Assembling Marvel’s Avengers: Clint Barton / Hawkeye

The creators of Marvel’s Avengers reveal how they created the game’s version of Hawkeye, the importance boomerang arrows and the joys of finally getting Lucky (into the game).
By Duncan Heaney

Clint Barton has arrived in Marvel’s Avengers… and he’s not alone.

The original Hawkeye is on a mission to stave off a nightmarish future, and he’s joined by his trusty canine companion… and older self?

We recently sat down with Narrative Designer Noah Hughes, and Lead Combat Designer Vince Napoli to learn about how they created this version (or versions) of the iconic character, and the challenges they faced along the way.

But first, let’s start with one of the most common questions from fans:

Clint Barton / Hawkeye

Where’s Hawkeye been?

“It was pretty challenging to choose the line-up of heroes to include in the game at launch,” explains Noah Hughes. “There are so many great Marvel characters to choose from, and there was no way to fit them all into the core campaign.

“Throughout development, we had a list of which Avengers we wanted to include, and Hawkeye was constantly at or near the top of that list.”

As the team built its wider plans for Marvel’s Avengers, they realised that Hawkeye could play an important role in expanding the scope and story of the game once the original campaign was complete.

Hughes says: “We had plans for where the story would go after the Reassembled campaign - things like the disappearance of Nick Fury, collaborating and trying to restore SHIELD, for example. Hawkeye played into those storylines really naturally - and you’re starting to see some of that play out now in Future Imperfect.”

Defining Clint Barton

One of the reasons Hawkeye would fit so seamlessly into the next chapter in the Marvel’s Avengers story was because of the characterization the team wanted to go with. Crystal Dynamics looked at the character’s long history in the comics, but a couple of stories stood out as a particular influences.

My Life as a Weapon comic book

“We looked at Matt Fraction and David Aja’s My Life as a Weapon for Clint’s general characterization,” says Hughes. This legendary run really dug into Clint’s strengths, his vulnerabilities and his relationship with Kate Bishop’s Hawkeye, and many of these elements are similarly explored in Marvel’s Avengers.

“Like in the comics, Hawkeye has a hearing aid, and uses ASL (American Sign Language). That was a side of the character that really resonated with the team, and we were really excited to be able to explore it in the game.

Hawkeye's hearing aid

As the game’s post-launch story took shape, other books became important influences for the team.

Hughes explains: “We created this scenario where the Scientist Supreme was dabbling in temporal technology, and having this current and future timelines in play at the same time, was a great way to set up our overall arc beyond the campaign.

“Having Clint as one of the characters who exists in this future made perfect sense narratively - and has precedence in the comics. We looked at the Old Man Hawkeye storyline for direct inspiration on this portrayal."

Marvel's Avengers concept art
Marvel's Avengers costume designs

Designing Clint Barton

Hawkeye’s appearance in Marvel’s Avengers was similarly guided by the comics, though as with all the Avengers, the team was eager to put a unique spin on it.

“If you look at the My Life as a Weapon comics, you’ll immediately see that some of our outfits for Hawkeye are directly inspired by Matt Fraction and David Aja’s designs,” says Hughes. “At the same time, we tried to apply our own lens to it.”

The team created thumbnails that played with some different visual approaches for the character. The goal was to find which resonated with the team.

Vince Napoli explains: “We look for the designs that feel like the character, not just a person wearing that character’s outfit.

“It's very hard to put your finger on what goes makes one design work over others, but something that I always admire about our concept artists is how they always tease out the personality of the character through their physical and outfit design.”

Marvel's Avengers costume designs

In the story of the game, Clint wears a comics-inspired outfit, with shaved head, and it was a look that the team took to immediately.

Hughes explains: “It’s not what he looks like when you first meet him, but when we were playing with different facets of the character, having him bald with his iconic outfit really stood out for us.

“We like to use the visual design of the characters to express the arc that the character goes through, and this look, while unconventional, really shows the progression of his story.”

Of course, in Marvel’s Avengers, players are able to choose their own outfits, and the team had a lot of fun creating different looks for the archer.

Hughes says: “One thing I’m particularly excited about is that we took inspiration from comic outfits from the past, but do them in a way that felt right at home with our versions of the characters, where we emphasise real world materials and things like logical attachments between pieces.”

Marvel's Avengers costume designs

A distinct Clint

While the character’s look was being finalized, the team was also working hard to determine how Hawkeye should play.

Because of the story that they wanted to tell, they were faced with the situation where they were developing two different Hawkeyes at the same time: Clint and Kate Bishop - and Kate came out first. The team had many discussions about how make each character feel completely distinct… and also similar.

Marvel's Avengers concept art

“We went back and forth over how to best portray the characters in combat,” says Napoli. “From a narrative standpoint, if someone is teaching someone, like Clint has taught Kate, you’d expect some similarities in their styles. But from a gameplay perspective, you want both to feel different to control.

“We thought about it and realised that each character would have taken those styles and made it their own - and that meant that would feel quite different.

“For example, both characters use a sword, but in very distinct ways. Kate is a fencer, doing stabs and quick on her feet. In contrast, Clint leans into his own natural strength and personality to create that Ronin-esque motif - more of a samurai style.

“So we leverage each character’s differences - physical and personality - to create very different-feeling combat styles.

Marvel's Avengers concept art

Laying strong foundations

With the differences between characters clearly defined, the team got to work building the character’s move set.

Napoli says: “We always start with the most basic bread and butter combo. We hash it out, and critique it, nit-picking all the things that don’t work and iterating on them to find the right feel.

“That combo works as a test case of the hero’s characteristics - how he moves, how he swings a sword. It essentially defines the rules for that character and we can extrapolate the rest of his moves from there.”

All a-quiver

With such a long and storied career in the comics, there were no shortage of ideas over what Clint could do in combat. However, Napoli and the team were particularly eager to address his archery skills.

“One of the first things we got from Marvel was this long list of arrows that he’d used in the comics - everything from silly putty arrows to goo arrows. They basically said here’s everything he’s ever used - feel free to use any of them.”

“It was clear to everyone on the team that Clint needed to be the master of arrows, and whatever was in his arsenal was about making sure he had the right tool for the job at any given time.”

Marvel's Avengers concept art
Marvel's Avengers concept art

The team were given free rein to create the quiver they wanted for Clint, but there were some arrows that both they and the Marvel team were keen to include.

“The guys at Marvel were excited about the boomerang arrow,” recalls Napoli. “It’s something that feels iconic to the character, so we all wanted to make sure that was included in some way.”

The team picked through Clint’s impressive history of weapons, choosing the weaponry that fit their version of the character, and supported the combat of the game. Clint’s final archery skill set is quite diverse, with grappling arrows, rocket arrows, homing arrows, pulsar arrows and - of course - boomerang arrows to name but a few.

Marvel's Avengers concept art

Finalizing Hawkeye

The team worked hard to create a fun and authentic Hawkeye, constantly iterating the character to make him feel good to use.

“Feedback is essential during the process,” says Napoli. “Everyone at Crystal Dynamics is a gamer, and all their insight is invaluable in helping us build each hero. For example, I don’t think people know this, but there are a lot of people at the very, very top of the company who are avid players of the game, and regularly share their thoughts with us.

“It’s important to get these perspectives from outside the combat team because it helps you get a sense of when something’s clicking or not.

“It was particularly important with Hawkeye, because we were building Clint and Kate at the same time. It was important to get that feedback on whether moves were too similar between characters, or in some cases too different to be believable.”

Getting Lucky

Of course, it’s not just Clint that joins the Avengers in Future Imperfect. He’s accompanied by another beloved character - and he’s a very good boy.

Lucky is Clint’s dog, and adding a canine companion into the game wasn’t something that came easily. Even so, it’s something that the team was passionate about doing.

“It was challenging, but where there’s a will there’s a way,” laughs Napoli. “Lucky has been the unofficial icon of our game engine since I started working here - pretty much from the beginning of development.

“Throughout the project, we were thinking: if we do anything, we’re going to get Lucky in the game. He might even have been decided before Hawkeye was!”

Marvel's Avengers screenshot

Final thoughts

Now that Clint and Lucky are out, and players are exploring their many facets, the team are proud of how he turned out.

“I’m pleased that he plays so differently to Kate,” says Napoli. “It would have been easy to turn out a clone, with similar moves, but we went above and beyond to look at every single aspect so that he is custom and different.

“He’s an incredibly diverse character to play too - the sheer depth of his toolbox gives players so many different ways to approach each scenario.”

Hughes adds: “What’s interesting to me is being able to see a glimpse of Hawkeye’s arc in our world. Having both a modern and a future version of the character means you get to see a longer stretch of this timeline than you normally would for one of our heroes.

“Plus there’s the added bonus of them getting to interact together - it’s fun to see that.”

Marvel's Avengers custom HARM room

Hawkeye is available now in Marvel’s Avengers. As with all characters and story expansions, he's free to download for anyone who’s purchased the game.

The game’s available now on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Steam and Stadia.

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