In a Hollywood-themed event bumpered by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (via video) and Clark Gregg as Agent Colson (in person), Disney Interactive announced “Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes.” As one would expect from the title, the big news was the inclusion of Marvel universe characters into the game, but this looks to be far more than a simple upgrade for the action-figure-based action-adventure.
Indeed, said Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, “Disney Infinity 2.0 represents another evolutionary leap for Marvel,” akin to the comics giant’s transition to movies and television. And the scope of “Disney Infinity 2.0” certainly backs this up: Six Marvel characters are included, with more than 12 others confirmed to join in the future (along with new Disney characters). The game also includes expanded and structured gameplay for Toy Box mode, and support for the Xbox One. The game engine itself is improved and expanded, too; Marvel Manhattan, the level demonstrated at the event, was four times larger than the largest level in “Disney Infinity 1.0,” in an effort to accommodate new characters’ flight and super-jumping abilities, and to encourage exploration.
Character locomotion is, in fact, one of three key changes that “Disney Infinity” developer Avalanche Software kept at front of mind, according to company CEO John Blackburn. New vehicles will be available to players via game discs, including a mini-helicarrier and motorcycles. The characters themselves can traverse the world in ways that make sense for them — such as the Hulk’s “wall crawling,” which Blackburn pointed out was not a power unique to the Hulk (a nice nod to the coming appearance of a certain web-slinger, perhaps?).
Combat is another major priority this time around. Marvel characters in “Disney Infinity 2.0” will have different combat styles based on their comic book personae: Captain America is a frontline brawler who can use his trademark shield for standoff distance maneuvers, whereas Hawkeye is mostly a long-range support character. Since multiplayer is a big part of how “Disney Infinity 2.0” is designed, these kinds of divisions and synergies promise to make cooperative combat deep and engaging for players.
Finally, according to Blackburn, a critical issue that Avalanche wanted to address originated directly from player requests. Fans of “Disney Infinity 1.0” wanted more character customization options, and those have been included this time around. The level cap is raised to 20, and a comprehensive skill tree is available for each Marvel hero, allowing players to choose what powers they want to level up — and how they wish to play their characters. Captain America can punch harder, jump higher, or hurl his shield that much more… well, awesomely. Those choices are now in players’ hands.
And, in keeping with “Disney Infinity” tradition, the new Marvel characters are all tied to stylish, real-world figurines designed by Marvel’s in-house team. The six figures in the starter release are the big-screen Avengers themselves: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and the Hulk. Blackburn also assured fans that all “Disney Infinity 1.0” figurines, game discs, toy boxes, and bases will be backwards-compatible. No price points were mentioned at the event, but Disney Interactive President James Pitaro stated that “Disney Infinity” has made more than $500 million so far in revenue.
To close out the event, Mr. Blackburn discussed two new expansions to the game itself: the deeper Toy Box mode, and the improved usability in the world creator. For Toy Box mode, “Disney Infinity 2.0” features structured play, based on modular game discs that players can import into their games. The first of these will be a tower defense game (wherein players defend Asgard from invading frost giants), and a dungeon crawler with procedurally generated levels. Each of these expansions will be about three-to-four hours in length, and will offer a different, customizable experience each time they are played — with players opting for any character combinations they wish, alone or with up to three friends.
Further, “Disney Infinity 2.0” will feature a much-improved level construction tool, geared toward giving even younger children the power to create robust worlds. New templates will feature built-in logic that allows would-be level designers to drag-and-drop objects such as level goals, checkpoints, and player score sheets. Further, new “brushes” make constructing large areas on the new, bigger maps faster and easier — and “Disney Infinity 2.0” now allows players to build interiors as well as exteriors. Finally, for players who need a little extra help, the level-creation tool features optional “A.I. “builders,” which automatically assist players in the construction of levels.
With all these new additions, “Disney Infinity 2.0” is an honest-to-goodness revolution in the series. Lead writer Brian Michael Bendis says it best: “This game could do for this generation what Marvel comics did for ours.”