’ll be able to tap on crystals of ISO-8, the game’s version of gold. You’ll even be able to fast-forward through cutscenes, restart from the beginning to grind for more experience points, and use in-app purchases to cheat your way through tougher encounters.

For some, Marvel’s shameless reverse-engineering of the Infinity Blade formula might be too much to accept. Why should you support an unoriginal clone with your dollars? The difficult answer is that Avengers Initiative is still a very fun game, even if it does feel like an unofficial Infinity Blade spin-off. Marvel and Wideload have included just enough new features to make Avengers Initiative feel distinct in its own ways.

The best new additions are the characters comic fans will know and love. The Hulk is a much more interesting protagonist than Infinity Blade’s faceless knight, and the Hulk growls one-liners and performs impressively brutal body-slams on each enemy he encounters. You can even dress him up in various costumes from the comics. The boss battles also star Hulk arch-villains, and later in the game, you’ll encounter a surprise match-up that Marvel fans will especially enjoy.

We’ll have our final verdict on Avengers Initiative when the game launches in the US App Store tonight, but here’s where you should set your expectations for now: Even a shameless clone can be fun, especially when this much care has gone into the graphical presentation, storyline, and characters. Marvel undoubtedly owes a lot to Chair Entertainment, but they also haven’t delivered a sub-par product to comic fans.