After a whole lot of hype, a mixed bag of a Beta, and a controversial PS4-only character deal, Marvel’s Avengers, one of the most anticipated games of the summer, has finally shipped. After all of the drama that came before its release, everyone is after the answer to one question – how does it play?
The answer? Well… Stick around and I’ll try to tell you what I thought about the game.
Marvel’s Avengers, if you didn’t already know, is Crystal Dynamics first foray into the minefield that is Games as a Service, that recent addition to the gaming genre that appears to have been created in order to generate as much money after the initial purchase of the game. With the might of the Avengers behind them, on paper the whole idea is a fanboy’s dream – play as any of the classic Avengers line up in an online, ever-changing and dynamic world, but somewhere it appears to have fallen slightly short in its execution. Don’t get me wrong, the game is good, and the time I have spent so far I have enjoyed, but some crucial element seems missing at the minute. As a self-confessed comic nerd, that is a hard confession to have to make. Exactly what that is, I don’t quite know, but Marvel’s Avengers feels like it came close to greatness and just fell short.
The game starts in a mission that has had plenty of publicity since E3 last year. Taking place in San Fransisco, with Marvel’s Avengers already an established superhero team. In recognition of there efforts and to launch a new energy source, a whole expo has been set up in their honour. In typical fashion it isn’t long before things go wrong, resulting in dire consequences for the Avengers.
As introductory missions go, Marvel’s Avengers pretty much nails the opening. You don’t start off playing as one of the usual heavy hitters, but instead, Kamala Khan, known to many as Ms.Marvel. During the opening mission, Kamala is powerless and instead is on her way to the expo as a fan having won a fanfiction competition. Using Kamala and seeing her geek out over the various exhibits and heroes is something that most of us can relate to, and it is in the opening 20 minutes that I really started to feel an affinity with Kamala, a superhero who by and large isn’t on many people’s radar. Introducing her in such a way is a defy stroke, and establishes her early on as a likeable protagonist. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and exploring the expo in this way felt very similar to something we as a player would do, and it allows the whole spectacle of the whole thing to be shown off without jumping into the shoes of one of the top-billed heroes and fly about the spot, overpowered and super strong from the get-go.
After this opening mission has set the scene, it’s off to the races and the narrative soon picks up in pace. Without giving too much away Kamala quickly uncovers something which leads her in a quest of getting the Avengers back together, and over the course of the 10-hour or so campaign, that is exactly what you set off to do.
By using the campaign as a sort of taster platter you get a feel for each of the individual heroes as they are introduced, with each coming with their own moves and skill set. Iron Man can obviously fly, while Hulk can bound across the map as he leaps and smashes his way across the landscape. Each hero does play differently, allowing you to pick a favourite that is best suited to your play style. On the downside, there are a couple of the heroes who are introduced later in the campaign who do feel less fun to play, at least until they are levelled up a little bit further.
Levelling takes two forms – a hero level dictated by experience gained from completing mission objectives and defeating enemies, and a power level which is dependent on the equipment you are currently wearing. Equipment can be dropped by enemies you defeat, found in chests or rewarded as you complete objectives on a hero’s Challenge card or faction related tasks. There are vendors too who will happily sell you pieces of equipment, for a price. As well as boosting your power level, equipment comes with many perks and attributes that can give you an extra boost in battle, improving your stats and offering a variety of offensive and defensive options that you can tinker and mess around with. In short, Marvel’s Avengers comes with all the bells and whistles you would expect from a high tier RPG, offering enough in the way of drops that even the most dedicated junkie is guaranteed to feel some sort of dopamine high when they slot in their latest piece of armour. The problem isn’t that Marvel’s Avengers is light on loot, but in fact that it maybe throws too much at you. I found a lot of the time I would focus on my power level and main stats in order to be the toughest and strongest hero I could be – I didn’t really care if I had a small percentage chance of gaining some willpower provided I could smack the AIM robots about a little bit. The end goal became getting the highest power level, and all the other added bonuses were merely decoration.
Another downside to this equipment grind is exactly that – the decoration. I never became attached to a piece of equipment, and this is by and large because they are there solely to boost your stats. There is no other physical change in your appearance. Gauntlets can be equipped and swapped out on Black Widow, which will have an impact on some hidden percentage value but little else. Her character skin, which itself can be changed depending on what you have unlocked via her Challenge card, remains the same with the little pieces of armour having no impact on how she looks. I could go into battle with Iron Man at a power level of 20, and he would look identical in every way to an Iron Man just starting out, should we wish to deck him out in the same skin. Granted, Marvel’s Avengers limits you from loading in two of any character to prevent this from happening, but it would be nice if swapping the equipment had a more visual effect and didn’t simply feel like tinkering under the hood.
Equipment too can be boosted, using resources found in each level and by dismantling redundant pieces in your inventory. Again these systems, like the Challenge card and Power level, have been seen before, and managing inventory and rewards becomes as much a part of the game as the kicking ass does.
Combat is a decent if standard affair. Each hero has some basic and power attacks, with special hero moves that can be pulled off once sufficient Willpower has been earned through combat. Iron Man can summon in the HulkBuster, while Hulk can use a Thunder Clap to damage groups of enemies in your immediate vicinity. Each hero has a ranged attack too, and of these Thor’s hammer is by far the most satisfying to throw then summon back, complete with a gratifying, straight out of the comics “thunk” as it returns.
Each hero can acquire more attacks or power up their abilities using skill points, acquired as you level up, and they each have their own skill tree that offers a lot of depth to how you play depending on where you invest them.
At a certain point in the main campaign, you unlock the War Table, which gives you access to Marvel’s Avengers multiplayer component. Essentially the War Table is a map, with the various missions spread out across it, some are single-player, some multiplayer. My advice to anyone starting out would be to finish the single-player content first before jumping in on any of online stuff – not only will this give each of your heroes a good boost in experience and equipment, but you also avoid any spoilers from the main game. You can’t really do this by accident as the game warns you otherwise, but really why jump straight in on multiplayer until you have unlocked all of the heroes at your disposal?
While the main campaign is varied and mixes up the heroes that you use, multiplayer content does feel largely repetitive at the minute, and although the scenery might change the objectives are often very similar- defeat an enemy or hold an area as waves of enemies spawn in. With a decent squad beside you, these missions can be a breeze, but for any lone wolves out there I can imagine the game becoming repetitive rather quickly without a buddy to bounce back and forth with. Should you wish, you can enable matchmaking to either play with a friend or some random stranger on the internet, with the option to turn this off entirely and play each mission with an AI squad backing you up, but really Marvel’s Avengers is built around its multiplayer component.
From what I have played so far, matchmaking is smooth, with my only complaint being that sometimes my buddy doesn’t show up in the games “tactical awareness”, which is essentially the games pinging system. This became a right pain when we would be spread out across the map and discover a chest or some other collectable, only for them not to show up and to then have to be guided to their location. Even more of a pain when our other AI squadmates got their own little symbol to show me exactly where they were at any given moment – hopefully, this can be patched to make it a bit more workable.
Other than this minor squabble, I am currently enjoying my time teaming up and taking on AIM with a buddy. Luckily our taste in heroes is slightly different so we have spent most of our time levelling up different ones which avoids any awkward “I want to be Iron Man” moments, but this could be a problem if you are wanting to play in bigger groups. Marvel’s Avengers supports up to 4 player coop, but who would want to jump into a mission with their weakest hero simply because all the rest are taken? Again, the main campaign does a decent enough job of getting your heroes off on a level footing, but once the single-player content is finished it is up to you to ensure you have a suitable rotation to keep levelling up your characters further.
Each hero comes with their own Challenge card, with daily and weekly challenges that reward both additional experience and unlocks such as character skins and nameplates. Rotating through each character and trying to complete as many of these as possible with each one is the safest course of action, but being totally honest there are just some heroes that felt better to play than others. This meant they levelled up without much of a problem, but playing as some of the other heroes did feel a little bit of a chore – and that is just my personal preference. As yet this still hasn’t presented too much of a problem, but I can see it becoming one a little later down the line of the content keeps coming and this becomes a game that can be played for the long haul (I’m looking at you Destiny 2).
With a variety of characters scheduled to be added post-launch, I am interested in seeing the content that comes alongside them and how they will receive a sufficient level boost in order to quickly catch up to my stronger heroes, or else the appeal be of replaying the same missions again but with a weaker skillset will be non-existent.
Thinking long term, I can see Marvel’s Avengers being something I will dip in and out of. I am hopeful that the few cosmetic issues will be ironed out in future patches, and content can be refined and added over the coming months to give it a bit more replay value. Currently, I see myself aiming for top tier levels with a few of the core heroes, but not all, and this feels like a little bit of a mixed opportunity. I know I will come back with the release of new heroes, and I will probably be drawn back by Spider-Man and the excuse of playing it all again in the PS5 come January, but after that who knows? Marvel’s Avengers still has that potential to be great, and hopefully, Crystal Dynamics will continue to tweak and refine the current formula until they get it right.
Marvel's Avengers PS4 Review
- Overall - Fantastic - 8/108/10
Marvel's Avengers has a lot of potential - a great single-player campaign and a solid multiplayer that feels like a mix of what has gone before. Playing as the Avengers is good, with a decent a satisfying combat system to back it up, but missions do start to feel repetitive and run the risk of becoming bland through over use. Hopefully, Crystal Dynamics has a good road map over the coming few years that can turn a good game into a great one.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy. Reviewed using base PS4
Reviewed using PS4 Pro