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Marvel’s Avengers is Not Quite Worth Assembling For Just Yet

With its faulty single-player and a bare albeit entertaining multiplayer, Marvel’s Avengers is not quite worth assembling.



Marvel's Avengers Review

Marvel’s Avengers Review

Developer: Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-Montréal | Publisher: Square Enix | Genre: Action-Adventure | Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, Microsoft Windows | Reviewed On: PlayStation 4

What is there to truly say about the Avengers, Earth’s mightiest heroes? Marvel Studio’s filmmaking decisions have launched them from trailing the throne of comic books to the current kings of pop culture in a matter of a decade. With how many phenomenal movies, comics, and television shows the most relevant members of the team have been featured in over the last few years, it is unsurprising that they would eventually attempt to find proper success in the video game department. While it is at the bare minimum pleasant to both play and watch, compared to any of these characters’ previous outings in the medium, Marvel’s Avengers built from the home of the Final Fantasy series still disappointingly misses out on its true potential mere hours after it’s opening campaign missions.

Marvel fans will certainly not be as satisfied with Avengers as they were with Insomniac’s critically acclaimed Spider-Man title- not by a longshot- but Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montréal, and Square Enix still have managed to create an acceptable title in the superhero genre that stays true to its source material. With its current competition of action games and promise of future content, this title yearns to be worth a future playthrough at the very least for those in love with its charismatic and heartfelt cast of characters. As it stands, however, it is a questionable current purchase that can not fully uphold its presented value. With its faulty single-player and a bare albeit entertaining multiplayer, Marvel’s Avengers is not quite worth assembling for at the moment- something my heart aches to say as a longtime fan of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s world-changing work.

Avengers assemble… for a shaky solo campaign with strong leads and a somewhat more exciting though flawed multiplayer component.

Before diving into the main multiplayer component that takes up the vast majority of the title, we need to dig into the campaign first- or at least what there is to dig into. Without spoiling the game’s story, Marvel’s Avengers focuses on the cataclysmic events of AIM’s presence at a dedicated Avengers-Day celebration where a new energy source is tested by the mustache twirly technological giant that of course fails miserably. After the event goes horribly wrong in pure comic book fashion, the game skips time by five years to show how Shield has been torn apart, thousands of civilians who developed powers are branded as dangerous inhumans, Stark Industries is liquidated by the government, and the Avengers become the world’s scapegoat due to Bruce Banner’s testimonies. The opening four hours of this campaign is pure magic as it establishes a high stake story with a (no pun intended) marvelous lead character. It will without a doubt put a smile on every player’s face who has grown to love the Avengers, however, after that magnificent opening comes a slow downhill burn it only proceeds to worsen as the story continues.

Marvel’s Avengers for the most part follows the coming of age story of Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, but saying that she is definitively the protagonist is a questionable statement. The game constantly hops between the stories of different Avengers except an overwhelming number of missions and character points completely fall out of line with the core narrative. While its characters are bolstering with personality, the story is bare-bones and shallow, lacking a real focus. Outside of Kamala and Banner, none of the other Avengers or even villains for that matter have any real compelling story points or character arcs to travel through. The cast is simply on a mission because it is the right thing to do. You would think based on the opening chapter that every character was going to receive a unique arc as it masterfully sets the stage, but Marvel’s Avengers never takes its time to properly build character. The Avengers are certainly enjoyable to always see interacting with each other as they are blooming with the characteristics you love about each of them, but it is hard to not think about how there is little to no longterm goal established for the team. Some of its cast even shows up way to late into the game to receive any proper story treatment- although that is something debatably targeted entirely at Thor who has zero importance to the game’s plot, I am more so looking at another icon I can not specify due to spoilers.

On top of this, we have multiplayer gameplay that attempts to utilize itself during the single-player; an idea that sounds fine on paper, but rarely works out in the long run. Marvel’s Avengers plays like most other third-person action-adventure titles. Similarly to previous Batman and Spider-Man games, your goal will be to take down enemies to gain experience which can in turn be traded for upgrades once you obtain skill points. Skill points allow you to unlock more combos and a wide range of enjoyable attacks to use while loot you pick up is exclusively utilized for upgrading or exchanging gear. Rather than focusing on building up one character, the game forces you to work with six at a time. If you plan on playing the game on a harder difficulty or just want to unlock the combos you could potentially be using a meaty chunk of your playtime grinding through repeated side quests and jumping between menus as you attempt to build the most powerful Avenger possible to survive. The solo campaign also has no multiplayer despite being designed with having four players on the field which can make some missions downright brutal. The AI can be next to useless as they fumble their way around and ignore reviving you if you are down, rarely can you ever rely on their help in dangerously hostile situations.

Despite all its problems, however, Avengers is still a blast to actually play- especially with a group of friends or online randoms who know what they are doing. Taking out all the meandering and hassles caused by computer players or unnecessary external gameplay factors, when you are actually on the battlefield with three friends the game’s fun factor excessively increases and ultimately proves where its worth lies. Each Avenger may have the same controller setups and similar playstyles, but it is completely fine as it allows you to experiment and easily grasp each unique character. Figuring out who you work with best with is simple and jumping between characters is thankfully an uncomplicated breeze. When Marvel’s Avengers is focused on cooperative and tight action gameplay it thrives. Perhaps some of the sound design is not as satisfying as it could be, but everything looks and feels as if it has weight. Every character is a pleasure to play and hear. Underneath its nonsensical side missions and collectible management mishaps is an actual game worth your while.

The worst aspect of Marvel’s Avengers gameplay is without a doubt its unnecessary in-game system of loot and armor upgrades that was clearly made to incorporate unreasonable microtransactions. Square Enix has opted to shove in-game purchases into their title’s bland and unsatisfying upgradeable gear system that contains unnecessary cosmetics and emotes locked behind either a paywall or alternatively to many hours of your time. Worst of all, the gear system takes you out of the action as you dump excessive amounts of time into staring at menus or running around the game’s hub world looking for different vendors rather than jumping directly back into the action. Perhaps for the online this can be a fine addition to the game as it allows users to express themselves or work for rewards, but for the campaign, it feels unwanted as it constantly puts everything you want to see on pause nonstop.

Marvel’s Avengers graphically struggles to maintain a clear vision between taking inspiration from both its Hollywood and Comic Book counterparts, but it still finds success.

It would be an understatement to say that the designs and aesthetics expected from any piece of modern art featuring the Avengers cast are going to require a high-end coat of supervision and polish to meet audience standards. Crystal Dynamics’s fan expectations were put into a demanding spot since the announcement of their Marvel project. The developer’s previous graphical work on their Tomb Raider trilogy was simply fantastic and after Insomniac’s tremendously well-received Spider-Man game last year, how could Marvel fans not expect something worthy of a pedestal placement for the comic book company’s golden crop of icons? While Crystal Dynamics may lack the facial likenesses of each hero’s major Hollywood counterpart, the development team still managed to provide a notable job in adapting pop culture’s current biggest phenomenon of characters. It certainly is nowhere near as perfect or perhaps even as good as Insomniac’s wall-crawler, but that does not mean there is nothing to appreciate in the team’s work.

Where the art department for Marvel’s Avengers struggles is finding a balance between attempting to draw inspiration from both those Hollywood stars and comic book drawings when it comes to facial features. There are characters like Ms. Marvel and the Hulk that look stellar from head to toe- characters that have not been featured on the big screen or are covering the majority of their face are the ones that tend to look the most visually appealing, but then others like Captain America and Thor can be a gamble of odds depending on camera angles and settings. The developers have constantly attempted to rework character models throughout the game’s development, but their efforts have not been completely successful- although they clearly have demonstrated improvement if you compare the game’s different builds leading up to its launch. Nonetheless, everyone still is presented both visually and soundingly as they should be. Anyone who picks up the title can easily find comfort in the game’s cast of characters, especially when it comes to the voice cast.

The actors behind the scenes have done a spectacular job in bringing their characters to life (Nolan North (Tony Stark/Iron Man) and Troy Baker (Bruce Banner/Hulk), for me personally are always my favorites to watch as they are giving it their all as per usual). Sandra Saad as Kamala Khan, in particular, is the absolute highlight- Marvel should introduce this character into their movie lineup in the future. Without the proper visuals, however, some of these interpretations can come off as a bit displeasing in specific instances. They can feel as if they are carbon copies lacking some of the distinct aspects fans love about these icons. A few of these characters visually look odd or flat, unlike their other plentiful interpretations across various mediums that are bolstering with personality and inspiration too. Once again, the characters never appear as terrible or unbearable by any means- in fact, everyone who falls a bit short visually is fine by most triple-a title standards, but unlike the environments and overall settings the game has to offer, they seem to lack the faultlessness we have come to expect from the movie standards- they just lack that final cover of excellent polish.

While on the topic of excellent polish, we sadly have yet another game that treats base current generation console owners in certain chapters like afterthoughts. The real problem Marvel’s Avengers face outside of their cast of middling villains is the title’s texture loading and frame rate that can be downright miserable at times if you are not playing on PC, PlayStation 4 Pro, or an Xbox One X. On upgraded platforms, Marvel’s Avengers runs generally fine as it faces hurdles of frame rate drops now and then, but on base consoles, the game can sometimes take a hit comparable to the Hulk smashing Bruce Banner if they were separated. Staying outside of the fact that the game is never truly able to reach a consistent thirty frames per second, there are in-game action scenes that can practically look like a slide show as it noticeably struggles to hold itself above even twenty frames at a time. Marvel’s Avengers is filled with technical roadblocks from nearly every angle. I hate to pick on Square Enix, but this developer requires either more QA testing, better coders, or more development time. This is not their first troublesome title this generation, this applies to nearly all their games.

Despite its characters worthy of holding their iconic namesakes, if you are not united with friends then Avengers nearly falls apart.

With a tremendous amount of issues, the latest interpretation of Earth’s mightiest heroes will be a hard recommendation for players looking for more than just an entertaining multiplayer experience, however, it may be something keep an eye on in the future. As a huge Marvel fan, I was delighted by Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montréal, and Square Enix’s take on some of my absolute favorite superheroes character-wise, however, I absolutely can not say the same when it comes to its core gameplay structure that is constantly interrupted and flow of campaign events that suffer from a lack of focus despite its strong cast. I would be lying if I did not state how this title was able to put a smile on my face time and time again during its opening hours, but outside of that comforting beginning, its magic rapidly wore as it continued to introduce new mechanics and attempt to blend it’s solo and cooperative ideas together. Underneath all its technical problems though was a good time ready to be had due to satisfying gameplay.

While the core experience may not have been as fully authentic or smooth-sailing as one would hope, to any fan of these characters whether they are a casual moviegoer or longtime comic book reader will have a blast being able to roam around as some of their favorite Avengers in a sandbox sized space. The lack of compelling characters and the discombobulated story is beyond upsetting, but at the very least Marvel’s Avengers is still able to provide a solid gameplay experience fans will no doubt be enthralled by. With the promise of the addition of more single-player character stories being added to the game down the line- soon starting with Kate Bishop the second Hawkeye and King T’Challah himself Black Panther- the future of Marvel’s Avengers is looking brighter. However, that does put into question whether it is worth playing now or waiting for more content to release in the future. Potential adopters should hold out for a sale, let the game get some patches, and be able to experience a more complete campaign.

Creative writer, NXpress Host, and Games Editor. I have always held a high interest in the fields of professional writing and communications. You can find me with my head deep in the espionage genre or in a kayak upstream. I’ll always be first in line for the next Hideo Kojima or Masahiro Sakurai game.