When Crystal Dynamics developed game Marvel’s Avengers got its big reveal last E3, it was exciting. Finally, the iconic superhero team was seeing their biggest ever video game venture. Since then though, there’s been a big question mark about what the game will shape up to be. Delays and lack of clarity on the game absolutely raised some concerns. Finally, with preview access I got the chance to explore one of this year’s biggest mysteries in gaming. Let’s jump in, shall we?
Starting off, I got the opportunity to dive into some single-player missions. The first foray I got was one that took me to the tumultuous events of the Avengers’ A-Day. This was a fantastic opportunity to see the main team (Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America and Black Widow) team up, and see how they both interact and play. Tony Stark is as cocky as ever, making jabs at Thor that feel almost like flirting. Hulk smashes everything to smithereens in true Hulk fashion. Black Widow shows off some of her bad ass martial artistry, Cap falls to an abysmal death. Thus starts the events of the game. If you’ve been following the game closely, this was nothing new, and was also playable at PAX Aus 2019.
Finally, I was thrust into some brand new content, on an adventure with Bruce Banner aka Hulk. It’s been five years since the disastrous A-Day. The Avengers have disbanded. Thankfully, Bruce isn’t alone. He’s joined by a new young individual with fresh powers. That individual is none other than Kamala Khan, later known as Ms Marvel. You’ll get a few missions out of them here. One saw the duo raiding an A.I.M (Advanced Idea Mechanics, the game’s villain organisation) facility deep within an isolated jungle biome, in search for A.I Jarvis. Another took the two to a snowy hydra where they were tracking down an underground bunker in search for some vital piece of uplink tech or whatever. Yes, expect a lot of not so consequential, very disposable comic book tasks. Still, they work and are mostly fun.
How the mighty Avengers have fallen
Before I get into the meat and bones of what the rest of my preview featured, let me emphasise what a great team Kamala and Hulk made. Kamala was absolutely my favourite of the two (and bunch I got to play later). Her abilities allow her to essentially have a long, gangly and practically elastic body and limbs. While Hulk was doing his thing and stomping around, she could use an ultimate to enlarge her entire body. This allowed Kamala to, while surrounded, actually pick off some outsiders. She quite literally could step over some foes, and swat others with ease with her rubber feet and hands. It’s a blast seeing this gangly teen work her way around combat arenas. Oh, and she’s just the most adorable character. She tells Bruce about some of the Avengers fan-fiction she’s written over the years. Need I sell her more?
Now comes to Hulk. It’s hard to get Hulk’s combat wrong. Smash, stomp, repeat. Still, it’s hard to craft combat for Hulk into something really special too. When it comes to their power attacks, Hulk sets off some devastating blows. After filling a bar through combat, Hulk can clap his hands together, setting off a powerful Thunderclap, sending shockwaves through enemies all around him.
Meanwhile, when you’re just engaging in normal combat, it’s less exciting. At the best of times, I felt like an awkward, fumbly brick shithouse, struggling to dodge projectiles and blows coming my way, and tripping over everything. You could argue this is the point: Hulk, in all environments, is often too big and gets too in the way for its own good. Still, when they found ways to make Kamala’s large presence work, I wish it could’ve translated to him.
Eventually, the preview opened up for me to not only play more characters, but to jump into some co-op play. Editor Luke jumped in and joined me for some fun, and as we joined a fire-team, ahead of us were several different types of mission types. Drop-zone missions saw the two of us do some quick in and out tasks. Work your way through a small building, complete an objective such as working to hack and steal a point, finish mission. Sabotage missions saw you infiltrating a building and destroying or messing with A.I.M in some way. A lot of what this looked like is raising hell, smashing up some electrical turbines and the likes while mini-bosses such as mechs showed up. They weren’t the most exciting, but the brawler nature of Marvel’s Avengers made this at least a bit more enjoyable. At the very least, it’s not repetitive and bland like 2019’s Anthem.
An exciting glimpse of things to come
Also on offer are more hero-centric missions. We got to enjoy one that followed Hulk, researching some mysterious gas. These were the closest we got to a semblance of main story in the preview, piecing together more of where Hulk stands in this version of the Avengers’ world. Additionally, Helicarrier ‘HARM’ missions are combat simulations, that just see you fighting on waves of enemies in a cyber Tron-like space. Expect these mission types to be the most repetitive. Topping that all off, we ended our run of preview missions with a ‘Villain Sector.’ These are the most open missions, getting you to travel through many locations both in and outside of buildings. They’re closest to raids, and saw us taking on a gigantic almost crab-like Warbot, where we had to quite literally both work on its limbs and climb it to take on some weak points. It was a blast.
Co-op play is by no means bad in Marvel’s Avengers, though don’t expect too much strategy to be required. Rarely did Luke and I need to do any call-outs or nods to areas of interest, often found in co-op adventures. That doesn’t mean fun isn’t to be had. Having a friend there to also role-play as a hero, knocking some baddie mercs was more than welcome. Hell, we even had a special moment in a mission where Luke controlled Tony. Luke unlocked and activated the hero’s ultimate. Before we knew it, he grew into a giant, chonky suited up Iron Man, wearing the Mark XLIV (or Hulkbuster). We both chuckled in delight, surprise and glee as he clomped around, destroying everything in sight.
One of the biggest concerns that many have shared for Marvel’s Avengers is its looter and game as a service nature. Just why are we getting a Marvel game set to play like Destiny. How does that even work?
With the opportunity to finally wrap my head around it, the answer is not perfectly. Gear definitely helps, don’t get me wrong. Items you gather such as resources and types of armor help in both crafting and boosting your hero level. Hero levels are quite important, and determine how fit you are in being able to complete a mission. The caveat is the gear’s not cosmetic and only otherwise is used to boost some passive stats. There’s absolutely no way someone will grind for gear in Marvel’s Avengers the way they would for an exotic in Destiny. Works needed here in drops too. There were definitely moments I was for no reason whatsoever more stocked up than my partner.
With all of that being said, Marvel’s Avengers is still a blast, if its the type of game that sounds like your bread and butter. There’s collectibles such as comics, data entries and even cosmetic hero costumes to both earn and find in the world. Even with an exponential amount of numbers, loot menus and drops thrown at you that end up being somewhat confusing, it still is satisfying. I’ve no doubt that when the full release comes around it’ll definitely soothe that rewarding (even if its from doing little) endorphin feeling of your brain.
Marvel’s Avengers is only a month away, and still I’ve found myself with a lot of questions. I’m already confident this won’t sway naysayers of the game, but I still expect quite a blast and fun time sink. If anything, I just can’t wait to see where the hell all my other hero friends are.