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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Spectacular set-piece moments
Campaign plot is fun, if somewhat predictable
Aggressive monetization detracts from the experience
Heroes feel less powerful to play as the game progresses
Familiar characters look and sound different than in the movies
Marvel’s Avengers is a fun game with some major issues. Its ambitions end up being its Achilles' heel, and what could have been an excellent superhero experience feels bloated and watered down.
We purchased Marvel's Avengers so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Marvel’s superhero movie franchise has become one of the most expansive film series in history, but has never really had a big tie-in game. That changes with the release of Marvel’s Avengers, a third-person action-adventure game where you get to play as a number of the big-name Avengers characters. It’s an exciting concept, but the reality might not live up to the high expectations of fans.
After a bulky 50 GB download, the game launched without issue, first from Steam to a separate launcher where I could adjust graphics and other settings. Next, I was prompted to sign up with a Square Enix account. This step isn't necessary but does unlock some exclusive content. The process of signing up and linking my account was a bit clunky and cumbersome, but I finally bulled through to the main menu.
The campaign begins in a tutorial level that takes you through an “Avengers Day” fair full of easter eggs and references. This is pretty effective at introducing gameplay mechanics and characters. The story follows Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel), a hero who fans of the comics may be familiar with but who's likely new to moviegoers. As the campaign progresses you'll recruit additional Avengers, who you can swap between as the story unfolds.
The plot is a somewhat tired one that will be familiar to anyone who has seen superhero films or read comic books. Superheroes fight bad guys, bad guys destroy things, accidents happen, superheroes get blamed - if you’ve watched The Incredibles or any of the X-men films there aren't many surprises here. The evil robots you fight even look like the ones from X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s a cliche that I’ve come to find rather annoying, but it’s reasonably well done here and occasionally even really entertaining. Honestly, it’s better than some of the films, so I won’t spoil any of the details.
After several missions, you unlock a hub area from where you can choose to launch both main and side quest missions. Different characters have their own separate stories you can follow, and most can be played cooperatively.
It’s worth noting that Avengers goes to great lengths to remain age-appropriate with a Teen ESRB rating. For example, at one point a group of unsavory teenagers tries to bully a boy into drinking a bottle of Soda brand soda, and he responds by shoving it violently away. It’s pretty obvious that the soda was originally intended to be an alcoholic beverage. Also, most of the enemies in the game are robots, with the exception of a few human bad guys in costumes so outlandish they could easily be mistaken for robots. In some ways this game is even tamer than the MCU films.
Combat and navigation are competent and fun. The control scheme is very typical of third-person action games. Platforming segments are entertaining if somewhat scripted, and in general it’s fun to move around. The game does a good job of context-sensitive movement such as squeezing through a crack or taking cover behind walls in stealth sequences.
Ranged attacks are ranged attacks, melee is melee, and the difference between how different characters play is largely cosmetic.
Fighting starts out feeling really cool. In the early levels there’s a definite sense of being a superhero when beating up henchmen and robots. Initially, the heroes feel like they have unique methods of navigation and combat, but the longer you play the more you begin to realize that all the characters play pretty much the same. Ranged attacks are ranged attacks, melee is melee, and the difference between how different characters play is largely cosmetic.
There is some variation in abilities, but it’s disappointing that there’s not more to make the different heroes unique. This wouldn’t be so noticeable if the experience weren’t intended to be so long. If you just play the main campaign it’s not that bad, but the longer you spend with it the more it begins to feel a bit humdrum.
Difficulty scaling is another problem the longer you play. As your power increases so does the power of your enemies, which means it’s hard to maintain that initial feeling of being an invincible superhero. There's also something very disappointing about playing as Hulk and having to slowly chip at an enemy's wellness bar at the same rate as any other character.
Customization is split between skills, gear, and cosmetics. Skills are earned by gaining experience and buying new combat abilities. Gear is found in-game and can be crafted and upgraded. Unfortunately, it doesn’t alter your character's appearance and only provides incremental stat improvements, so it ends up feeling pretty meaningless. The only thing that changes your character's appearance is cosmetics, which can be earned by lengthy grinding in-game, but are available for purchase via a microtransaction marketplace.
The big problem here is that by divorcing cosmetics from gear to enable and encourage non-gameplay affecting microtransactions, Avengers takes away the fun of customizing your gear. It makes the game feel cheap and manipulative.
There’s a lot of stuff to collect throughout Avengers, but way too much of it is junk. Comic books give characters stat boosts, there’re tidbits of lore to pick up if you feel like reading, and then there’s the endless stream of armor and components that you use to boost your character’s power.
The problem is that the deluge of nearly identical bits of armor quickly make opening treasure chests and finding hidden loot a chore. There’s never anything really good and it interrupts the action, but you feel like you’re missing out if you just ignore them, and they’re necessary to face higher level enemies. This means that you’re stuck time and again waiting for your character's chest opening animation to cycle through.
If raking in that glut of unexciting loot weren’t tiresome enough, managing it’s even more of a pain. You have limited inventory space, which means constantly going through your stash and methodically breaking down items so you can upgrade other gear. If there was more incentive to care about acquiring and managing gear this might be tolerable, or even enjoyable, but as the game is it just feels like busywork.
There’s even more tedium when you factor in the variety of different vendors, each peddling a pile of the same boring gear that is purchased with the broken down components of gear you don’t want.
Marvel’s Avengers can either be played solo or with up to three other players for multiplayer missions. In such missions you can invite friends, or fill empty player slots with random players or AI-controlled characters. At the time of writing, the number of active players has plummeted, so unless you’re able to rope in some friends, you’ll likely be playing the whole game in single-player mode.
The game ran very well for the most part at max settings in 1440p on my gaming rig with its Nvidia RTX 2070. I enjoyed smooth, consistent frame rates over the monitor’s 60-hertz refresh rate. The game should perform well even on older or lower-end hardware in 1080p. However, it’s not all clear sailing, as when I finally unlocked Thor his lightning abilities immediately resulted in a big drop in framerate.
The Avengers isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s still a great looking game.
The Avengers isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s still a great looking game. Environments are richly detailed, action sequences are spectacular, and overall it’s very pretty to look at. Character models are remarkably well-rendered and don’t have much of that uncanny valley feel to them. However, as a fan of the films, I found it disconcerting to have familiar characters look and sound like different people. It took me out of the experience at first, though I got used to them over time.
Set piece moments are particularly spectacular, with a few really cool moments. I could easily imagine some of the more impressive sequences appearing in an Avengers film.
Marvel’s Avengers launched at $60 but is widely available for $50 or less at the time of this writing due to its decline in popularity. If you’re really itching to play an Avengers game and can put up with its flaws it’s not a bad value. Unfortunately, microtransactions may encourage you to spend more money.
The comparison between Marvel’s Avengers and Destiny 2 are inescapable, given the clear attempt to turn Avengers into a “live service” game like Destiny. However, while Destiny 2 was built from the ground up to be this kind of game, in Avengers it feels like it was tacked on partway through development and it clashes violently with the core of the game. If you want a multiplayer-focused, “live service” style game go for Destiny 2. Avengers is good if you want a superhero story game with co-op.
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Marvel’s Avengers is a good game with some major flaws.
Marvel’s Avengers has a decent story, fun gameplay, and is by far the most complete video game experience related to this cinematic universe. However, to enjoy that you have to look past all the problems weighing it down, which is a tough ask.
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