Charlie loves her video games as much as she loves dumb, charming JRPG protagonists: probably way too much. You can often catch her spending too much time being emotional over LGBT stories in games. She also thinks Yakuza 6 is the best one.
Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
September 4, 2020
Hey, remember when Marvel’s Avengers was officially revealed last year? So hesitant and reluctant we all were. People didn’t like the hallmark character’s design appearance, the game’s concept, and so on. Simply put, many gamers were nervous about it. Hell, even as recent as last month, we got a beta preview and though it was exciting, there were still plenty of questions on just what the game is. Now, what if I were to tell you that Marvel’s Avengers is actually good? Not great, but good. Yes, I know, I know. Hear me out.
In typical superhero story fashion, the game takes place after an event causes the famous team to well… not look great. An ‘A-Day’ dedicated to celebrating the group takes a catastrophic turn when a chemical explosions wrecks havoc on San Francisco. The event killed thousands, including Captain America(?), rendering others unwillingly with superpowers. Ashamed and feeling responsible, the remainder of the Avengers disbanded.
Since then, tech organisation AIM has taken it upon themselves to help keep the city and the surrounding area ‘safe.’ Their version of safety turns out to be drones, robotic police officers and a large monopoly on the city’s ruling. Head of AIM, George Tarleton, thinks science and technology is the answer to resolving issues brought about by… science and technology. Ironic, no?
So we have our sick and cruel corporation that rules all. We have our heroes that have fallen and been forced to turn a blind eye. Who’s left to reunite the good and take-over the evil? Kamala Khan, that’s who. She’s a young girl with powers that let her ’embiggen’ parts of her body: her hands and feet can grow at will, which comes in handy on the battlefield. She can even bend and snap her body like a rubber band. Think a cooler Richard Reed from Fantastic 4. Evidence falls into her lap that The Avengers may have been set up on A-Day. So she sets out, hoping to reunite the hero team and kick some bad guy robot butt on the way.
One thing I wasn’t expecting is that Marvel’s Avengers is entirely Kamala’s show. A large part of the campaign is built around her reassembling the Avengers after all this time to take on Tarleton, who gradually becomes the big-brained MODOK. There are unique missions that only certain Avengers can take on and find their time to shine, sure, but this newcomer is absolutely the front-runner. I think a lot of players will really love this about the game, having a Pakistani-American hero taking the front lines.
She’s also quite charming. Kamala is originally a fangirl of the superhero team, who looks up to them all to a high standard. We even get a neat intro with her, where you see her with a room filled to the brim with Avengers memorabilia. All she’d need is to add one Loki poster and her room wouldn’t be far off from mine in 2012. All of this is such a delight to behold, I just wish Square Enix didn’t hide it in its marketing. Instead, they could’ve embraced this relatively recent and important Pakistani-American hero from Jersey so much more.
All in all, Marvel’s Avengers single-player campaign is where the game shines the brightest. There’s a lot of high budget set pieces that see you doing feats such as making Uncharted style gigantic leaps and bounds across canyons. No groundbreaking superhero conflicts or development are on offer, but with personalised hero missions on offer to break things up from all the looting you’ll be doing, it’s fun. A few average missions here or there and a disappointing final boss aside, it’s a superhero story well worth exploring with some intriguing reveals. It really shows the pedigree Crystal Dynamics have developed over the years, moving on from Tomb Raider to this.
A largely important part of creating a superhero game is making sure characters feel both authentic in their characterisation and how they play. Thankfully, Marvel’s Avengers does quite a solid job here. The game is absolutely filled to the brim with the who’s who of video game voice acting. Troy Baker as Bruce Banner, Travis Willingham as Thor and Laura Bailey as Black Widow all do fantastic jobs. Nolan North shines bright as Tony Stark. Having previously played the fabled Nathan Drake, North just gets to embrace the kooky and cocky more than ever. The man was built for the role, it just works.
Controlling each character is also quite satisfying. The game is largely a brawler. You have two face buttons as your standard and heavy attacks, a button to dodge and even projectiles of some sort to aim fire with L2 and R2, depending on the hero you play. Then there are three abilities for players to cycle through, which are charged by filling a gauge. Basic, sure, but did we really want too much combat depth in a superhero game?
Attacks and abilities between each Avenger are varied enough that there is absolutely room here for finding a main staple in your team. Iron Man can turn into the HulkBuster, a chunky suited-up monolith. Hulk can slam his hands together and let off a devastating Thunderclap, sending shockwaves through foes and harming them for great damage. But by far, the shining star in the Avengers team was Kamala. She can use her ultimate to embiggen herself to a larger than life eight-foot-tall figure, swatting enemies away like flies. Her strange stringy limbs just work so well for combat. I found a second favourite in the bumbling boulder that is the Hulk.
Finding your favourite in Marvel’s Avengers will also be based on the levelling the game has to offer. Power levels are important to keep an eye on, so that players can be mindful on if they’re strong enough to take on a mission. Like many other game-as-a-service titles before it, this is determined by the (in this case non-cosmetic) gear you have on your hero.
Rarities and infusing your gear via obtained resources in missions are largely important in boosting this number. It’s not perfect but it’s not as clunky and unsatisfying as we were led to believe the past year. Abilities can also be added which just puts a different spin on attack animations, as well as the occasional passive boost. It’s largely the ability levelling function I focused least on as it’s nothing to write home about. This means that most of the time, you can just hammer down on building up your one favourite, though occasionally it’ll ask you to work on the other heroes too for their missions.
There’s also your typical daily challenges to work through. Organisations such as S.H.I.E.L.D and Pym Technologies will set broad tasks, like gather X number of resources or kill X enemy types. Then there’s daily and weekly challenges assigned to each hero in order to progress their personal Challenge Card (more on that later).
As someone that hasn’t experienced too many live service games, one set in The Avengers universe with satisfying unlockables is enough to satisfy the goblin part of my brain that just wants to see numbers go up. In the same vein, it’s detrimental to younger players. Imagine explaining to a six-year-old who just wants to jump into the game the importance of power levels, gear, and infusing and powering that gear. Yikes.
One of the big sellers Marvel’s Avengers also has going for it is the fact that co-op multiplayer is offered. Absolutely, the idea of jumping into some levels as your favourite heroes with friends is exciting. It absolutely works, but at times can get old, depending on your tastes. Co-op play is only available in non-essential missions, outside of the main campaign. In the more boring options, they are the HARM training rooms, where you’re in a virtual space, taking on waves of enemies. In the more exciting ones, Villain Sectors (the game’s closest answer to raids) see you working through a level to inevitably taken on a big, bad boss.
Don’t expect a lot of strategy here. You won’t particularly need to make quick decisions in battle, working to overcome an objective. Still, like in the campaign, the more open missions will allow for you to explore a bit, optimising for finding more crates filled with items for your and your friends’ gear hungry heart. It’s a fun time killer, and you can easily jump in and out as you please. There’s absolutely fun to be had in you and your friends helping better each other, even if it gets old at times. Teamwork does make the dream work after all.
Over the past year and a bit since its reveal, Marvel’s Avengers hasn’t been without its controversy. Largely, the micro-transactions and battle pass in the form of a ‘Challenge Card’ has been one of the most prevalent. It bears mentioning that it’s definitely a sting on the quite solid superhero game that it is. I understand the need for companies making their games more replayable and returning more profits off their games, but it’s still absolutely a factor the game could’ve done without.
As mentioned earlier, the Challenge Cards are passes that see you working through daily and weekly goals to level up this pass, earning cosmetics, nameplates and the like for your heroes. Or, you could just pay a considerable amount of money and unlock everything from the get-go. I don’t personally think it’s too egregious, the unlocks provide no bonuses or upper hand over other players. You can simply ignore it, and grind to whatever level you please, maybe only unlocking half the cosmetic skins and still being none the worse off. Still, it saddens me a bit that the state of gaming lately has this in place. I miss the days of a game being re-playable through its quality, rather than just an influx of mechanics. It works enough for me personally, but I can see people having the same issue with grind when it comes to the aforementioned power levelling.
The last issue that bears mentioning is that the game has a considerable amount of technical issues. Marvel’s Avengers is a gorgeous game… when it loads completely. Playing on a base PS4, wear and tear really shows, as a lot of assets are blurred and don’t quite load. This occurs both in cutscenes and out. It’s hard to be invested in a scene where a character is reading a screen or looking at an important image and it takes a few moments to load in. Long loading times after failing a mission in the most arbitrary ways, enemies that just disappear, and your superhero friends clipping out in weird ways will also find their way into your journey. Simply put, Marvel’s Avengers will absolutely push your current-gen console to the limits, for the worse.
Come into this with an open enough mind and I think you’ll have a surprisingly good time with Marvel’s Avengers. Players on the fence could very well be swayed, but strong naysayers will still take more convincing. With planned free future content such as the addition of characters such as Kate Bishop, Hawkeye and Spider-Man, that’s at least a step in the right direction.
Coming out of Marvel’s Avengers, I’ve surprisingly been won over. With a charming set of characters both familiar and new to me, loot to keep me going and a solid promise of its future, it’s a game I’ll absolutely be keen to return to. That does come with a caveat. There are some glaring and testing faults the game exhibits. If you plan at all on jumping in and donning that cape, then do so. Just maybe keep your non-superhero day job at the ready.