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CCI: Activision Previews New Marvel Games

by  in Video Game Comment
CCI: Activision Previews New Marvel Games

Activision had a full slate heading into Comic-Con International in San Diego this year, as you could probably glean from Comic Book Resources’ party recap. The company continued the festivities with a panel talking about their new games, “Spider-Man: Edge of Time” and “X-Men Destiny.” Headlining the start of the panel were Stan Lee, Marvel writer Peter David, Gamespot Editor-in-Chief Ricardo Torres, Marvel DP Production of Games T.F. Jefferson, Silicon Knights Project Director Julius Lane and Beenox CEO Dee Brown.

After bringing in the panelists, the show started with a new trailer for “X-Men Destiny,” along with one for “Spider-Man: Edge of Time.” There were some technical difficulties with the trailers, but they did manage to hype their related products effectively. (Lee quipped, “Can they tilt the screen this way? I always miss what’s happening on the screen.”

Following the trailer, the panel talked about what makes Spider-Man so exciting to play in a game. David stated, “He’s Spider-Man!” to laughter from the crowd before explaining Spider-Man’s versatile gameplay style, as well as the ability to unlock new abilities and moves over the course of the game. He also talked about an incredible sense of discovery with the playable characters, the Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099.

Brown then discussed how the team wanted to push the narrative to the next level following their previous release, “Shattered Dimensions.” He said the team received great support from Marvel, and they wanted this to be a Spider-Man experience like no games before it, covering every aspect from story to design.

“There’s no greater impact than ‘kill the hero,'” said David. “It’s a bold move, and you don’t see it very often…but Beenox took it straight there. They nailed it.” He then talked about how important it was to stay true to character while adding new elements to both characters to keep the game exciting, dubbing it a “Spider-Man roller coaster.”

When Stan the Man was asked about Spider-Man dying, he replied, “I wasn’t too happy.” However, he had no doubt that Activision would resurrect him. He won’t say how it happens, but he knows it’ll be pulled off.

The panel then transitioned to “X-Men Destiny,” finally getting the trailer to work properly. Lee talked about how much the characters came to life in the games. “That’s a little more than I had in mind,” joked Lee. “You people at Activision are able to put something on a screen that’s so much bigger and better than the average motion picture.” He commended the video game making process, and quipped, “Eat your heart out, Batman!” — taking a jab at the Dark Knight films, and maybe even “Batman: Arkham City.”

Silicon Knights’ then spoke about the three new characters in “X-Men Destiny” and how their choices shape what happens in the game. “We want to give the player a compelling experience that’s tailored to them.”

The panel was then asked what fans will be most excited about in “X-Men Destiny,” and Lee believed it’s every single element. “It makes you feel…man! I’m in command!” He then added a side story how artists and writers can’t talk in front of a microphone, and yet video game developers talk like pros on mics. “I want to sit here and take notes! You should all be in showbiz!” To which the developers responded, “That’s from watching you, Stan!” The crowd applauded enthusiastically.

The question of X-Men vs. Spider-Men then came up, and Lee responded, “It depends on who’s writing the story,” which the crowd loved. He also quipped, “How many X-Men?!” The others then chipped in, saying, “We’re all here because of you.” Being Stan Lee, he responded, “Well, give me money!” to an uproarious crowd. They then thanked Lee, who in turn thanked Activision for making the “Spider-Man” games look so good. He then had to depart the panel due to his packed schedule, but the panel continued with the other guests.

Some of the voice talent entered, including Jamie Chung and Scott Porter from “X-Men Destiny,” followed by a video showing the voiceover sessions for the game. It went in depth on the characters and what the actors put into them. Chung and Porter then talked on the panel about bringing them to life.

Chung plays 15-year-old Aimi Yoshida, who slowly but surely discovers her power and is provided a choice to either join the Brotherhood or the X-Men. Choices you make through the game guide her down her path.

Porter talked about his character, Adrian, who’s a Purifier. He develops his power after saving a pair of humans, bringing out his dormant mutation. Everyone who’s ever loved him has turned on him as a result, and throughout the game, Adrian has to make choices to guide him out of his dark world.

Gamespot’s Torres was asked about his favorite X-Men games, in which he mentioned “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “X-Men Legends 2.” (He also gave a nod to “X-Men: The Arcade Game.”)

Asked how the players would react playing these new characters rather than the X-Men themselves, the panel thought it would be an excellent opportunity to try something new, working alongside the characters and seeing how your choices reflect on them. It’s more immersive this way, rather than going the basics like most action games. Morality issues also weigh heavily in the game. Porter thought it was a “cool experience” dealing with all of these characters in “X-Men Destiny,” as well. He thinks the involvement of X-Genes, which lets you use abilities from familiar characters, are a great addition.

The story of these characters was also discussed, specifically how approachable and deeply complex they are when it comes to their emotional drive. Adrian, for instance, comes to hate his Purifier roots, especially when he’s conflicted over how he was abandoned. Julian believes that his team closely followed Stan’s vision in this regard, with heroes having issues that readers identify with.

Powers were also discussed. Julian talked about the various power sets included, such as density control (shape-changing abilities) and shadow matter (being able to create shadow objects for combat). These can be leveled up to make combos bigger and better. X-Genes let you customize your character with superhero chromosomes, augmenting your abilities across offensive, defensive and utility. Juggernaut’s defensive X-gene, for instance, lets you barrel over opponents like an out-of-control car. The more you level up, the stronger you become.

The panel was then asked about favorite X-Men characters. Wolverine was highly praised, though Chung loves Psylocke — which got the crowd cheering. Porter couldn’t just choose one, so he chose a few on his “excellent” team, including Havoc and Nightcrawler. Lane chose Apocalypse, considering him a badass since he’s the “oldest mutant.” Torres chose Wolverine and Storm — “before she got married.”

Choosing between the Brotherhood and X-Men also came up. Chung chose the X-Men, and Scott isn’t too fond of villains, but because he was so drawn to Magneto, he could very easily go with the Brotherhood. Lane joked, “the Morlocks,” but he eventually settled with the X-Men. The crowd was then asked, generating responses of “Sentinel” and then “Purifier,” which got a few laughs. The “X-Men Destiny” folks then departed.

Some voice talent was then brought in to the panel, including Laura Vandervoort and Katee Sackhoff, followed by new footage from “Edge of Time,” a cinematic showing how things have changed. Spider-Man 2099 finds himself in a vulnerable spot, knowing he has to save the Amazing Spider-Man from an untimely death. Peter Parker’s world practically changes around him, unnoticed, as he talks to Mary Jane and explains how he’s working with Octavius.

Val Kilmer then entered the room to thunderous applause. Another video followed, with the voice actors talking about their roles in the game. Vandervoort voices Mary Jane, Kilmer oozes menace as the villainous Walker Sloan, and Sackhoff tackles Black Cat.

The actors were then asked what it was like to bring their characters to life. Kilmer commented on how awesome it was to be a bad guy, and to “growl.” The crowd actually growled upon his request. Sackhoff also talked about purring, and how it was a bit over-sexual when she did it. Kilmer then joked, “It’s actually my ringtone.” Vandervoort discussed playing Mary Jane, even though she spent most of her time talking in an elevator shaft. Asked if they had done voiceover work before, Kilmer briefly talked about his role as Moses in “The Prince of Egypt.” He then elaborated on the emotions you have to put into a voice role, and how you can be very meticulous about it. “Everyone gets involved with the sense of a direction.”

The cause-and-effect gameplay, involving a picture-in-picture view of both heroes on-screen at once, was also discussed. Beenox’s Brown explained how it works and how you can see what actions you do with one character affect the other, such as Spider-Man 2099 fighting off cronies that vanish as you beat them in the current era with Amazing Spider-Man. Kilmer asked, “What do you guys know about quantum tunneling?” which got a few laughs from the crowd. Peter David then touched on the scientific build-up on the story and how it keeps moving forward. He even referenced the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” line “I dunno, I’m making it up as I go” as far as 2099’s approach goes.

There was also a great moment involving Kilmer when he was asked who Walker Sloan would choose between — Black Cat or Mary Jane. He responded, “A bad guy doesn’t have to choose.”

After talking more about the twin gameplay set-up (and how David had to write the story around that, with Marvel’s support), audience members got to ask questions in an interactive session. A number of questions were asked, including one about Kilmer continuing to do video game work (which he will) and other questions about the gameplay. The panel then concluded with video footage, and the crowd loved every minute of it.

Just being able to hear Stan Lee and Val Kilmer talk about working in the Spider-Man universe was great. Be sure to look for CBR News’ “X-Men Destiny” and “Spider-Man: Edge of Time” hands-on reports soon.

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