The best choice Crystal Dynamics made with Marvel’s Avengers was to have the story told from an outside perspective. The Avengers of this universe are already established heroes, legends amid a festival of fanfare and merchandise. The subjects of enthusiastic fan fiction, which is how the main protagonist of this game, Kamala Khan, is introduced.
Her and her adorable dad are on an Avengers Quinjet, alongside fellow writing competition winners. Given the opportunity to rub shoulders with the desultory heroes themselves on their impressive Helicarrier. Kamala encounters several of the Avengers as a young fangirl, geeking out at collecting comic books to gain entry to the VIP area, after which all hell breaks loose and the Avengers are swiftly dealt a master blow that sees their reputation in tatters, their assets seized by the government and the team itself thrown to the wind.
We’re putting a Marvel’s Avengers team together.
Several years later, Kamala is dealing with her position as a victim of that fateful day. Imbued with inhuman powers that allow her to grow her limbs and body to giant, ass-kicking size. What follows is a generally enjoyable and well-written hero story in which Kamala is integral in bringing together the scattered members of the Avengers in a mission against the evil corporation that took over all of Tony Stark’s tech.
This campaign is the glue that holds this messy, almost unfinished game together. To say that it has technical issue is perhaps too generous. I don’t think I experience one story scene that did not have some kind of graphical glitch (it seems the devs really had problems with hair). I also had to quit the game at one point because a vendor did not have the required back button to return to the game proper. Marvel’s Avengers feels like it really needed a few more months in the oven just to make everything feel like the AAA title it so achingly aims towards.
Structurally, the game is also a mess, with a linear campaign that, just a couple of hours in, suddenly changes to a more open, Destiny-like experience that is obviously aimed at training you for the experience to come – online multiplayer and that long, long grind for loot and cosmetics. Strangely, although you must complete most of the campaign before you can dive into the multiplayer, you must still undergo training missions once you switch over. It’s almost as if Avengers has kept so many vestigial elements of production that it was impossible to extract them before release.
Superheroes by numbers.
While I found the story itself enjoyable (I absolutely love the interactions between Kamala and her father), the missions themselves are far from memorable. They take on the form of following markers to a place, doing the thing, listening to Jarvis or another Avenger talk for a bit, before perhaps a boss battle or a few waves of tough enemies before the mission is declared done. The most perplexing mission types were those that required me to claim specific zones (A, B, C, D) for Jarvis to hack a system or whatever.
These seem aimed at multiplayer groups, where each member can claim a zone and fight off the enemy. But when you try to do these solo, the companion AI will never seek out the zones themselves. Nor do they seem to protect them, so you are left running around like a headless chicken to bump enemy drones off each zone. Additionally, these zones are incredibly small glowing circles or squares on the ground and fighting waves of enemies regularly means you have to leave it to take care of them, which pauses your meter and lets the enemy hacking meter go up. The whole thing just feels unnecessarily stressful.
It’s never over.
There are a few boss battles through the campaign and they are not too bad. Usually a massive robot of some kind with red weak spots for you to bash. The final battle is quite cinematic and lets you use each of the heroes, culminating in the usual save-the-whole-world moment. That the story is not actually over by the end of the campaign was never in doubt. Given that we’ve been told that new story content will be divvied out over the coming months/years. Whether or not we will stick around to play these is debatable. While I enjoyed the single player a fair bit, I was not hooked by the loot or power system.
Loot is upgradeable and, funnily enough, there are about nine different currencies when it comes to boosting them. Boosting your equipped items is essential to surviving the quite difficult combat. I had to push the difficulty down to easy midway. Because I was not dealing enough damage against what was thrown at me. This might change during matchmaking as other players would presumably be much more help. The funny thing about loot is that it doesn’t show up visually on your character.
Loot. At what cost?
This is because cosmetic upgrades are another income stream for the game. Why give you a cool looking character when they can charge you for it?! Anyway, I rarely care about cosmetics, so I don’t have much else to say about them. If you want to waste your money, go for it. It is a bit sad, though, that it so strongly affects the logic and design of Avengers that it just feels like you’re either fully in or out. No in between.
I can’t see myself caring about the online portion at all, but I would come back for the story. If the new downloadable chunks turn out to be interesting, Marvel’s Avengers still holds as a worthwhile single player experience. It’s the kind of game you can mindlessly jump into for an hour or two. Each mission is nice and short, full of action and you get to play as Hulk, Thor, etc at the peak of their powers. I did have some issues with flying enemies. With no playable character having an effective ranged attack to deal with them reliably.
Again, with dim-witted AI, I was always left to deal with the flying pests. However this is a live service title so it might be a completely different animal in six months’ time. Once it’s been uber-patched. For now, I’d say it’s worth getting in early if you are a fan of superhero games and curious to see how it develops over time.
Marvel’s Avengers is a perfectly enjoyable, if not particularly well assembled, superhero action title with looter-shooter influences. A well written main story will give you ten hours of enjoyment. With extra missions available for each character after that, as well as the option of online. With daily challenges and heaps of loot to fluff around with, there’s certainly enough to do. Even if it all feels a bit bland and treadmilly.
A code for the Deluxe edition of the game was provided by the publisher for this review