Review – Marvel’s Avengers
Marvel’s Avengers is the latest entry into the world of shared world shooters. Although it never comes close to hitting the rock bottom of an Anthem, it never quite hits the highs that Destiny and Division have come to offer. This is doubly frustrating because when Crystal Dynamics isn’t trying to copy Destiny, it shines. It truly does.
Too often, we can judge a game based on what it doesn’t give us rather than what it does. We will judge a title for what we want it to be rather than for what it is. Marvel’s Avengers made me do just this. I found myself greatly anticipating and enjoying each new solo chapter of a surprisingly fantastic campaign, while dreading each new Strike Mission. Avengers manages to hit every single campaign feature I like, while simultaneously hitting every single service aspects I dislike.
Let’s go ahead and focus on those likes for the moment. Marvel’s Avengers is an origin story, just not the origin of the Avengers. The game could easily be a sequel to the MCU, but Crystal Dynamics instead went with the bold decision to focus on Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel. While the Avengers are deeply established and loved in the prelude moments of the game, it is through Kamala’s eyes that you experience it all. All the pomp, all the circumstance, you take it all in right along with her.
Risking the ire of the internet, going with the relatively new and unknown female lead, it was a gamble but one that entirely pays off. Kamala’s parts are easily the best part of the campaign. She is the sweet spot, that perfect pairing of all the characters you play. All of the Avengers have a surprising depth but it is Kamala I kept wanting to return to. I found my playtime with the other characters extremely enjoyable, but almost a vehicle to get back to Ms. Marvel. This is Kamala’s story.
After quickly going through the intro tutorial, playing as Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Captain America, you begin the actual game. Kamala, five years later, is no longer the young and innocent girl from those opening moments. The Avengers have been disbanded since the opening tragedies of what is now called A-Day, and AIM now controls security of the city. On the run now, due to investigating the fateful events of that day, Kamala slowly works toward reuniting Earth’s mightiest heroes.
And this leads us into the dislikes category. It isn’t that I didn’t want Marvel’s Avengers to be a shared world shooter. It is just that every time Crystal Dynamics shoehorned in more and more of its loot shooter mechanics, it lost more and more of what made its campaign excellent. As you slowly unlock more of the Avengers, you begin to play less as Kamala, while being introduced to more of the Destiny style that the game eventually becomes. The story still remains fantastic, but the pacing begins to break up as you suddenly have to handle Strike Missions to level up your characters and continue the story missions.
When the loot shooter world eventually opens up, Marvel’s Avengers then leans on it surprisingly great gameplay to carry it. Each character’s play is familiar, but their feel is totally unique and even require a bit different of a playstyle. Smashing your way through any and everything as Hulk, systematically attacking and redirecting as Black Widow or Captain America, blasting away with Iron Man; they all require you to play a slightly different way. Hulk is the easy odd-man-out as he plays the most different of everyone, but when I eventually got down his chaotic approach of “just destroy everything”, I don’t think I truly had a least favorite. If you ever need a refresher on how to use a character or a skill, you are given HARM training sessions to polish up on your abilities. Although you can button mash through most of the beginning, learning when to dodge, counter, parry, block, attack, and to unleash any of three super hero specials becomes incredibly important.
What’s a loot shooter without loot? But in this case, what is a loot shooter even with loot? This is honestly where Marvel’s Avengers fails the hardest. Maybe it is because your appearance will never change due to your gear, but gear and loot feel 100% pointless. Eventually, I stopped looking. I would simply hold down the button to equip my highest level item and I would dismantle anything more than a couple levels under it. I got some currency that bought me things I didn’t want and I got another type of currency to buy different things I didn’t want. The only thing I cared about were the skins since nothing else changes your appearance.
With hero specific Iconic Missions, HARM Training, Faction Goals, Strike Missions, and Warzones, Marvel Avengers‘ post-campaign makes certain to give you plenty to do. It just doesn’t make them feel rewarding. You go from A to B, fighting the same enemies in the same areas, and solving the same puzzles. The core gameplay keeps these events fun to run, but the repetition of the movements becomes all too familiar all too soon.
All this feels almost worse when doing it with a random group, as I found everyone split off and pretty much did their own thing. You could be on your way to search for a Shield Vault and then get teleported to another bunker as Player B decides to continue the mission. The rare times you get in a good group, it is fun. Most times when you don’t, it is methodical as players race through to the objective. I found it a lot more fun to play with an AI team rather than the random player match.
Visually, I really wanted to give Marvel’s Avengers the highest marks. However, there were so many sections that pop-in’s occurred, objects shimmer, or where the game just simply looked way too unpolished. Like the game itself, it comes so close to being truly beautiful just for it to constantly remind you of its flaws.
Audibly, however, there are no such flaws. Voice acting across the board is fantastic. Especially with Kamala and Bruce being the heart of the story. Bruce starts off a bit distant being locked into Hulk mode for god knows how long, but eventually starts warming up to Kamala. The soundtrack brings with it a sense of theater and importance. Even the ambient sounds feel to be something special.
Load times can become unbearable. When areas of the game load, you get a camera pan of an Avengers character. This pan lasts about seven seconds per character and it cycles through the entire team. It wasn’t abnormal to have it scroll through characters some three or four times. This happens every time you begin the game, if your team dies, or you begin a mission. Thankfully this doesn’t happen if you simply fall to your death. I was playing on an original Xbox One, so load times may be better on newer devices.
Marvel’s Avengers does so much right when just being a game, but ultimately fails when trying to be the game Crystal Dynamics wants, which is an obvious Destiny clone. The core is there, the potential is there. All these Games as a Service franchises need time to get their sea legs, and this is no different. Some quality expansions, additional story content, while polishing up the gear looting aspect and this can develop into something worthy. But as it stands now, these Avengers needs more assembling.
Avengers is always so close to being gorgeous. But too many times, the lack of polish shines through to the point it almost gets frustrating.
Surprisingly great gameplay that saves an otherwise vanilla post-campaign looter experience. Characters play familiar, but all feel very unique.
Excellently cast characters from top to bottom. It includes a soundtrack that feels the characters belong in an MCU production.
Vanilla post-campaign looter experience and gear that just feels so weightless hurts a single player campaign that is as good as any out there.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Marvel’s Avengers is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
A copy of Marvel’s Avengers was provided by the publisher.