Marvel’s Avengers Review
Superheroes are a tough genre to tackle in any medium. They come with decades of context, a tangled web of canonical development, and some truly dedicated fans. Marvel’s Avengers is in an even tougher spot for a couple of reasons. Marvel heroes have never been more popular, and this is actually two games. Sort of. The multiplayer is such a separate beast, in both execution and anticipation, that some powering up will be required first. But how about that campaign?
The story revolves around Kamala Khan and her journey to becoming Ms. Marvel. From her humble beginnings as a superfan, to her awakening as a superfan who is also an Avenger, you’re there every step of the way. At first, I was thoroughly annoyed by Khan’s enthusiasm, but she grows on you. Throughout the campaign, you cycle through each of the heroes, with Ms. Marvel taking center stage. Overall the writing is perfectly adequate, though there are a handful of touching moments. On the other hand, get ready for a parade of Movie Moments re-packaged for this story. Actually, let’s take a moment to address the MCU elephant in the room.
Just On The Tip Of Your Tongue
Marvel’s Avengers can’t quite decide how much like the MCU it wants to be. All of the outfits, the technology, and the characters feel achingly familiar. It’s like a drumbeat of deja vu, running below the actual soundtrack. Some similarities are a given, but there are little things that feel a bit uncanny valley. Iron Man’s suits look, and sound, exactly like they do in the films. The MCU’s habit of never referring to people by their actual superhero names unless absolutely necessary also continues here. Some of this is just a symptom of the comics and the movies slowly syncing up. Which is fine! But for fans of the films, a lot of this game will perch on the tip of your tongue.
Combat! The old pun and punch dance, long a staple of superhero stories, is writ large all over this game. All of my fights fell into two categories: ‘easy’ and ‘eventually changing the difficulty setting to easy.’ Sometimes you can just mash and bash your way to glory, while other fights require a cruel amount of finesse. Plus, in order for the game to be balanced at all, a flattening of power is essential. This means that, for example, Hulk and Black Widow have very similar stats. The upside is that you can pick favorites without any reservations. I still stayed well away from anyone without a healing function, however.
Everyone has a wide variety of moves they can use, but there are also some (enormous sigh) RPG elements to digest. This rears its head in the form of loot and level grinds, which both feel rather bloated. The gear you acquire does nothing to distinguish itself, though it makes for a comprehensive Arrow Comparison Engine. If you’re very into min-maxing, you can get downright granular about who’s equipped with what. Excess gear can even be dismantled for resources, which pairs nicely with your tiny inventory space. The level grind is top tier terrible, for several reasons.
Every character comes with their own Challenge Card. This is leveled up along with the actual character, using a different set of points and experience. While you don’t have to max out their Challenge Card, you gain enough points from doing so to afford a set of character DLC – whenever that starts coming out. Aside from new characters, most of what you have to grind for is cosmetic gear. If there’s amazing high-level gear to work towards, I haven’t encountered it yet. In other words, you’ll be cycling through a finite number of missions an infinite number of times, all to eventually get more characters and costumes. As someone whose grind-based satisfaction comes from cool-ass loot, this sounds awful. Finally, there are microtransactions to navigate. But these are only monetary shortcuts for those characters and costumes you don’t want to grind for. And since grinding for those things constitutes the whole post-game experience, you don’t need to indulge. In fact, you absolutely shouldn’t.
A Few Frames Lost In The Shuffle
On the subject of bad times, I feel obligated to mention that certain elements are presently in need of patching. Pop-in occurs from time to time, small animations fall out of sync, and there are some framerate issues. I am playing the game on a regular PS4, which might explain why things got so choppy towards the final mission. I’m hesitant to let these minor technical troubles impact the final score, but they need to be pointed out. If you’re sensitive to such things, maybe give this one a patch or two before picking it up.
While the superhero genre is loaded with expectations, I had none before picking up Marvel’s Avengers. I’ve seen every movie, but I haven’t read an actual comic book since the 90’s. Even so, my final judgment hinges on that multiplayer experience, which I’ve so far gotten very little of. All signs so far point to a long, grueling slog of a post-game, but I could still be surprised. At least the campaign is a bouncy romp, assuming you find the difficulty setting you’re comfortable with. There’s a healthy mix of gameplay spread between every character, so you’re never too inundated with someone you’ve just discovered is the worst. The game shoehorned in a couple of stealth sections for some reason, but they were quite brief. Fights are a joyous cavalcade of special effects and flying bodies almost 80% of the time. Although my ultimate verdict is weeks of multiplayer away, the first slice of this cake is a tasty one. Even casual Marvel fans would do well to keep Marvel’s Avengers on their radar.
***A PlayStation code was provided by Square Enix***
- Campaign Mode is a romp
- Tons of post-game content
- Wide variety of moves per character
- Post-game maybe a huge grind
- Could use a little optimizing
- Designs are almost like the MCU