Marvels’ Avengers on PS4
Marvel’s Avengers caught me by surprise for two reasons. First, how in the heck has it taken this long for a ‘true’ Avengers game to come to market? And second, how did it end up like this? Marvel’s Avengers is a game of two halves, and neither are anything special.
The Avengers have always been about kicking bad guy ass, together. In that sense, the ‘Avengers Initiative’ aspect of the game should be what resonates with fans most. It gives players a rotating selection of missions to take on alongside friends, as one of six Avengers (including Kamala Khan). To reach this, though, the game advises you to play through the campaign first. Not just because it acts as a nice tutorial, but because Avengers Initiative contains spoilers for the campaign story. So, like I assume most other players did, I hopped into the campaign first.
The campaign follows the story of Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) during her teenage years. She’s full of pep and has a contagiously feel-good demeanor to her, owed in no small part to the exceptional voice casting and delivery of the cliched dialogue. Across the board, the voice acting is exceptional, with the likes of Troy Baker coming in to give Bruce Banner’s lines a witty, intellectual feel. The actual dialog could have been a little less corny, but this is a Marvel game after all, so it all kinda fits with the source material.
In terms of the storyline itself, again it’s got its highs and lows. Following the events of A-Day, which saw the Avengers blamed for a terrorist attack that wasn’t their doing, Kamala embarks on a quest to get the Avengers back together, clear their names, and put an end to the mysterious and villainous AIM organization. It’s got twists and turns, but none of them will ever truly catch you off guard.
In the words of Kamala Khan, ‘good isn’t a thing you are, it’s a thing you do,’ and unfortunately, Marvel’s Avengers doesn’t actually do anything all that well. Despite a strong story and voice acting, when it comes to the gameplay and general performance, that’s where things start to really go downhill.
Gameplay largely focuses on controlling Kamala (or another Avenger) as you progress through a series of frequently re-used levels, button-mashing your way through hordes of enemies. You clear a bunch, pick up any loot, push on and rinse repeat. You may sometimes have objectives such as protecting civilians or Inhumans or preventing AIM bots from accessing terminals while Jarvis is doing his own hacking, but it all ends more or less the same way.
The same enemy types are reused time and time again, the ‘vault’ move (to get around the back of and expose shielded enemies) and parry systems seemingly decided when they wanted to work — more often than not they didn’t — and sadly some of the most anticipated heroes to play as… just aren’t that fun to play.
This is particularly true of Thor and Iron Man, whose aerial controls just feel cumbersome. Trying to fly around the combat ensuing below while firing off repulsor blasts or hurling your hammer into someone’s face just doesn’t feel natural, and quite frankly proves to be pretty tricky.
The roster woes don’t end with Stark and the God of Thunder, either. Black Widow, despite being one of the more enjoyable, fast-paced melee characters, has underwhelming special abilities (which recharge over time). The Hulk feels clunky, though admittedly is great fun to go smashing stuff with, and Cap falls into the same category as Black Widow more or less.
That’s not to say that none of them are enjoyable to play as at all. Some fun can be had once you invest time and plenty of skill points into one superhero. Time spent getting to grips with the nuances of their combat style and abilities. Kamala Khan stood out to me as the most enjoyable character. She has a handy healing ability, ‘High-Five’ sees her arm stretching out to swat enemies in the face, and her ultimate sees her super-stretchy body grow in size, increasing damage and health temporarily as a result.
As my time with the campaign came to a close, it threw in a seemingly pointless StarkTech Outfits mission that’s simply a fetch quest for resources obtained by defeating certain enemy types. The enemies are neither difficult to find nor defeat, but the fact this first instance is thrown in literally a matter of missions from the end of the game, it feels like nothing more than a desperate attempt to pad out the campaign’s duration.
It’s in a similar way to the side content in the campaign, too. Simply put, these are uninspired rehashes of the same missions you’ve been completing as part of the main story questline. The exceptions to these are the ‘Iconic Missions.’ Each member of the Avengers has their own series of Iconic Missions to complete, and tend to be far more enjoyable and intriguing in narrative than the rest of the bland side mission offering.
Then we reach endgame, and boy is Avengers feeling weak on that front. Once the campaign’s wrapped up, the Avengers Initiative kicks in, and it feels like barely anything changes. You’ve no longer got story missions to complete, but instead have to plod through the monotonous missions types, dealing with the repetitive combat and reused environments.
You can get some extra Icon Missions by leveling up each Hero Card, however, but be prepared for a serious grind. You can play them all the Avengers Initiative friends, which is at least a positive over the campaign, but there’s little new in terms of content to keep you excited and playing Marvel’s Avengers to grind your characters out to Hero Level 50 and 150 Power.
For some, this grind will be a welcome challenge, but for others including myself, I just wasn’t enthused about pouring more time in.
That’s arguably Marvel’s Avengers biggest problem. In a world where the likes of Destiny 2 and Borderlands 3 rule the roost of looter shooters with tight, compelling gunplay and an abundance of end game content, character customization and frequent content drops, Marvel’s Avengers falls short. The campaign’s got enough to warrant a purchase for Marvel fans, but the persistent game world doesn’t feel like it has the legs to run with the big boys just yet.
That’s not because Crystal Dynamics have done a particularly bad job. In fact, Avengers feels incredibly close to something like Destiny 2 in terms of the various systems it has in place. The problem is, they’re just not quite as good. Take the feature that enables players to power-boost their Gear. This should, in theory, allow players to take Gear with preferred abilities and rolls and power it up to a level that allows you to use it in tougher missions.
But depending on the rarity of the piece of Gear, you can only level it up a maximum of 10 times. The system works against itself here, and the message that ‘gear is valuable.’ It’s confusing, and this lack of explanation is prevalent throughout the game in many of its systems, including the in-depth team synergy mechanics that come as part of the multiplayer, if you’re willing to commit the time to it.
Marring the entire experience, though, are the performance problems. Whether it’s a dire framerate on PS4 Pro, cutscenes completely glitching out, subtitles not matching up with the dialog at all — as if someone changed the voice work last minute and forgot to change the subtitles from the previous lines — and insufferable load times, you’ll find them in Marvel’s Avengers.
Marvel’s Avengers left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I’m sure the campaign will be enough to keep some fans happy, but this was pushed as a Game as a Service (GAAS) that offers a persistent world with something to do. That may be the case, and I’m sure Crystal Dynamics will do a great job of releasing content down the line, but the core gameplay’s simply not good enough to make me want to play any more of it.
If you’re looking for an Avengers campaign and nothing more, you may enjoy what Marvel’s Avengers has to offer, especially if the performance and be polished up with post-launch patches. But if you’re looking for another persistent world looter shooter, there are far, far better options out there right now. Marvel’s Avengers is only just starting its journey with plenty of content due to release in the future, but right now it’s a tough sell.
Lackluster end game content.