Is Marvel's Avengers an Experience Befitting of Earth's Mightiest Heroes?

Is Marvel's Avengers an Experience Befitting of Earth's Mightiest Heroes?

Richard Walker

What's more appealing than the notion of playing as your favourite superhero? Being given free rein with superhuman abilities like flight, invisibility, super strength, or whatever else, seems like something tailor made for video game fantasy fulfilment. But for every Marvel's Spider-Man or Batman Arkham game, there's a dozen examples of stinky superhero fare, like that horrid Superman N64 game, 2011 misfire X-Men: Destiny, or any number of shocking comic book movie tie-ins. At the moment, we're not quite sure where Marvel's Avengers is going to land in the all-time superhero video game rankings.

There's no denying the level of ambition that Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-Montreal are striving for with Marvel's Avengers, but in its current state it's something of a hotchpotch. Movement is needlessly sluggish, gameplay often falls into button-mashing monotony, and, as one of 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes', the majority of the time you feel anything but mighty. Of course, this is a beta build of the game, so a lot can change in a month, but at present, Marvel's Avengers clearly needs work.

The beta's opening sets out its stall with a fun, linear sequence in which Thor beats back A.I.M. robots and troopers while wielding Mjolnir, spinning and swinging the legendary hammer as it powerfully crackles with lightning. The action switches breathlessly from Thor to Iron Man, then to Hulk, before you're given a chance to throw around Captain America's shield, then battle Taskmaster as Black Widow. It's a promising start, although the moment you belt an enemy with Thor's mighty mallet and they don't go flying across the screen and smash through the side of a truck, you quickly realise that you're playing with severely underpowered superheroes.

Even Hulk doesn't have the sense of weight and raw power you'd hope for, his attributes neutered so he can leap from walls during pointless, linear traversal bits and take down enemies in several strikes rather than pounding them into the floor with just one. As a comic book nerd, you'll be constantly questioning why Thor is having trouble fighting A.I.M. infantry or why Iron Man can't lock-on his projectiles. The reason is obviously because that wouldn't make for a particularly interesting gameplay experience, yet even given that as a basis for reining in the Avengers, the game still feels somewhat flat and anodyne. That said, a showdown between Hulk and Abomination is certainly a highlight.

An over-reliance on QTEs doesn't really help either, because it's not 2006 anymore. But perhaps Marvel's Avengers' biggest problem, in its present guise, is that it's a bit boring. Objectives are mostly variations on beating up bad guys packing rifles and mechanised menaces of varying types, or doing it while standing on a circular zone as a gauge fills up. Or maybe, you'll get to hit a few switches, also while beating up bad guys. There's a kernel of something really good buried in here somewhere, but it's hard to find amid fairly insipid button-mashing and lacklustre loot.

Ah, yes, the 'loot'. Marvel's Avengers' loot doesn't actually seem much like loot at all. Taking the form of Gear that you can use to augment your hero's abilities, loot brings with it a range of buffs and perks that can be levelled-up and boosted using resources. The trouble is, none of the items you'll dig out of loot boxes are cosmetic, so if you were hoping to deck out Thor with an enchanted jockstrap, nab some new gauntlets for Iron Man, or give Hulk a fresh pair of shredded trousers, you can't. Well, you can, but none of it will appear on your character in-game. That falls under the label of 'Cosmetics' – skins that change the wholesale look of your chosen hero. Destiny, it ain't, despite the promise of quite a lot of Cosmetic costumes, all featuring nods to various comic book lore.

Throw in a messy UI and you'll often resort to just pressing the 'equip best gear' button to sidestep the need to sift through uninteresting loot like an enhanced ribcage for Hulk or a lovely set of shiny bangles (again, non-cosmetic) for Kamala Khan. Cosmetic skins are cool and a great piece of fan service, with grey Hulk's Joe Fixit guise, Khan's Ms. Marvel costume, and specific armours cherry-picked from various Iron Man comic book arcs among the skins you can unlock by completing 'Card Challenge' tasks. These are the game's most interesting rewards, by far, but we're not sure they're going to compensate for such a tepid loot system. The best loot systems have you excited for what you'll find popping out of a box, but in Marvel's Avengers, it's difficult to care.

Co-op vastly improves the overall experience, as you get to assemble and take the fight to A.I.M., but then, what game isn't instantly made better by playing with friends? War Zones and bitesize Drop Zones accessed via the War Table of your SHIELD Helicarrier hub give you plenty to do as part of a team of up to four heroes, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses which you can master in the Helicarrier's holodeck-style combat training H.A.R.M. Room). The hope is that the full game will be more varied and interesting than the vertical slice the beta presents, otherwise it's easy to see how this could get pretty dull, pretty damn quickly. One month out from release, we can't help but be somewhat concerned.

On the basis of its beta, Marvel's Avengers isn't without potential. Wielding Thor's hammer does have its charms; Iron Man's flight can be empowering; Black Widow has plenty of tricks and gadgets up her sleeve; Hulk's abilities are devastating, despite feeling watered-down; and having the excitable, stretchy-limbed Kamala Khan as the through-line tying everything together in the game's story campaign is a neat idea. However, with anachronistic QTEs, an uninspired loot system, and unsatisfying gameplay (at the moment, anyway), the concern here is that Marvel's Avengers could run the risk of becoming another Anthem.

Marvel's Avengers launches for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on 4th September, with PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X versions to follow. The PS4 pre-order beta weekend commences on 7th August, before heading to Xbox on 14th August, then arrives as an open beta on 21st August.

  • Kamala Khan = trash First of all, her powerset already exists in Mr. Fantastic. Secondly, she literally steals the name Ms. Marvel from Carol Danvers, since she is supposedly her personal hero. Yes, it can be argued that Carol Danvers jacked the Captain Marvel name, but the real Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) died and she took on the mantle in honor of his legacy. Not really the same thing. And thirdly, it's like her creators needed to check off all the SJW necessities: Female version of a powerset that already exists? Check. Lesbian? Check. Minority? Check. Alt-religion? Check.
  • @1 Mate are you ok?
  • @1 that is unfortunately true, but real 1st captain marvel i think was DC comics too, i could be wrong though
  • @3 - You're right. DC had to change the name to Shazam.
  • @4 here is an interesting one then for ya; Both Borderlands and Marvel have a similarity in villainous things, both to do with the name Hyperion Borderlands; Organization originally referred with its villainous psychotic businessman Handsome Jack Marvel; Villian who is basically a 'Superman' with same abilities and weaknesses
  • I never heard of Kamala Khan until they announce that game. And when I first saw her power I was like why they didn't just get the Reed Richard from Fantastic Four? He is a much know character and more well established. But #1 make sense, in today big games devs and movies "representation" is mandatory, soo i'm not surprise they went from someone I never heard or care over Mister Fantastic.
  • This game looks...bland as Wonder bread. This looks like a fiasco in the making. Nothing looks terribly appealing nor engaging. This is, to me, "Wait for it to drop below $10 before even considering it"
  • @5 - Excellent knowledge! Thanks for that.
  • Co-op vastly improves the overall experience - not something i want to be reading about a game I'd go through solo first.
  • This has "clean up backlog before PS5 drops instead of playing this" written all over it.
  • @#10 Lmao, quality burn
  • @1 So it's safe to assume you're super-psyched for the Miles Morales game?
  • @2 its not like hes wrong. So are you ok?! Why wouldnt he be? I agree with him except for the minority part
  • ... so many people are so short sighted... did the people who rage over Kamala being like mr fantastic never stop to think... May it may be because F4 will be an expansion unto itself? Itd be stupidly short sighted to lump in a group on day 1 that can help greatly expand the mission location variety. In regards to the character, she's the representative of younger people for the group, giving a reason for other heroes to spout exposition to scenarios to organically get the player up to date. She could do with being handled a bit better, but she is so far from the bottom of the barrel...
  • Someone needs to take this woke trash out back and put a bullet in it, before it does further damage to Stan Lee's Legacy. Marvel have gone so far down the path of wokeness that the only way to save them, is to fire the entire company and start over from scratch with new people who actually care about the original characters and their legacies.
  • @ #15 Disney innit?
  • @15 and #16 Yup, it's Disney. They did the same thing with the other massive franchise they purchased, Star Wars. Princess Leia went from a spoiled rotten well Princess in the original trilogy, to being some supremely worshiped legend that even Luke had to worship in the newer trilogy. Funny they call it woke, because the new trilogy was more of a snoozefest which I never bothered watching the whole way through.
  • @#9 That would be the best part then. Say you play your first play through solo. Enjoyed the game. Then you did co-op and enjoyed the game even more. Or if your first play through you're like meh. Then co-op and then you're having some amazing fun.
  • Was always going to suck. Once they focus on more than one hero they all become average. Should have concentrated on making a solid game with just one, like Spiderman did. I would have liked to have seen a solid hulk game. They could have made a game for every hero, ultimately culminating in an avengers game,just like the films. This will be forgotten by xmas.
  • @15 you clearly have no idea what you're talking about. I suggest looking up Stan lee's views on these things! If you are truely against this sort of representation it's possible Stan Lee might not be the hero you think he is!
  • @6 How about they probably selected Kamala over Reed as the MC because they're COMPLETELY DIFFERENT characters outside of their powers, and if you've seen literally anything about the story then you'll know that Reed wouldn't fit at all into Kamala's role? A better comparison would be Spider-Man, to whom she's much more similar, but I personally wouldn't have wanted him as the MC anyway because he's got his own game series going on already. I also can't get my head around the logic that Marvel shouldn't use a character just because you personally haven't heard of them; she may have originally been conceived as part of a "woke" movement within the company, but since then she's actually developed very well and become extremely popular amongst the fanbase
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