Marvel’s Avengers Review
Marvel's Avengers is a decent brawler carried by its IP.
I have a lot of conflicting feelings about Marvel’s Avengers. After finishing the campaign and getting two of the game’s six heroes to the current power cap of 150, I’ve experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows with this game. Marvel’s Avengers is not a particularly great game, but it’s one I haven’t been able to stop playing. Following in the footsteps of spectacular solo superhero releases like Marvel’s Spider-Man and the Batman Arkham series, Marvel’s Avengers has incredibly tough shoes to fill, and despite countless issues, it still manages to deliver on the superhero team-up fantasy that every comic book fan dreams of.
There are two games at the core of Marvel’s Avengers. There’s an Uncharted style linear campaign filled with endearing character moments and action-packed setpieces, and then there’s a live service Destiny style co-op game focused on loot and gear. These can mostly be enjoyed independently of one another, but one side clearly wins out over the other. Marvel’s Avengers is not a single-player action game with tacked on live service elements; it’s a live service game with an exceptionally good single-player campaign. That’s an important distinction to make here, because your expectations going into Marvel’s Avengers will drastically affect your enjoyment of the game.
The Magnificent Ms. Marvel
Marvel’s Avengers easily has the best story out of any live service game I’ve ever played. That’s not an incredibly high bar to pass, but I was very surprised by how engaging the Avengers campaign actually was. In the weeks leading up to release, I was sure the game’s cast would be nothing more than MCU knockoffs. However, by the time the credits rolled, they ended up becoming some of my favorite renditions of these characters in any medium. It can be difficult to not hear Nathan Drake when Iron Man cracks a joke during a fight, but Nolan North knocks it out of the park as Tony Stark. The same can be said for the rest of the group, especially Troy Baker’s Hulk and Laura Bailey’s Black Widow. This is a unique take on the Avengers team that I can’t wait to see more from. Surprisingly enough though, the main Avengers aren’t the most compelling part of the story.
Kamala Khan is this game’s secret weapon. Despite being an Avengers game by name, the Avengers campaign is for all intents and purposes a Ms. Marvel game. Not only is she the protagonist of this story, but she’s also the game’s most interesting character by a mile. Her growth from fangirl to fully-fledged hero is the campaign’s driving force, and her interactions with each of the Avengers and other supporting characters never fail to elicit a smile. It’s refreshing to see a major Marvel property incorporate a relatively new character in the grand scheme of things, and I cannot wait to see more from Kamala as the game grows and new heroes come into the fray.
Kamala Khan is this game’s secret weapon.
There cannot be superheroes without supervillains, however, and Marvel’s Avengers takes another risk in this department by going an entirely different route than most would expect. Rather than using a well-known antagonist from the MCU or other major Marvel movies, Marvel’s Avengers features MODOK as the primary villain of this story. Unfortunately, MODOK and the others from AIM aren’t especially compelling villains. They’re well-acted and performed like the rest of the characters, but they’re so blatantly evil that it can be difficult to empathize with them or even find them all that interesting in the first place. Nearly all of the character development in this story is reserved for the six playable characters, and it’s a bit disappointing that the villains felt throwaway in comparison.
As Kamala works to reassemble the Avengers team and take down MODOK, you’ll play through several single-player missions that would feel right at home in any other big-budget superhero game. From the opening A-Day mission to many other setpiece moments, there is no shortage of excitement in the Avengers campaign. These tightly designed levels are the highlight of the campaign, but the live service nature of Marvel’s Avengers unfortunately rears its ugly head during the story. In between most big levels, you’ll be sent on what feel like side quests where the Avengers need to rescue Inhumans or gather supplies for their next big mission. These missions are there to introduce War Zones and other mission types that you’ll be interacting with later in the online part of the game, and they bring the pace of the single-player campaign to a screeching halt. The wide-open areas these missions take you to are clearly designed for multiplayer and they lack the tight level design or narrative stakes of the main missions. These are definitely the low points of the campaign, and they can be mind-numbingly boring at times.
Combat in Marvel’s Avengers starts out deceptively simple. When first starting out with a hero, you’ll only have access to a few basic attacks and not much more. Once you reach the level cap though, things get much more complicated. The beta severely misrepresented this game’s combat. All six playable heroes have diverse movesets to learn and master, and some characters even have different weapons to swap between mid-combat. Black Widow has different guns she can equip and Iron Man can swap between repulsors, lasers, and rockets for example. Slowly unlocking each character’s full moveset and learning what they’re capable of is one of the best parts of Marvel’s Avengers.
Each character is based on the same template, but they all feel radically different from one another. They all have the same controls and attack types, however, which makes transitioning between the six of them a breeze. Even though Hulk feels way different from Ms. Marvel, I was able to easily switch back and forth between the two without having to relearn a specific control scheme or playstyle. This ensures that you won’t feel too out of your element when trying out a new hero or if you need to swap characters to play with a friend.
Each character has three pages of skill trees, but you end up having everything unlocked by the time you reach the max level. Certain skills have three options you can choose from, and this is where you can really make your character your own. You can specialize any hero any way you want, and when you synergize your skills with the right gear, you can create some pretty crazy builds. If you want to play a melee-focused Iron Man, you can do that. If you want to play a ranged Hulk, you totally can. It’s remarkable not only how different the heroes feel from one another, but also how different two versions of the same hero can be between players.
Combat is surprisingly deep and challenging once you have access to a character’s full moveset, but there are certain aspects of it that can be frustrating. Ranged enemies are incredibly annoying to fight, and they can take you down in just a few shots. This wouldn’t be that big of an issue there weren’t a hundred things going on at once in Marvel’s Avengers. You’re constantly juggling multiple enemies and there are always particle effects and other clutter all over the screen, making it very frustrating when you get sniped mid-combo for half your health bar. The Avengers also feel way too weak. They get staggered and interrupted all the time while not being able to do the same to enemies. Challenge and difficulty are nice to have, but many things in Marvel’s Avengers just feel frustrating or unfair.
It’s remarkable not only how different the heroes feel from one another, but also how different two versions of the same hero can be between players.
After the campaign comes to a close, you enter the Avengers Initiative, which is the game’s multiplayer component. This is just a fancy name for the post-game, although the post-game in Marvel’s Avengers is a bit more complex than most. There’s technically an entire second post-game “campaign,” although it lacks much of the narrative focus and tight design of the actual single-player campaign. It mainly serves as a means of onboarding you into the endgame and unlocking some new mission types. You’ll run War Zone missions, defeat villains, and wrap up any Iconic missions for each of the six heroes you may have missed in the campaign. The main difference here is that you can play these missions with a group of four, and this is where the meat of Marvel’s Avengers is.
Co-op play is the main draw of Marvel’s Avengers, and most of the game’s combat is designed around it. Those wide-open areas introduced during the campaign feel much better with a team of real players, and mindlessly beating up bad guys is much more tolerable with friends. Still, the game becomes incredibly repetitive very quickly at this stage. Without much of a story to follow or any real motivation to keep pushing you forward, the game quickly boils down to fighting the same few generic robots in the same handful of identical rooms and hallways. Even the War Zones, which have optional points of interest to explore for gear and loot, quickly become routine as you make your way toward the same set of question marks that spawn in the same locations every time.
The game quickly boils down to fighting the same few generic robots in the same handful of identical rooms and hallways.
Hives are one of the endgame activities in Marvel’s Avengers, and they exemplify this problem perfectly. Hives are essentially challenge gauntlets that send you through a number of floors with a specific objective on each one. There are so few objective types in this game that you will perform the same task multiple times in the same Hive. You can only “defeat the elite AIM team” so many times before it becomes mind-numbing. The co-op missions in this game have some of the worst level design I’ve seen in a long time, and fighting Synthoids in the same hallway for the twentieth time can get excruciatingly boring. The only thing that kept me going was the desire to hit the level cap and unlock all the moves for my characters. You have to really enjoy the combat to be able to put up with the onslaught of monotony.
We’re in the Endgame Now
After hitting max level with your character and reaching the current power cap of 150, you enter the Avengers endgame. Like most games of this type, Marvel’s Avengers will live or die based on its endgame, and it is very poor in its current state. Right now, the endgame consists of running Villain Sectors and Hives to try and get gear with great perks. Considering gear does not have any effect on your character’s appearance, its worth is based entirely on the perks it has. While these perks are largely useless for the majority of Marvel’s Avengers, they start mattering at the endgame, and they can actually have a significant effect on your performance. I went from hating the fact that gear is not cosmetic to loving it by the level cap. This way, you can use whatever gear you want while still rocking your favorite Iron Man suit or Thor outfit.
The problem with gear is that there just aren’t enough perks to keep things fresh. Every item you get starts to blend together in a mess of numbers and percentages. There is nothing to chase after. There is exotic gear to be found, but it’s functionally the same as everything else you’ve ever picked up. The percentages on the perks are just a little bit higher, and in some cases, regular legendary gear is just as good. Exotics in Marvel’s Avengers are nowhere near as exciting as those found in Destiny or any other similar games. Unless you really care about crafting the perfect build and min-maxing your characters, there is very little incentive to keep playing past the level cap.
You can use whatever gear you want while still rocking your favorite Iron Man suit or Thor outfit.
There’s also a shockingly small amount of content to run through. As I mentioned above, Hives are one of the main endgame activities in this game, but they get repetitive quickly and can even feature repeated objectives during the same mission. Villain Sectors are the other main endgame activity, pitting you against a powerful boss, but these are disappointingly few in number. There are only two villains in total, Taskmaster and Abomination, and the other Villain Sectors just feature generic giant robots as bosses. Even counting these robots, there are only four Villain Sectors in the game right now. There’s just not a whole lot to do in Marvel’s Avengers in its current state. Now, more content is on the way very soon, with AIM’s Secret Lab coming sometime in the next few weeks followed by Kate Bishop and Hawkeye with their own stories and missions, but the mission pool at launch is immensely underwhelming.
Earth’s Buggiest Heroes
This game really needed six more months in the oven. There is an unacceptable amount of bugs and glitches, and I keep running into new ones the more I play. Character models sometimes don’t load in, voice clips repeat endlessly, the subtitles don’t match what characters say sometimes, the list goes on and on. Visual and audio bugs that don’t affect gameplay are one thing, but there are also a ton of glitches that directly affect gameplay. Unlocked skins and outfits have been disappearing and reverting to their locked state for many players, myself included, and sometimes deciphering a pattern to unlock a new skin just makes the pattern disappear. Exotics are dropping at level 1 power for a lot of people. Currencies of all kinds have been disappearing from inventories. Hero Challenge Cards aren’t progressing for some. I have fallen through the world more times than I can count. This game is buggy to the point where it actively affects my enjoyment of it, and it really needs several big patches.
Somehow, despite all the bugs and despite all the problems, I’m having a blast with Marvel’s Avengers. It’s not necessarily a great game, but it’s a good one. As long as I can live the day to day of an Avenger, walking around the Helicarrier and running missions for SHIELD, then I’m happy, and I imagine a lot of Marvel fans will be too. Unlike Marvel’s Spider-Man or the Batman Arkham games, Marvel’s Avengers is not particularly great at any one thing. Instead, it’s just okay at a lot of things. That’s all it really needs to be though. The promise of an ever-expanding Marvel universe has me excited for the future of Marvel’s Avengers, and the game in its current state is just engaging enough to make me want to keep playing in order to prepare for upcoming content.
- This article was updated on:September 11th, 2020
- Available On: PC, PS4, Stadia, Xbox One
- Published By: Square Enix
- Developed By: Crystal Dynamics
- Genre: RPG
- US Release Date: September 4, 2020
- Reviewed On: Xbox One X
- Quote: "Marvel's Avengers is not particularly great at any one thing. Instead, it's just okay at a lot of things, and that's all it really needs to be."