Assembled By The Board

HIGH It actually has value for offline players.

LOW Lengthy load times after every death.

WTF Writers need to stop writing snarky dialogue around the act of flipping switches.

This is the first time I’ve reviewed an obvious ‘game-as-service’ title, and I’m a bit lost as to how to proceed — a year from now, Avengers could be radically different experience than it is today, and it might even be significantly changed between the time that I write this and the time it gets published — a (supposedly) gigantic patch will be launching soon after this copy is turned in, and it may (or may not) fix a litany of issues.

Will that patch dramatically change the game? During my time with Avengers, there were at least three patches, all multiple gigs large, and none made the horrendous loadtimes any better, nor fixed the woefully unresponsive and poorly designed menus. I can’t monitor the progress of this game from week to week, so how will I know when The One True Patch comes?

It’s an impossible pursuit.

With all that said, Marvel’s Avengers is a little easier to judge from a traditional perspective because there’s a more substantial singleplayer component here than was revealed in the lead-up to release. Putting live service elements aside, it’s essentially a full-length, well-produced tutorial for the “Avengers Initiative” multiplayer mode which takes place after the campaign ends. As such, players sensitive to spoilers should avoid the multiplayer entirely until the campaign is completed.

The best way I could describe Avengers would be “Destiny, but with fists”. It’s a third person class-based brawler with ultimate moves, skill trees, connected hub-worlds, and far too many currencies, all centered around the constant pursuit of loot to incrementally increase damage on incrementally more difficult canon fodder.

The menus have the same cursor-based navigation as Destiny and other games of this ilk, just with with far less polish and accuracy. Players can team up with three other people online to take on a theoretically ever-expanding set of missions from a combination of free and paid content updates.

It is so very obviously “one of those” game-as-service titles by design that, if it wasn’t attached to one of the the biggest IPs on Earth, could almost be considered parody.

Taking heavy inspiration from various Inhumans-related Marvel comic storylines, the campaign is a tale of reuniting the Avengers after a failed mission takes out a chunk of San Francisco and releases a deadly plague that also occasionally gives the infected superpowers. After stumbling onto information that sheds new light on what really happened, a soon-to-be-Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) is off to essentially get the band back together.

Over the course of the campaign, players will play as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, and The Incredible Hulk, but this is primarily a Ms. Marvel experience, as she takes up at least half of the total single-player play time. She’s the core, and while I love that a Palestinian-American teenage girl is the main protagonist of one of the biggest videogames of the year, the ‘hyperactive fanboy/fangirl living out their nerdy fantasies‘ character trope is one of my least favorite, and the truly wretched fourth-wall breaking jokes surrounding it are unbelievably grating. With that said, it’s a good yarn for Marvel fans, there are some excellent performances from the all-star cast, and M.O.D.O.K. is the villain — always a good choice.

Avengers starts rather bombastically and maintains that level for the first couple of hours, with linear stretches of content made specifically for the single-player campaign. However, as the story goes on, these levels become less frequent in favor of levels taking place in the hub-worlds that encapsulate the multiplayer with fewer setpieces and more identical elevators taking the player to identical basement laboratories full of identical robots to punch.

Each hero has their own individual quirks (Iron Man and Thor can fly, the Hulk has mad hops, etc.) and distinct ultimate moves which helps with variety, but the fact remains that the player will be fighting a lot of the same enemies over and over and over again. As the redundancies spiked up, my level of enthusiasm went the opposite direction.

My time with the multiplayer was brief, because once it became evident that it was going to be the same maps from the campaign, only with more busywork and less plot, I quickly lost interest. It’s here where the fundamental problem with Marvel’s Avengers arises — the core brawling isn’t satisfying or complex enough to carry the game for multiple years, which is a goal stated by the publisher.

The fights just don’t feel impactful or rewarding, and that banality is compounded by enemies being absurd damage sponges. This lukewarm brawling is sufficient to get players through a 12-hour campaign if they’re hooked by the story, but that’s about as far as it goes.

As for the economy, it’s tough to make a definitive statement since it could, again, be completely different a month from now based on feedback and/or greed.

The internet doesn’t currently seem to be on fire with complaints as of this writing, but this is also an aspect that doesn’t have time to fully reveal itself without ample time in the late-game where financial obligations traditionally start to truly overlap with play-based progression. Based on my time, I neither wanted nor needed to buy anything, which I suppose is a victory at this point.

Marvel’s Avengers is… fine. It’s fine! It’s a competent brawler with strong production values that fans of the source material will enjoy. In an alternate universe where this is a movie tie-in game that came out at the same time as Avengers: Endgame without as much hype, it probably would be remembered quite fondly. Unfortunately, such a luxury is not afforded to either Crystal Dynamics or Square-Enix.

As a triple-A holiday blockbuster from a renowned studio and a major publisher released after years of build-up, it doesn’t feel like a product that has justified this much anticipation. Furthermore, as yet another live-service title expecting players to sink who knows how many hours into its ecosystem, it completely fails to convince me that anybody will be playing in a year without a great deal of work needed to elevate it out of mediocrity.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square-Enix. It is currently available for PS4, XBO and PC in multiple versions offering varied amounts of content. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on a PS4 Pro.  Approximately 19 hours of play were devoted to playing both the singleplayer and multiplayer components (combined) and the campaign was completed.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and features Language, Mild Blood, and Violence. This one is pretty simple for parents — If a child is allowed to watch Marvel superhero movies, all content in this game will be completely acceptable.

Colorblind Modes: The game features no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game features subtitle options and presents them in both color (each character has color-assigned subtitles) and monochrome (plain white). The text size cannot be altered. All dialogue and instructions are provided in text, and there are no necessary audio cues. I’d say it’s fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: The controls are completely remappable, and the game also includes three preset control templates to choose from.

Jarrod Johnston
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