It’s Time For The Avengers To Assemble Once Again
Marvel’s Avengers was on the back foot pretty much the moment it was announced with Marvel not having the best record when it comes to their heroes being in games. For every Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, there was a Thor: God of Thunder waiting around the corner to remind the fans that sometimes it’s all about the money. To top it off Marvel’s Avengers has been Developed by Crystal Dynamics, who is mostly known for the recent Tomb Raider games that have seen diminishing results every sequel, and published by Square Enix, who has taken to chopping up their games so they can sell them in multiple parts, you could almost say the writing was on the wall for Marvel’s Avengers to be a disaster. After spending some time with Marvel’s Avengers I can tell you that luckily it’s not a disaster but it’s not that great either.
Game Name: Marvel’s Avengers
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia and PC (reviewed)
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer(s): Crystal Dynamics, Crystal Northwest, Eidos-Montréal, NIXXES Software BV
Release Date: 4th September 2020
Price: £49.99/ $59.99 USD
** Review copy of Marvel’s Avengers was provided by Square Enix **
First things first, I would like to establish that I’m not a comics expert. Most of what I know about the Avengers has come from either movies or YouTube videos, so I’d like to think that I went into this review with fresh eyes. If you’re looking for a review that tells you if the characters or events in this game match their comic book counterparts then I’m afraid this wouldn’t be it, I’m coming into this as the average person who has only seen the movies for reference.
I would personally say that Marvel’s Avengers isn’t anything special, it’s a cut above the rest when it comes to production and there is some fun to be had when you get some friends to play with you. But to be honest, that kind of praise is hollow because playing games with your friends will always be fun and Avengers was made by a large studio so if the production value was low I would have been very unimpressed. On top of that, this is the hardest review I’ve ever had to do because I have no strong feelings about this game whatsoever, everything about Marvel’s Avengers is so generic and safe that I find it hard to connect with anything on any level. As I sit here thinking back on the experience and looking at my notes I find myself struggling to outline what I liked and what I hated during my time with Avengers.
The gameplay of Marvel’s Avengers is pretty simple, it’s a 3rd person beat-em’-up that focuses on defeating waves of enemies using a combination of light, heavy and ranged attacks. Each Avenger has their own move set and abilities catered to their own strengths. For example, Hulk gets his iconic thunderclap that can be used to deal massive damage and knockdown smaller enemies. In addition to your base abilities, you also earn skill points as you level up which can be used to purchase new abilities and moves, there are 12 skill trees in total broken up into 3 groups. There are the “Primary” abilities that focus on the improvement of basic attacks such as your light, heavy and ranged attacks plus your intrinsic ability which is specific to each hero. The second group is referred to as “Speciality” which focuses on the improvement of your support, assault, ultimate, movement abilities, and finally, you have the “Mastery” abilities which are broken down to utility, ranged, efficiency, and intrinsic. The mastery tree doesn’t unlock until level 15 and lets you choose what modification you want for that character. Arguably the Mastery tree is the most interesting because it gives the player some semblance of customisation for their character but because it’s level gated and each character levels up independently it can take a few hours before you can have any meaningful impact on your character.
Probably the most pointless system in Marvel’s Avengers is the gear system. Because Avengers is trying to market itself as a service (GaaS) like Destiny 2, there is a need to keep players coming back, thus a system was implemented where you find loot on missions and in the world to improve your Avenger’s stats, so far so standard. The issue with this system is that the gear levels feel so arbitrary and the gameplay isn’t affected on a noticeable level, the only real difference one piece of gear has to another on a gameplay level is what level of missions you can do.
In games like Destiny 2 and Diablo where loot it arguably at the center of the entire experience the loot changes your appearance and certain pieces of loot have game-changing effects. A good example of this the Celestial Nighthawk helmet in Destiny 2, which changes your Golden Gun super into a single high powered shot, that when used right can be the difference in a fight. Marvel’s Avengers loot is just a stat boost with some minor effects thrown in, the lack of any cosmetic effect also negates the purpose of hunting for loot, personally I feel like one of the best parts about loot grinding is finding a nice set that looks good and is functional.
If you take the cosmetic element out the equation, you’re just left with a randomized level-up system that feels pretty pointless, because there is already a level up system in the game. To top it off each character has their own XP and loot pool so imagine you spent the best part of 4 hours playing as the Hulk only to end up on a level 15 mission where you have to play as Iron Man who is only level 5, that means you have to go back and grind some older missions (or those bloody H.A.R.M missions) to level up a character that you’ll only play during that one specific story mission, it’s all kinds of annoying.
The final nail in the coffin for me is just how bland it is, as I mentioned earlier each character has their own move set but 90% of all combat encounters can be beaten with light, light, heavy, light, light, heavy. It boggles my mind how a game about playing as god damn superheroes can’t even muster the energy to make an attack have any meaningful impact. Pretty much the only times the gameplay switches up a bit is when you play as Iron Man or Thor who can fly but that novelty wears off very fast when you realize the flight combat is, to put it politely, janky as fuck. Unfortunately, the best this game gets gameplay-wise is during the opening hours where the story is focused and the gameplay flows well, personally the best mission for me is the first one where you play as the five main Avengers back to back in a bombastic mission that culminates in a fun Arkham style boss fight. The semi-open-world formula of this game is the biggest drawback because it’s just so unnecessary, Marvel’s Avengers works best when the experience is focused and mostly linear.
On the story side of things, Marvel’s Avengers has some moments to shine. I’m personally more inclined to story-driven games as a whole, which is why I love Spiderman PS4 so much because the story in that game was fantastic. To Marvel’s Avengers credit, I can see some of that writing talent in this game at times, the character interactions feel natural and the cast does a great job of bringing the characters to life. The overarching story is where it starts to fall apart, however, after a strong start Avengers begins to fall into the realms of glorified fanfiction.
At times it honestly feels like the writers wanted to make an X-Men video game. Replace every time the word “Inhumans” is mentioned with “Mutants” and this story pretty much turns into an X-Men plot. Once again, I’m aware that there is a comic series called the Inhumans but I’ve never read it so what I’ve just said will probably anger some readers but that’s pretty much how the average person is going to see this.
Visually speaking Marvel’s Avengers looks fine. The environments and assets are well designed and there’s detail where it counts. The characters themselves are where things start to get a bit uncanny valley because your average person is used to seeing Robert Downy Jr as Iron man or Scarlett Johanson as Black Widow, so seeing the Avengers in-game looking admittedly close to the real-life counterparts but not quite is a bit odd, to say the least. I do understand that licensing the face of famous actors can be expensive, especially with a large cast, so this isn’t really a criticism but it’s an observation I’m sure more than a few will make when playing. This is one of those situations where events in the real world detract from your virtual experience which is unfortunate for the developers in this case.
The sound design for Marvel’s Avengers is also a pretty big let down – the music is rather generic with nothing standing out in the soundtrack and the combat sounds wear very thin very quickly. In addition to repetitive and annoying sounds, the audio is balanced really weirdly and no matter how much I fiddle with the settings I can’t seem to get things to mix properly, the voice audio is always 100% louder then it needs to be or so quiet you have trouble hearing what anyone is saying. For example, Ms. Marvel is loud and quite frankly annoying and Bruce Banner is quite muted which I thought was a design choice at first. But then you unlock characters like Iron Man who is also oddly quiet and Captain America who is all over the place volume-wise, and it makes me wonder if the actors were called back in to re-record some lines.
In addition to the voice audio being all over the place, the sound effects also seem to have a delay at times. One example that comes to mind is there’s a moment where Tony Stark smacks Bruce Banner across the face and the sound of the slap was almost a full second behind. These sorts of sound errors are happening constantly through the game with sound queues not even playing at all at times, I’ve sat through cutscenes where one character will either not be there at all or if they’re speaking they’re not saying anything, I would expect this sort of thing in an indie game but this is a “AAA” game so this level of technical incompetence is not acceptable at all.
Now that we’ve established that the Story mode is pretty average what about the multiplayer? We’ll this is normally the part where I break down the pros and cons of the multiplayer and I’d love to tell it that it worked perfectly, but I can’t. After spending nearly an hour trying to get my Square Enix account to connect to my Steam on my first attempt was just the start. When I did manage to get into a game, I found myself waiting upwards of 20 minutes to find a single person online, only to have the mission not load for an additional 20 minutes, causing the other player to leave. When you’re not playing with actual people, you can run through the online activities with AI-controller characters, but this too has some issues. The AI, for a lack of a better word, is trash. They will not help with objectives even if that means just standing somewhere and will watch you fight while doing nothing. Then there’s the issue of the breakable doors that only certain characters can bust down, why don’t the AI companions break them for you? Instead, they’ll just look at the door with you, while you ponder why you picked a character who isn’t mighty enough to smash down the door.
I think it’s safe to say that either Marvel’s Avengers is dead on arrival, at least on the PC, or Crystal Dynamics has some serious bugs to iron out. Before you call me impatient I’d like to remind you that this game officially came out on September 4th and it’s now September 14th and there is still no improvement on this front, for a game that’s supposed to be an ongoing service. Marvel’s Avengers isn’t even at the point Destiny 1 was on release so how can it hope to have any chance in competing in this market, it may not be a disaster on the level on Anthem, but at least Anthem was memorable.
Review Disclosure Statement: Marvel’s Avengers was provided to us for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Welcome to the Avengers Initiative where you will be tasked to head from one end of a post A day globe to another taking down threats to the peace and to bring AIM to its knees in an effort to bring the Avengers back from the shadows.
- Lengthy Campaign (Around 14 hours)
- Great Visuals
- Voice Cast Does an Excellent Job
- Multiplayer Doesn’t Work
- Multiple Glitches Linked to Audio
- Static and Unimaginative Gameplay
- MArvel's Avengers