Marvel’s Avengers has had kind of a rough go of it. When we first heard rumors of it years ago, the general emotion people were feeling was excitement. A big-budget Avengers game being made by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square-Enix? How could that possibly be a miss? Things only seemed to go downhill from there. First, it was the designs of the Avengers. On one end we had people upset that Earth’s mightiest heroes didn’t look like their MCU counterparts. The other half complained that they were still too similar. Some complained the gameplay looked stiff, and we still weren’t quite sure what kind of game Marvel’s Avengers was going to be. When details finally started trickling out people were less than impressed. The idea of this being one of those ‘Games As A Service’ rubbed people the wrong way. It probably stung a little more considering we just got a fantastic marvel game in Marvel’s Spider-Man.
We’ve gone through several Beta weekends too, leading up to the launch of the full game, and unfortunately, that didn’t do much to assuage players’ fears. The beta was marred by glitches, broken matchmaking, and strange camera issues. No one really knew what the final product was going to look like but there was a lot of concern that this game was turning into Destiny: Avengers.
I’m pleased to say that there’s a lot more to Marvel’s Avengers than meets the eye. There’s no denying the similarities to Destiny, the gear treadmill is there for all to see. Beyond that, however, is an incredibly well-written story that treats the Avengers with the utmost respect. This game is going to live or die based on the support it gets, and making the story content and characters free is a good first step.
Let’s start with the story, which is arguable what people were most excited to experience. Fans largely agreed during the Beta weekend that the story missions were the best part of it. For the most part, I feel like that holds true for the full game as well. Pushing gameplay aside for now, as we’ll be covering that a little lower, the story is well written if a little sudden on the ending. By now everyone knows how the beginning of this game goes, we’ve seen it numerous times and even played it ourselves. There was an important part missing to the Beta version though and those were the sections where you explore A-Day as Kamala. Kamala is a relatively fresh face to the Marvel universe, and arguable this game is all about her and her relationship to her heroes. I’m not going to spoil anything past the opening segment, but walking around the celebration as Kamala is wonderful. It sets the tone for the entire game and seeing her meet her heroes one by one is one of the most heartwarming sequences I’ve ever seen in a video game. From telling Thor that “All heroes start somewhere” to Cap admiring her bravery to standing up to bullies… Kamala perfectly embodies everything her heroes stand for.
Of course, then everything goes to hell. The Chimera explodes, destroying San Francisco in the process and killing Captain America too. The Avengers disband after taking the blame which leaves A.I.M free to rise to power. An unfortunate side effect of this explosion also leads to the creation of the Inhumans, a new breed of superpowered humans. They’re treated differently, considered violent with most people seeing them as a disease. Kamala is one of those people who end up with powers. The real game starts five years later and Kamala hasn’t given up on her heroes. She’s still looking into the whole A-day incident and it sets her on a path to becoming a hero herself.
There’s a real charm to watching her interact with these heroes that she idolizes and a certain awkwardness to their own interactions with her. Banner is the one she finds first, and he’s also the one who takes on the mentor role for her. Their interactions range from hilarious to heartbreaking. I don’t want to give too much else away, because it’s really best experienced for yourself. What I can say, is that the story is a lot of fun. It’s lighthearted but definitely good enough to deliver those powerful, emotional moments. It’s not all about punching stuff either! Some of the best sequences come from the character-building moments Kamala has with the other heroes. If I had one complaint about the story it would be that there’s not more of it. The entire thing, without necessarily rushing either, will take you between 10-12 hours. Maybe a little less if you’re really, really fast. Luckily, we’re sure to get more story content. That’s half the point of having this game as a service model, it just sucks that we don’t have it now. A few more hours could have really helped the whole package feel a little more complete, which brings us to…
Before we go any further, let me start by saying that this game has seriously improved since the Beta. A lot of the players’ feedback was taken into account and implemented. They fixed the camera issues people had and the game is a lot less prone to crashing.
I just want to mention graphics and presentation before we deal with the actual gameplay. The character models look great, as long as you don’t compare them to their MCU counterparts. They’re not bad. They’re not the best rendition of the Avengers I’ve ever seen but they’re definitely good. I think the last ten years have really served to cement how we view these characters. It’s hard to not imagine Robert Downey Jr. as Iron-man. Especially since he was so good at being him! It’s best if you can look past the MCU, then you’ll really be able to appreciate everything this game has to offer.
The graphics as a whole are pretty good. The game can definitely look stunning in 4K but I always feel like there’s something missing. The bigger concern is the graphical glitches, and the occasional pop-in this game experiences. It doesn’t happen too often, but sometimes characters will load in completely bald. Their hair loads in a few seconds after, but it can still be disconcerting. There have also been times where I’ve piloted an invisible character or where a character would completely freeze but keep moving around without animations. The latter was mostly online though, so it could be due to a poor connection. The framerate is generally solid but I did notice some stutters when things get really hectic on-screen, but it’s only been an issue once throughout my entire playtime.
The characters are all voiced really well. Nolan North as Iron-man takes some getting used to and Baker as Banner gives some Joel vibes. Overall though, I was quite pleased. Especially with Sandra Saad as Kamala, so special shoutout to her.
Finally, however, let’s move on to the game itself. If you’d rather hop right into online, which is probably where you’ll spend most of your time, you can do so. The game warns you that there’s spoilers but there’s nothing stopping you from avenging with your friends right away. It works just about how you’d expect, and if you’ve played the Beta you know exactly what comes next. You go to the table, pick a mission, drop-in, complete it, and repeat. The whole time you’re doing so you level up, collect better gear, and occasionally get a new costume. I’ve spent about 20 hours in the game so far, maybe a little more. I’ve done the story and played several hours of multiplayer with my friends. I’ve been having a blast, but I do find myself wondering if it’s sustainable.
If you don’t have an internet connection, you can still participate in all the content. Think of all these co-op missions as side missions. You can replace your real friends with AI companions who will act as other avengers, and level them all up that way if you prefer. The problem is that these missions, the ones outside of the main campaign, are rather light on the story. There is a kind of ongoing plot that’s set after the events of the main game are over, but it’s definitely not presented as well as the campaign. Playing with friends will definitely make the whole thing feel a lot more fresh. It’s hard to not smile while playing though, and it brings a lot of really cool moments. Regardless of how people may feel this still IS a big-budget game, and for what its worth it’s really well made. Punching people with Cap, only to see Mjolnir fly by out of nowhere and take out an enemy is undeniably cool. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It taps into that feeling that superhero lovers all have. Playing this game kind of made me feel like I was watching the Avengers movie for the first time again.
I’m still having a blast. Will I still be having fun in another 20 hours? 50? 100? I don’t know. The end-game grind is real and the biggest sin of all is that this game only features like 6 bosses. Only 2 or 3 of them are big Marvel characters too. And I use big loosely. The others are big robots, which brings me to my other complaint. Most of the enemies are just.. AIM soldiers and robots. Sure, the designs are fine, and they look good but after you’ve killed 500 of them you just kind of want to see something else. That’s why I really think the longevity of this game is going to depend on the support it receives.
We KNOW that there is a lot of content coming. If that content is exciting if it’s good, engaging, and fun then I don’t see any reason this game can’t last for years to come. I mean, Destiny did. However, if you’ve played a game like Destiny and you didn’t like the main draw, then I doubt this will change your mind.
I will say that, at the very least, Marvel’s Avengers is a lot deeper than I expected it to be. There seems to be at least a bit of wiggle room to experiment with character builds. The skill trees branch out nicely and the way you set up your bonuses could lead to varying playstyles. My Captain America, for example, relies heavily on activating the Brooklyn Brawler buff and using takedowns to extend it indefinitely. I also recover health with every hit while the buff is active so my cap becomes pretty damn strong. Another person might choose a completely different build though, so the variety is nice at least.
The final thing that I’d be remiss to not talk about is the microtransactions. Because, yes, Marvel’s Avengers does have them. I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money, God knows I’ve shelled out money for a cool cosmetic item here and there. And that’s what these are, the only items available for purchase with real money are cosmetic items. Nameplates, skins, emotes that’s all ya get. No pay to win here. The issue, I think, is the idea of famous costumes being locked behind a paywall. They’re not cheap either. A legendary skin costs 1400 credits, approximately 15$. You’d have to buy 3 packs of 500 credits to buy the one skin. It’s nothing too bad right now but it could quickly become alarming.
I should also note each character has a battle-pass like feature attached to them called a Challenge Card. Think of it like a battle-pass from Fortnite, except it’s free. By completing daily and weekly challenges you can fill this card up and unlock various cosmetic items and even earn credits. The Challenge Card for the six base characters is free, but we know that the post-launch characters will require a 10$ fee to activate them. You can earn about 1300$ credits per challenge card though, so theoretically you could complete Ironman’s, save those credits for the upcoming characters, and never pay a penny which I have to admit is at least kind of cool. You can also pay real money to max out the Challenge Cards right away.
I don’t think there’s anything too worrisome yet, but at the end of the day how each person spends their money is up to them.
So where does that leave us with Marvel’s Avengers? Should you buy it? If you love Earth’s Mightest Heroes and you also happen to love Destiny-style games then absolutely. You’ll find a ton of hours of fun in leveling up your characters, grinding for gear, and engaging in various objectives to get that gear. If you only care about the story however, you’ll have to decide if 10-12 hours is enough to justify a full purchase. Like I mentioned above, Marvel’s Avengers story is brilliant. It’s well written, well presented, and has a whole lot of charm. I just don’t know if the price of admission is worth it for everyone.
Marvel’s Avengers is great. I just hope the content coming later is just as great too.
If you want to check out Marvel’s Avengers for yourself the game is now available on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC!