I Love You Kamala I’m Sorry this Happened to You
I’m the middle child in a group of three, so I’m not really used to being spoiled. The Avengers beta has taught me that I am, in fact, spoiled — spoiled by the abundance of better videogames that are out there.
When the Avengers game was announced, people were skeptical. The characters looked like off-brand MCU lookalikes. The game looked like it was just another bombastic AAA game with set-pieces. And then after the reveal we found out it would be a loot-based live-service game. Except it also wouldn’t be? The information around the game was muddy, and we had no idea what it was supposed to be.
Turns out, after playing the beta, I’m still not sure what Avengers is supposed to be. Because what it feels like is a game that tries to be multiple things, but none of them are all that good.
I’ll try to sum it up as best as I can. There are three types of missions in the Avengers: Story missions that are played single-player, Dropzone missions that can be done alone or with friends and cap out around 20 minutes in length, and Villain Lairs that are best done with friends and can be 45 minutes to 2 hours long (allegedly). In these missions you run around to collect loot, beat up bad guys, and complete objectives as one of the Avengers.
Yes, the game has a loot system, which people were worried about. In the slice of the game I played, loot felt completely inconsequential. Some gear made my attacks turn green. Some made them turn blue. Every stat attached to gear was some variation of “X% chance for Y effect to occur” — not exactly compelling, and already done before. I spent my time pressing the L2 button to equip the gear I had with the best stats to get out of the myriad of menus as quickly as possible. Obviously gear could be more important at higher levels of play, but I felt no noticeable difference in my gameplay style even after leveling a character to max. So yes, the gear stuff is annoying, but at least you can pretty much ignore it.
What I couldn’t ignore was everything else. The Avengers is the most bland, PS2-era, “square square square, triangle triangle triangle” game I’ve ever played, with a loot system slapped on top. You move into a room, press the attack buttons until everyone in the room is dead, and then move to the next room and do it again. This is not inherently a bad design, even if it’s boring. Destiny gets away with being a loot treadmill because it plays like butter. The problem is that the Avengers doesn’t even do something as simple as that very well. Every action I took felt like it was happening underwater. The whole thing is jittery as hell. The screen constantly shook and blurred at the slightest touch of the controller — it could easily give someone a headache. Platforming felt like I was constantly glitching into and through ledges. You’re also constantly fighting dozens of enemies at a time, but they’re so aggressive and interrupt your attacks mid-animation so frequently that I spent more time dodging than fighting. I felt like I had no control over my character at any moment of time, which is a little important in a character action game.
The game was a bit more fun in multiplayer, in the few times I was able to get it to work. This was less because the mechanics shined when playing with humans, and more because humans were better at getting me through missions as quickly as possible than the AI was. The problem is that anything is more fun with friends. Watching paint dry is more fun with friends. Breaking into a bank is more fun with friends. Your game should be mechanically sound outside of becoming a place to mash buttons while talking about how your day was.
There is one gleaming beam of light, though.
Ms. Marvel is the protagonist of the Avengers game. She leads the charge in reuniting the team after a falling out and getting them back on their feet. She is the best part of the game. And this isn’t just because I’m a gigantic Ms. Marvel fan — although it certainly helps. Her dialogue is the best. Her attacks are the most interesting. The only time I ever felt joy playing this game was as her. The fact that a Pakistani Muslim girl is the lead in a gigantic, blockbuster AAA game is not lost on me, and I’m so starved for representation that I commend Avengers and the Crystal Dynamics team for that alone.
And yet, it’s not enough. I mentioned at the beginning of these impressions that the Avengers reminded me of how spoiled I’ve been. I ended the game’s beta by quitting out and reinstalling PlatinumGames’ Astral Chain to stream it. That’s not the kind of response you want from a play-test. I’m sure there are people who will be happy with the Avengers. The allure of getting to smash stuff as your favorite hero is appealing, I understand that. But even as one of her biggest fans, getting to play as Ms. Marvel isn’t enough to get me to enjoy this game, and that’s really saying something.
I’m going to try the Avengers beta again in the next few weeks. Who knows? Maybe the mechanics will be tweaked enough to feel good before the beta ends, as is the wont of these Live-Service games. As it stands, though, I can’t recommend it at all. So in the meantime: just buy her comics instead.