New York Comic Con 2014 is set to bring many surprises to the table when it comes to comics -- but one particular standout will undoubtedly be the "Marvel: Contest of Champions" mobile fighting game by Kabam!. The fighting game was teased in July with only screenshots and sparse details on gameplay. However, with the game's December iOS and Android debut date drawing closer, the developer brought a special demo build to NYCC for fans and press alike to play with -- and the results are highly encouraging.
"It's been great working with Kabam!, they're awesome," "Legendary Star-Lord" and "Marvel: Contest of Champions" writer Sam Humphries told CBR News during a special press event. "This game looks great. There's not a lot of bait and switch between the trailers and gameplay, which I've personally experienced too many times. It's a gorgeous game. [Kabam!] puts authenticity first. I didn't have to get into any fights with them, saying 'This character would never do that.' If I said something doesn't feel right, they say, 'Let's cut it.' They put a high premium with authenticity, and it really shows in the game."
The concept behind the game sees The Collector with a vault of Marvel heroes, with the player and Kang squaring off, pitting Marvel Universe mainstays against one another in a battle for supremacy. Characters are suspended in crystals, which can be unlocked by the player through completion of quests and more. According to Humphries, 50 characters will be available at launch, each with their own move sets and models.
"We've got Avengers, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy," said Humphries. "I've only been writing for Marvel for a couple of years -- and there are 50 characters in here, which means a lot of the characters I wrote in here, I wrote for the first time. There were moments where I stopped myself and said, 'The Punisher is really fun to write!'"
In the NYCC demo, there were a number of characters available, including Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine, Deadpool, Gamora, Drax, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Storm and Spider-Man. Each character has an element aligned with them -- such as Mutant, Tech, Cosmic, Fighter and more -- all with their own strengths and weaknesses that play up against one another in a rock-paper-scissors fashion, much like Marvel's "Avengers Assemble" mobile games. Players progress across a branching-path map to get to a boss. There's certainly a fair amount of replay value considering that players can't backtrack to get to fights or paths that they missed -- a replay is required to get 100% on every level.
Those who have played a fighting game on mobile before will feel right at home with "Contest of Champions," with attacks accomplished by taps and swipes. Humphries' description of "arcade fighting game optimized for tablet" is certainly apt -- but the similarities to console fighters like "Street Fighter" are fairly slim, especially when it comes to character.
"There's a lot of strategy built into it," said Humphries. "This is a game where you can collect characters, upgrade them, specialize them."
The free-to-play aspect seems to be similar to games like "Avengers Alliance" -- energy is consumed by moving around the branching pathway to different nodes, which contain battles, items or absolutely nothing. (However, a game representative noted that a player can earn back energy by participating in the PvP aspect of the game, which was not available for the demo.) The game is certainly expansive with a demo roster of battles that includes Star-Lord, Black Panther, Juggernaut, Abomination, Ronan, Hawkeye and many more. Also similar to other Marvel games, it is possible to unlock all content through the course of gameplay.
The gameplay is certainly strong, but it's the visuals that really set "Marvel: Contest of Champions" apart from the pack. The game is absolutely gorgeous and looks impressive on an iPad -- every characters has fluid and different animations with costumes drawn directly from the comics. Storm sports her Kris Anka design -- just as she appeared in Humphries' "Uncanny X-Force" -- while Cyclops can be seen in his Marvel NOW! suit. Perhaps most impressive are the unique special moves for each character -- all of them are visually unique and incredibly devastating. The Scarlet Witch's strongest finisher really showed off the visual capabilities of the game, as she crushed her opponent with chaos magics.
All in all, "Marvel: Contest of Champions" looks like a strong addition to the iOS game library for any Marvel fan. Graphically capable with a fun story and plenty of replay value, there's a lot to look forward to in terms of the game's December release.
Check out the brand new trailer released at NYCC below.