It's official. Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) is the sixth playable superhero joining the upcoming Marvel's Avengers (opens in new tab) game - huge news for fans of the young hero (whose personal favorite Avenger is Captain Marvel, if you're curious). Kamala Kahn is an Avengers superfan, writer of fan-fiction, and an inhuman - meaning she's carrying latent superhero genetics that are teased out by exterior sources.
"This is years in the making for us," says Crystal Dynamics' Head of Studio Scott Amos. He says this just moments after fist-bumping me at the start of our interview, which I open with "Holy shit, Kamala Khan." The people creating Marvel's Avengers are just as excited about including Kamala as I am. "To keep the secret for years? It's been a helluva effort," Amos gushes.
Ms. Marvel joins Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor as playable superheroes, all with varying abilities, play styles and skill tree options - but that's not all. She's the beating heart of the game and the reason why the Avengers reassemble five years after the disastrous events of A-Day. Here's everything we learned about Kamala Khan during my sneak peek:
It's always been about her
If you've paid attention, Kamala's been there since the beginning. "If you carefully watch our campaigns from January 2017, that's her narrating, that's her voice," Amos responds when I ask him how long she's been in the works for. "Literally that first voice you hear, people are like 'who's this talking' and then if you look at every piece we've done since then, it's about her, it's actually her telling you the story."
Keen-eyed fans noticed Kamala during the gameplay (opens in new tab) screening at San Diego Comic-Con. A young woman wearing a Captain Marvel shirt is knocked to the ground during the initial A-Day assault and calls out for "Ammi" and "Abu."
Hannah MacCleod, the narrative designer at Crystal Dynamics and writer for Marvel's Avengers confirms that Kamala is the glue that will piece the Avengers back together. "Kamala believes the Avengers were framed and she will do anything it takes to prove that people with powers deserve a place in this world, including her," MacCleod says.
A-Day made Ms. Marvel
The game opens with an A-Day celebration in San Francisco (basically a Thanksgiving Day parade but for the Avengers) that quickly turns deadly when the city is attacked by Taskmaster. Fangirl Kamala Khan is at that event, and that is where she's "exposed to mysterious Terrigen Mist which gives her her extraordinary polymorphic powers," according to MacCleod. This is a similar origin story to Kamala's arc in the comics, where she becomes Inhuman after Terrigen Mists are released throughout the world, activating dormant cells in ordinary people.
Thanks to the Terrigen Mists, Kamala has a host of special abilities, which MacCleod lays out for us: "Kamala's powers have to do with stretching and morphing her body into crazy shapes. She can grow to amazing heights, or as she likes to call it, 'Embiggen.' These powers introduce a totally new element to our game and make our combat and exploration completely unique.
Speaking of combat…
Playing as her is fun as hell
During the initial hands-on preview, I played the same introduction tutorial that we got our hands on during Gamescom 2019 (opens in new tab). I was able to test out the way each of the original five heroes played, from throwing Mjolnir to using Iron Man's repulsors, to Hulk Smashing my way across a crumbling Golden Gate Bridge. But after the Ms. Marvel announcement, I got a chance to step into the stretchy shoes of Kamala Khan herself, and boy, was it a trip.
I was allowed to test out Ms. Marvel's moves in the HARM room, a training simulator where enemies come in waves, with each wave increasing in difficulty. I found that Ms. Marvel's stretching abilities came in handy when trying to get away from enemies, as I could reach out for a far-away ledge and easily grasp it and pull myself to safety. Kicking someone with an especially bendy leg, upon which is attached a massive foot, is incredibly satisfying and super effective. Ms. Marvel can also use her stretchiness to duck and slide away from enemies, and her special moves include healing herself, using a massive hand to smack an enemy away, and, obviously "Embiggen", which sees her grow absurdly large and dole out extra damage.
If Kamala's moves seem like her own versions of some of the Avenger's greatest hits, that's no mistake. As an unabashed Avengers fangirl and a completely untrained Inhuman, Kamala's fighting style is an homage to her favorite heroes, executed with her own special spin. That's why sometimes it feels like she's clumsily making her way through the room - she's a young woman with no formal fight training. An especially clever detail is Kamala's tendency to leapfrog over an enemy to get away from them.
All in all, Ms. Marvel is a brilliant and enjoyable addition to Marvel's Avengers, one that will add depth to the game's combat and its narrative. And for those who have a special connection with Ms. Marvel (ehem, it's me), having her as the sixth playable hero in the biggest Avengers game yet is nothing short of extraordinary. Kind of like her.
If you want more Kamala Khan in your life, there's a Ms. Marvel series coming to Disney+, according to reports (opens in new tab)