It would be fair to say that Marvel’s Avengers has had a lot working against it up till now. Poor marketing, generic character designs, and the typical cynicism that follow a live-service game have made it a bit of a roller coaster for fans of Marvel’s main team-up. Now we can finally see for ourselves whether Crystal Dynamic's take on the group is worthy. Short answer? It's a lot more complicated than that.
Marvel’s Avengers takes place five years after a catastrophic event tears the team apart and outlaws all heroes, leaving the world in control by an authoritarian regime. Although all of the main players are here, the core of Marvel’s Avengers is a coming-of-age story about Kamala Khan. Kamala is at the heart of this story, and she’s easily one of the best things about the game, which makes sense considering she’s the only hero here that isn’t trying to ape something from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This also applies to the main villain, MODOK, who is entertaining to watch here and feels genuinely unique to this game.
Kamala and MODOK aren’t the only good things about the story though, as pretty much all of the characters are represented well. Iron Man has the same swagger you’d expect, Bruce is awkward yet angry, and Captain America is the paragon of virtue that the team needs him to be. Thor is a little underutilised (literally just coming back in the last hour with no rhyme or reason) but besides that there’s plenty for fans of these heroes to enjoy here, even if there’s an overwhelming feeling that you’re watching a knock-off version of what’s been shown on the big screen.
Saying that, the presentation here is generally quite impressive. Design issues aside, a lot of time and money has clearly been put into making all of the environments and characters look great, and that effort does go a long way to making this feel like one of the movies it’s clearly trying to emulate. Whether you’re smashing through walls as Hulk or blowing up robots as Iron Man it looks like what you’d expect to see on the big screen and it’s a real spectacle to watch.
The campaign also showcases the best of how the game actually plays thanks to a lack of focus on enemy levels and stat points. The combat is the real star here as it feels very crunchy and responsive. All of the characters have unique characteristics and moves that make experimentation really fun and allow them all to feel unique from one another. You'll almost definitely walk away with a favourite that you want to focus on upgrading. Mine was Captain America, whose shield feels fantastic to throw and combo with his close-range melee attacks. I cannot stress enough how great the combat feels in Marvel's Avengers, and it's easily one of the best I've seen in a game like it. The campaign also features some platforming moments and some unique set-pieces that don't work quite as well as the combat, but they add a little bit of variety into the mix.
I was very surprised to walk away from the ten hour campaign mode with a genuine smile on my face and having actually felt something. There are some really good Marvel moments here, some great set-pieces, and the brevity of it all really lets the combat not get too stale. On its own, the Avengers campaign is solid fun that really seems to get the appeal of these characters in a similar way to Marvel’s Spider-Man. In a perfect world, perhaps this would have been the only focus of Marvel’s Avengers and we’d all be walking away from a brief, but focused experience.
Unfortunately we know that’s not the case and that the main focus here is the live service elements and multiplayer elements. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have some fun with it and, whilst I can certainly see some potential in the future, most of the problems I have lie here
Let's be positive and get the good out of the way first. Importantly, playing through missions with friends or strangers online can really showcase some of the excellent combat mechanics as robots get hammered from all sides by you and your team. The cosmetic rewards are all fantastic, and I appreciate that Avengers is packed with missions and items to work towards if you so wish. There's also plenty of upcoming content in the works for those interested, and all of it is very appealing for Marvel fans and being offered for free. I can also say from personal experience that Avengers is the perfect game to switch your brain off to and put on a podcast or listen to some music whilst you play.
When everything works and you're chucking your shield at some robots asIron Man flies by and Thor calls thunder down from the skies, there's a little bit of Marvel magic that shows the sort of potential that was being aimed for.It makes me sad that it can't be like that all the time. As it stands right now, there's an air of cynicism permeating throughout the live-service aspect of the game that makes it really hard to just sit and enjoy playing. There's constant reminders of loot & cosmetics. It's incredibly grindy and far too focused on credits, resources, and just about six other types of currencies that all progress towards something or other. In fact, there are so many elements of Marvel's Avengers that simply feel overwhelming. There's an absurd amount of stat numbers and useless gear and types of missions to the point that when playing I'd just go on autopilot and hope for the best. As much fun as it is to smash robots, there simply isn't enough focus.
This would be okay if there were some unique missions but right now there really aren't. Almost all of the missions have you doing the same sorts of things. Even in cases where it appears the game is trying something new, you’ll shortly see that same element used in another mission. I was pretty surprised to see a special puzzle appear in one of the missions I played, before realising that it would simply appear again in another similarly structured mission. All you do is go to similar looking locations and punch the same robots with the admittedly great combat system.
Progression is incredibly important for a live game, and unfortunately Avengers falls very flat in this area. To be fair, it's not all bad as each character has a great skill tree and ability set to work towards, and some of the cosmetics you can unlock are really cool for Marvel fans. Beyond the extra costumes, I felt like the post-game has a problem with just not having enough worthwhile content in it at the moment. I didn't feel like I was working towards anything or being rewarded very well for my time and in fact the economy here is straight up grindy. Skins and cosmetics cost a lot of real-world money or a lot of time pumped into them to unlock which makes some of the playtime feel pointless. This is planned to be a live game for some time to come, but it's still a shame to see such a harsh marketplace. This whole economy also ties into one of the game's biggest problems - the gear system.
Simply put, the gear doesn’t work because it doesn’t offer any incentive to use it besides some paltry stat increases. Missions and objectives use gear as a reward for completing them, but I often found it to be far more hassle than it was worth. I wasn’t going to beat up twenty more robots to see my damage go up a tiny bit. This may seem silly, but part of the appeal of gear is seeing how it affects how you look and letting you build your own version of a character. Yes, the skins here are all really cool but there needed to be some sort of link between the cosmetic and the mechanical here.
It also needs to be said that at launch Marvel’s Avengers is not in a very good state. There are numerous progression bugs, glitches, and crashes that can hinder your experience,Even if that’s pretty typical for a live-service game, it’s still disappointing to see just how buggy the game has launched. I personally haven’t ran into some of the bigger ones, but numerous glitches and inconsistencies can be found with ease in online communities and social media. The worst for me had to be the game glitching me through a rock and refusing to trigger a story event that meant I couldn’t progress until restarting the mission. Then there are some of the funnier ones I’ve had, like one of Captain America’s costumes distorting his eyes and teeth like something out of Assassin’s Creed Unity.
For every part of Marvel's Avengers that you might love, there's another side to it that drags it down. There really is a lot to love here, like it's fantastic combat, loveable characters and fun multiplayer, but there's also plenty of glitches, unbalanced economies and poor missions that can make playing feel like a drag. Having some of my favourite Marvel characters decorating a pretty great third-person-action-brawler was enough for me to see it through and feel like I would be coming back for more, but at the moment it feels like one that only Marvel fans will really enjoy.
Versions tested: PS4 Pro
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.