2020 is full of surprises.
If you read my previous thoughts on the Avengers Beta you’ll know that I was — and this is being polite — not exactly enthused with what we ended up getting. The Beta was a painful slog to get through once the initial allure of a shiny new toy wore off. Combat was painful. The gear felt like it wasn’t worth getting. The bugs were plentiful. There was just nothing I could point to as a recommendation for picking up the game.
Pretty incredible how much can change in a month.
The Avengers game I’m playing now feels like it’s not even the same game I originally experienced. It still has some flaws, but I can say that assuming you like this kind of game — which we’ll get into — I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Banter and Burkinis
I mentioned in my beta impressions that Ms. Marvel was the best part of playing the Avengers. That’s still true, but to an even greater extent now. I am unashamed to tell you that the opening scene of this game’s campaign reduced me to tears. It’s true that I’ve been in a pretty emotional mood lately, but getting to see the protagonist of a AAA videogame say things like Abu and Amni, talk about going to Mosque Retreats, and explain how she made her superhero outfit out of a Burkini fills me with a level of pride and joy that I have literally never felt playing videogames before. Hell, just typing this out makes me want to cry again. Just in case you were wondering if representation really matters. Kamala Khan is a damn delight through the entirety of the game’s 15 hour campaign. Her voice actress does a fantastic job giving a range of excitement being around these legendary superheroes, and getting serious when the moment calls for it. Ms. Marvel is my favorite comic character, and this is truly her game, to the point it may as well be called Ms. Marvel and the Avengers that are there too I Guess. If you love her as much as I do, the game is worth buying for that point alone.
Not to say that the rest of the cast are dead weight either. Despite being clowned on for being discount-brand MCU characters, these Avengers are all great and come into their own by the end of the game’s main story. Captain America is filled with quiet determination, and Iron Man is a great mix of jokes and heaviness when Nolan North isn’t just using his Deadpool voice (mostly during combat). They all compliment each other well, especially Kamala and Bruce, who have a very cute Uncle/Niece dynamic. You’ll get used to them quickly.
The Campaign is a blast. It slowly introduces you to each playable character, and has a fun, entertaining plot that kept me engaged the entire time. Having Kamala as the game’s emotional core let me be invested in her trials and tribulations on her path to becoming a true Hero with a capital ‘H.’ There are also some fantastic setpieces, which isn’t exactly surprising to see from the creators of Rise of the Tomb Raider. There’s one sequence early on in the game involving Kamala and Captain America’s shield that had me actually whoop in excitement, and don’t even get me started on the campaign’s final moments. If you don’t mind the length, this game is worth picking up for the campaign alone.
That said, the campaign is just the start of Avengers, and once that’s done, this is where things begin to get…well, let’s say murky.
First, let’s get the good out of the way: For the most part, the performance of the Avengers game has massively improved. Motion blur and camera shake have been significantly reduced, and everything about the combat feels tighter and snappier, right down to jumping around ledges. It feels great to pull off combos and parry incoming attacks. Each character feels like they fill out a specific niche, so it was fun to try them all. Iron Man is great for fighting airborne enemies and to take out turrets, while Black Widow is a glass-canon that can pull off tons of critical hits and grapples, for example. On top of all that, there’s a setting on the PS4 Pro that allows for 60 FPS which makes everything feel smoother than butter.
I was worried that leveling wouldn’t be interesting, but the more you level up a character, the more options start to open up. I spent most of my time in early access leveling up Kamala, and quickly found that she could fit into a crowd-control and support role. She has healing abilities that can buff up her party, and her wacky inflatable tube arms let her smack lots of enemies at once. You can further specialize her by buffing her heals to let her revive herself while she’s down and jump back into the fray, or add more charges so she can heal more often.
Then there’s the gear. For most of the campaign and much of the early post-game, you’ll just be swapping out for the next piece with the highest numbered level. As you progress, though, the pieces start to come together (sorry). You get more gear that’s specialized for the character you’re playing as, and best of all, Exotics that you can get are entirely proc-free: no “X% chance Y happens” in sight, thank god.
All that said, post-game is exactly what you think it is, which is basically Destiny but as a third-person Brawler. Now, I don’t think this is inherently a bad thing, but I want to be extremely clear: if you do not like that style of game, where you grind for higher and higher item levels to craft better builds to do higher-level content, then I don’t think the Avengers will change your mind.
I have personally been enjoying the end-game, mostly. As I mentioned combat is significantly improved so it actually feels good to get stronger, and the gear you can pick up feels impactful, so it’s actually worth the incentive to get more. I especially love picking up Pym Particle items, which make my Ms. Marvel’s punches shrink enemies, letting her grab and squeeze even the biggest of mechs.
As is the case with all MMO-lite games of its ilk, content is a bit sparse at the moment. I also don’t think this is inherently a negative — unless you’re tearing through this game to review it like I am, or just love it enough to pour 50 hours in, then you’re going to progress at such a pace that this probably won’t matter. But as of now, you’re definitely going to find some repetitiveness once you finish the campaign. AIM’s bots are the only enemies you’ll be fighting, beyond stronger repeats of bosses you already fought in the campaign. Environments get very same-y, especially in the HIVEs themselves, and once you’ve seen the 7 or 8 objectives that exist, you’ve seen them all. You are not going to be experiencing joy by exploring in this game, so if you don’t enjoy the process of leveling, you’ll probably be quick to drop it.
But none of that is as bad as combat can get in later levels. This is my biggest problem with the game so far, and one that I’m hoping gets fixed soon, because a cursory glance at the game’s Reddit and Twitter comments quickly prove that I’m not the only one that feels this way. The issue is that Avengers gives you a ton of tools to take down enemies, and then feels obligated to not let you use them the way you want. You have a parry, but late-game enemies spam nothing but red highlighted attacks, which are unparryable. The game gives you a dodge, then throws in 200 off-screen enemies that shoot lasers at you, and suddenly you’re playing Dodge Dodge Revolution. You have a charged heavy attack to break shields, but the slightest poke will stagger your character and leave you open again. I didn’t have as much of a problem with this when I was able to play with human partners to share the aggro (when the Matchmaking decided it wanted to work), but it makes Single-Player late-game missions an absolute slog. If the goal is to force you to play these harder missions with other people, then it just shouldn’t make single-player an option at all, in my opinion. At its worst, it feels like a PS2-era budget action-game, and it’s frustrating, because it doesn’t have to be.
Luckily I don’t think these issues make the game unplayable, and they’re easily fixed with some balancing tweaks and value modifications (seriously, the Hulk shouldn’t stagger. He’s the Hulk.). Overall, the Avengers game has been a blast, with an extremely strong core that can be improved on with extended development. In the middle of writing this I wanted to go back in and play some more. If they can make those adjustments to the combat, and continue to add content and story that keeps players engaged, then I could easily see this game being entertaining for a long time to come for those that love comics or are looking for a new grind-em-up. In the end, the game is quite literally Destiny with an Avengers-skin coated on top. But I get to do Destiny-things by punching bad-guys with a buffed-up Pakistani Muslim Superhero. Is that worth the price of admission? For me, the answer is an absolute yes.