Let's face it-no one can remember a time when Marvel put out a truly great game. They've had some decent ones that are fun enough, but most end up following the same simple formats of brawlers, New York City free roamers, and evil-robot-army fighters. The plots are simplistic, mechanics iffy, and the games are shining examples of money grabs. They hope that by throwing out a title like Deadpool they can grab the attention of the fanboy crowds, who will shell out their sixty dollars before they know what they've done.
As much money as this may make them now, it's not sustainable. In recent memory, the closest any Marvel game title got to decency was The Amazing Spider-Man 2 tie-in game, which clearly tried to replicate DC's Arkham series in gameplay style. Fun, yes, but entirely underwhelming in execution. In fact, the clearest result of that game was showing the massive difference in quality between Marvel and DC's games. Given that, how can Marvel start catching up?
1. Focus On More Skill-Based Gameplay
As fun as running around slaughtering some copy/paste villain mercenaries as Deadpool may be, it doesn't make for a truly great game. Nor does smashing New York as the Hulk. The problem with these is pretty clear-instead of making the player think and strategize, they just run full tilt into each encounter, mashing various buttons. Each fight is forgettable, and repetitive.
The best thing DC did with the Arkham series was that they made the player analyze every situation before they joined the fray-and if they missed something, it could end in disaster. This served not only to make the game more interesting through gameplay, but it immersed the player into Batman as a character. There was nothing more satisfying than seeing your strategy play out perfectly, and nothing more crushing than seeing a guard you failed to notice walk around a corner just as you finished a silent takedown.
Several Marvel characters could work similarly, including Iron Man or Spider-Man. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game showed some of this potential, but failed to execute it properly.
2. Don't Be Afraid To Use Powers
Game designers have had long-running issues making hero games due to how ridiculously powerful the heroes are (i.e. every Superman game, ever). The problem they run in to is that they try to rein back these powers through ridiculous limitations, or scale up the villains in dumb, predictable ways-how many hero games have featured an army of killer robots or an army of humans powered up through some secret formula?
Instead of the obvious, bring in something interesting. Iron Man could fight everything from military vehicles to alien fighters to established villains like the Mandarin. Imagine flying through downtown Los Angeles or New York pursued by beautifully animated helicopters or spacecraft, dodging bullets and lasers while spinning and rolling to get return fire with repulsors and rockets. Done properly, this could make for a fun, engaging game that puts you under the helmet.
3. Actions Have Consequences
One of the major shortfalls of the Amazing Spider-Man games was that failures had no real consequence. If you couldn't quite get a bomb out of the city, no matter, it would just reset the mission. Maybe the criminals got away, oh well. Actions should have lasting effects-if you let crime run rampant, or cause too much direct damage, you could be seen and treated as anything from a grudgingly respected anti-hero to someone just as dangerous as a villain. If Spider-Man is swinging through the city and a bomb explodes, citizens and the government should actually care, and respond appropriately.
Another aspect that could be explored is partially destructible environments in free roam. If Iron Man blasts an alien out of the sky and it smashes into a building and explodes into a ball of plasma, it shouldn't leave a light dusting on the windows. allow damage or even destruction of buildings. Maybe even have the possibility of civilian casualties. This would make the player really think about their actions-do they take out the enemy here with the potential for destruction, or try to lead it out over the ocean or to a less populated area, despite the added possibility for their own death? Make the player think like a hero, and make them see the consequences.
4. If It Needs an M Rating, Make It M Rated
The Arkham series has made this jump-there's no silent rules about this anymore. Most of what I mentioned in the previous section would lead to an M rating, and if Marvel wants even a prayer of getting back into the gaming race, they may have to make this jump. Spend the money, spend the time, make a truly fantastic game, and if it's M, don't hold back. Give us the game we deserve.