Developer(s) – Crystal Dynamics, Edios-Montréal, Crystal Northwest, Nixxes Software
Publisher – Square Enix
Platform(s) – PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Google Stadia
MSRP – $59.99
Release Date – September 4th, 2020
Thanks to Square Enix for Providing A Review Copy
I won’t lie, my overall feeling on everything surrounding Marvel’s Avengers since its initial reveal at E3 2019 was skepticism. From the decision to make this game a live service and my concerning feelings on the Beta, I was very uncertain about how I’d feel about this game. Crystal Dynamics, a studio that most will probably know from their work on Tomb Raider had their work cut out for them with a new direction. This game was going to be a big release this year no matter what simply because of the name Marvel’s Avengers attached to it. With all my skepticism and uncertainty leading up to Marvel’s Avengers, how is the actual game itself, well let’s find out.
One of the main reasons I and many were looking forward to this game was for the story. The campaign starts on A-Day in San Francisco where all 5 Avengers are set to reveal a high-tech headquarters and their new helicarrier. A-Day becomes a day known in infamy as a disastrous attack results in a Terrigen Crystal that powered their helicarrier being turned into a Terrigen Mist. The Mist gives anyone who was exposed to it supernatural powers and those exposed would later be known as Inhumans. A-Day leaves the Golden Gate Bridge and a substantial part of San Francisco destroyed. The aftermath results in the Avengers disbanding.
Five years after the events of A-Day, Avengers and Inhumans alike have been condemned by A.I.M, an organization that feels science is the key to keeping the world in check. Kamala Khan, a teenager from New Jersey who was exposed to the Terrigen Mist on A-Day and not to mention a massive Avengers fan has still been fixated on these events all these years later. Kamala is one of the few Inhumans who have been able to conceal her powers ever since A-Day. However, certain events lead her to become a target for A.I.M, now Kamala has to reform the Avengers before the threat that A.I.M possesses to the world becomes a reality.
That’s the main synopsis of the story of Marvel’s Avengers and I won’t go any further for those who want to avoid massive spoilers. One thing that I was fond of during the Beta was the direction the narrative was going in and I’m glad to say that fondness carried over into the full game. The story works for many reasons and I’ll go over the biggest ones.
Kamala Khan, she’s the best part of this game for me. Sandra Saad does a tremendous job portraying her character. She adds a certain vigor that this story would no doubt be missing if she wasn’t in this game. The decision to make her the main protagonist was the right one and one that I must commend Crystal Dynamics on.
This story doesn’t overstay it’s welcome in the slightest. Games can go any length that’s necessary to tell a coherent story but it’s all about pacing and execution. It took me close to 15 hours to finish the campaign (It can be done much shorter if you avoid side missions). Nothing ever felt dragged out or tedious in terms of main narrative tasks that I had to complete. Everything that was done was to advance the narrative and nothing else.
Crystal Dynamics did a wonderful job on the narrative, it’s fun, not too long, and has likable characters. The only thing I can critique about the story is its dialogue. Dialogue can be a bit too cheesy for my taste at times, but it wasn’t too frequent that it became a huge issue for my overall experience with Marvel’s Avengers.
Gameplay-wise, there’s a whole lot to unwrap from my experience. During the Beta, I was only able to play as Iron Man, Kamala Khan, Hulk, and Black Widow. I felt that they did a great job making each character feel different to play as. Now after being able to play as Thor and Captain America for more than a couple of minutes, I can reaffirm these feelings. It was very important that each Avenger felt different and Crystal Dynamics did this to perfection.
- Iron Man – Stark is pretty straightforward to play as. You’ll mostly be firing energy beams and rockets from above and using melee on the ground. He probably has my favorite Ultimate ability with the Hulkbuster, a gigantic suit of armor that he calls down that greatly increases his damage output and basically gives you infinite health. My only complaint with Iron Man is his flying, it feels so janky and all over the place at times and I wonder if I even have full control, I felt this way during the Beta and I still feel that way now.
- Kamala Khan – Due to the events of A-Day, Kamala attained the ability to stretch her limbs out to vast lengths and grow to the size of a goliath. You’ll mostly melee with Kamala but besides Thor, she probably has the best mobility.
- Captain America – Throwing around Cap’s shield is almost as much fun as rag dolling enemies as Hulk. Cap’s gameplay is probably the smoothest experience out of all the Avengers and similar to Kamala, it’s mostly melee that you’ll be using (at least for me). I do feel that his abilities are lacking in variation a bit.
- Hulk – Picking up enemies and whacking them around is fun, that’s all I’ll say here.
- Black Widow – Her guns are amazing, there’s no weight to them and she has my most used combo in the game. Tether towards an enemy, melee for a bit, back up and shoot pistols, then repeat.
- Thor – My favorite Avenger to play as by a long shot. Using Mjölnir to fly around is incredibly satisfying and steady. He can float in the air of course and it fits my playstyle to a tee since I usually like to have an overlook of a given battle. I was worried Mjölnir would feel too heavy and I started to rest easy when I realized that wasn’t the case.
You upgrade each Avenger through skill points and a loot game that’s about as confusing and poorly implemented as can be. The loot you collect from crates along the lines of a breastplate, helmet, or a skeleton hand (yes, you read that right) doesn’t appear on your character when equipped. Quite honestly, the loot system in place doesn’t fit a Marvel’s Avengers game in the slightest and doesn’t feel like it adds to the gameplay at all.
A couple of things that I was very upset about in the Beta were the performance issues and clunkiness. I’m pleased to report that these issues were definitely rectified a bit in the full release, although it doesn’t mean they were completely defunct. Framerate drops are frequent and while they never made the game borderline unplayable, it was definitely annoying to deal with. Enemy variety and unique boss battles are lacking a bit and don’t seem to reach the potential they could’ve.
I never got that repetitive feeling when it comes to combat like I feared I would because of how dynamic each character felt to play. The repetitiveness started to become apparent when it comes to mission design. It feels like most mission design consists of securing areas or destroying servers or specific energy cores. It’s really noticeable when you finish the campaign and start delving into the multiplayer missions. The securing area missions are the absolute worst, in a game where I feel it suits the player to constantly move around in combat, being forced to stand around in a square while in combat really ruins the flow. This is something that I hope and think will be fixed in later updates with more creative mission design.
Level design can be hit or miss at times but it’s mostly a hit where it’ll matter for those experiencing the narrative. The misses however come incredibly frequently when it comes to the multiplayer missions. There doesn’t feel like many vigorous level designs made it into the Co-op missions, each level feels the same There can be terrific set-pieces like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Ambrosia Satellite, and the final boss fortress that allow room for improvisation. Then there can be bland repeating canyon set-pieces that aren’t that vibrant. As I said, it’s a hit most of the time instead of a mid where the narrative is concerned, I just wish they were more consistent throughout all other aspects obecause they definitely can if they wanted too.
Marvel’s Avengers has been the brunt of many glitch clips and I can definitely say that I experienced many of them in my playthrough. Kamala Khan went bald in one cutscene and Captain America literally was headless in another cutscene. War Table Icons would stay on the screen in cutscenes when they obviously weren’t supposed to. Subtitles wouldn’t match what was happening on-screen at times. Enemies would constantly clip into the ground and disappear in thin air but would still be firing their guns. All of these things coming together show me that a bit more polish on this game was needed.
Load times can be flat out ridiculous at times, For a simple fail in a stealth mission or a mistake in a quick time sequence, you’ll be forced to sit through an exceedingly long loading screen. I felt this exact same way with Control from Remedy and I don’t if it’s because I’ve been spoiled with loading times in other games. All I know is that going from load times in Ghost of Tsushima to load times in Marvel’s Avengers is like night and day.
Graphically, Marvel’s Avengers is fine, they’re not the best we’ve seen on this generation of console, that honor would probably go to games such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us Part II. Some textures fall flat, during the opening sequence on A-Day, I was playing as Kamala Khan and was looking at food that looked like polygons thrown together. Overall though I can’t complain, they did really well with attention to detail in some areas.
It may seem as though I’ve been mixed on my opinion of Marvel’s Avengers for most of this review. Truth is, I do like this game a lot but its main problem is that it tries to do too many things at once. This leads us to a big talking point of this game, the decision to make it a live service.
If Marvel’s Avengers was going to be a live service, it had to be done right. Monetization wise, this game isn’t pay-to-win at all, the microtransactions come in the form of cosmetics. The problem with live service in this game is that it makes things too convoluted in terms of actual execution. Matchmaking can still take some time to find players and I honestly don’t know why since it’s not like this game has a shortage of players right now and I know I’m not the only one having this issue.
The live service and monetization don’t bother me like it might bother others. I fully expect Marvel’s Avengers to do a complete turnaround on the multiplayer aspect of the game. New Characters like Hawkeye and Spider-Man (PlayStation Exclusive) are already confirmed to be coming soon. Challenges will be updated weekly. I’m sure we’ll see frequent content drops in the weeks and months to come with new missions with better mission design, more story, and an enhanced experience overall. I’ll probably end up doing a retrospective in a couple of months looking back at where Marvel’s Avengers was and where it is now. However, I have to review the game in its current state and I feel there should’ve been more of a focus towards these live service components at launch if it was made such a big deal for this title up to its release.
Is Marvel’s Avengers a fun game? Absolutely. I didn’t get bored of the combat, the narrative intrigued me, and I can tell Crystal Dynamics’ passion for this title was huge. A lot of problems add up in the end though such as the repetitive mission design, loot game, and many bugs I encountered. If you take away some of the live service elements and ask me to review this game simply for the campaign alone, I’d give this game about an 8.5 or 9 out of 10, that’s how much I enjoyed the story. Unfortunately, when you get to certain commodities post-campaign and a couple of live service elements, you realize that some things are simply lacking right now.
Marvel’s Avengers is an overall enjoyable experience if you’re looking for a fun short story with thrilling gameplay. Repetitiveness outside of the main campaign is what holds this game back substantially. The loot game is poorly implemented and certain design choices leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. There’s a chance I’ll head back to Marvel’s Avengers when these content drops happen. This game is something that you might enjoy if you’re playing for the narrative and combat experience alone. Overall, As for now, Marvel’s Avengers is a fun and flawed experience.
Rating - 7/10