Title: Marvel's Avengers
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: September 4, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
Before video games, movies, and anime truly got their hold over me, I would spend hours reading the adventures of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers. Suffice it to say, the past few years have been amazing for this lifelong Marvel Comics fan. Not only have films such as Avengers: Endgame given me cinematic experiences I thought I’d never see, games like 2018’s Spider-Man have let me step into the role of one of my favorite heroes.
When Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics announced Marvel’s Avengers a few years ago, my hopes were admittedly pretty high. While Ultimate Alliance and a few LEGO games had let me play as the Avengers before, I still hadn’t found the triple-A cinematic experience that Marvel’s Avengers seemed to be promising.
Yet, with Square Enix putting a heavy emphasis on making Marvel’s Avengers a game-as-a-service, I began to doubt that it would match the greatness of its film counterpart. After almost a week with the game, however, I can confirm that it’s a mixed bag, but it’s a mixed bag that I’ll probably end up pouring hundreds of hours into.
Marvel’s Avengers follows Kamala Kahn, a teenage Avengers superfan. After becoming a finalist in an Avengers fanfiction competition, Kamala is flown out to meet her heroes at a massive celebration in San Francisco. When some new tech the Avengers were planning on showing off malfunctions, San Francisco is nearly destroyed, killing thousands and igniting many strange new superpowers. After this incident, known as A-Day, superhuman activity is outlawed, and the Avengers disband.
Five years later, a newly inhuman Kamala uncovers information about technology giant AIM Industries that could prove that the Avengers were framed and that AIM may be more sinister than they appear. After narrowly escaping an attack on her life, Kamala sets out to reunite the Avengers and stop AIM from taking over the world.
Marvel’s Avengers campaign has a solid start. The first half of the main story truly makes players feel as if they are playing the next big MCU film, with huge set pieces, fantastic performances, and a narrative that quickly pulls you in. Watching Kamala reassemble the Avengers and rekindle their will to fight evil is a ton of fun, and I was always curious about where the next campaign mission would take me.
Once players get a little more than halfway through the main story, however, things begin to peter out. The last batch of missions feels more like filler than anything else. The game’s ending even feels disappointing as the devs wanted to leave the story open for an infinite amount of content updates. While I can say I’m looking forward to future batches of story missions, I couldn’t say that I’m excited for the months of waiting between them.
What story there is in Marvel’s Avengers is entirely carried by the voice cast. Crystal Dynamics spared no expense with this game, assembling an all-star cast to play Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The cast unsurprisingly does a fantastic job, giving life to these characters that rival their cinematic counterparts.
What I am excited to do, however, is come back as often as possible to play Marvel’s Avengers. In years past, I’ve almost exclusively played single-player games and have never really understood the appeal of online games that require a significant time sink from players. After about 25 hours in Marvel’s Avengers, however, I think I’ve finally been swayed.
This is by no means a perfect game, but it is some of the most mindless fun I’ve had in years and makes for an excellent online experience. While the game can be played entirely in single-player, the feeling of teaming up with three other players and becoming an unstoppable force of superheroes is too much fun to pass up.
Marvel’s Avengers is a beat-em-up RPG. Combat is relatively straightforward, with each of the playable Avengers having light, heavy and ranged attacks, along with two specials and an ultimate. Outside of this template, however, each Avenger plays incredibly different.
For example, Hulk is, as one might expect, a brute. He specializes in close-range combat and can deal massive damage but is a tad bit slower than the rest of the team. After being given a chance to try out all of the Avengers in the main campaign, players can decide which character fits their playstyle and can devote the rest of their time with the game to that specific character.
Leveling in Marvel’s Avengers is split between two different point systems: each character’s skill level and power rating. Skill levels are based on experience earned in combat and are how players will earn skill points to upgrade each character’s abilities. Power rating is increased by finding gear in missions or obtaining gear from completing certain objectives. By steadily increasing each character’s level and power, players can create their penultimate hero.
Though minute-to-minute gameplay in Marvel’s Avengers can be a ton of fun, it isn’t profound. Most missions feel very button-mashy, with any difficulty only coming from beefed up, spongey enemies. While fights are full of spectacle, they can become a little boring and tedious after a few hours of gameplay, making Marvel’s Avengers more suited for short play sessions.
Sometimes, Marvel’s Avengers is a visual masterpiece. Outside of cutscenes, however, the game is riddled with visual and technical bugs. Character models frequently look slightly off, audio occasionally cuts out too early, and the frame rate takes a massive hit during large battles. None of these bugs break the game, but it makes the whole experience lack the polish that a triple-A game of this size should have.
While many have been concerned about microtransactions watering down Marvel’s Avengers, I’m happy to report that they aren’t really much of an issue. As of now, all microtransactions in the game are only for cosmetic purposes and don’t actually affect gameplay. On the other hand, those looking to spend money can definitely do so on the various cosmetic items available, but it doesn’t affect the gameplay experience overall.
Marvel’s Avengers isn’t the superhero adventure I was hoping for, but it is an adventure I didn’t mind playing through. There are moments of gameplay where you feel like a member of the Avengers, but that requires you to look past some repetitive stage designs and surface-level combat systems. Regardless, there’s no doubt that there’s plenty of fun to be found here, and I’ll for sure keep my cape ready for any future experiences this game offers.
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