Marvel Avengers is not quite as bad as feared. But also not as great as it could have been.
When reports started coming in about that Square Enix would sound competent studio Crystal Dynamics (new Tomb Raidertrilogy) create an action adventure based on Marvels Avengers surely many, expectant comic book lovers’ hearts beat out there. When the first pictures appeared, they dropped just as fast – the game looked like something from last generation consoles, which have been thrown together too quickly. An open beta, which Henric wrote about a couple of weeks ago, converted some skeptics and we can quickly see that Marvel Avengers in the final version (?) is neither as bad, nor as good, as it could have been.
The game is divided into a singe-player campaign and a multiplayer mode, the online mode. The latter should be played after you have completed the main campaign if you want to avoid spoilers. The campaign takes place partly from the fan girl Kamala Khan’s perspective – a Marvel fan of Pakistani origin, raised in New Jersey (just like its creator) who is invited to a day for fans at the Avengers headquarters but soon radiated with superpowers and turned into superhero Ms Marvel, whose special power consists of a rubber body and enlarged hands (not unlike its predecessor Elastigirl from the Pixar movie The Incredibles). Along with her original story, which also serves as a bit of a tutorial for the basic game, you also get to take control of the classic Avengers gang consisting of Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor and Iron Man.
The multiplayer part is an intense and rather chaotic experience, where you can play with or without matchmaking (that the same hero can not appear twice in the same team), where it is a matter of balancing attack, defense and attention on fallen teammates to revive. The idea is good, but several missions end up being overwhelmed by too many enemies and all planning goes to fanders.
You who played the beta version have already gone through the first single player mission and know what to expect – not much is different since then. There is a lot of action-adventure in the form of button-mashing and special attacks that are built up and the idea that different heroes have different specials and fighters in different ways works well, albeit quite generically. Kamala’s parts are very reminiscent of Sucker Punch Infamous: Second Son and Insomniac’s brilliant Spider-Man on PS4 (best superhero game ever? Probably) without really reaching the same heights of finesse and execution.
Presentation is Marvel Avengers something of a mixed bag – like the game in general. It played better on Xbox One X than PS4 Pro when we tested the beta and some parts are really nice and impressive; such as Hulk’s details, shadows, environments and textures in certain sequences, to feel rather overwhelming and flat in the next sequence. Crystal Dynamics has always had problems creating lifelike hair, something we have been able to clearly note in the otherwise well-produced Tomb Raidergames and at its worst, it’s all reminiscent of the crash in Ubisoft’s unpatched Assassin’s Creed: Unity, or Greedfall, where hair seemed to consist of some kind of straw that was dyed and stood out unnaturally. On Xbox One X you can choose between 4K or faster frame rate (with 60 fps target image, however with several frame rate dips) and we recommend the latter, as it increases the empathy and gameplay significantly compared to the rather modest detail lift 4K provides at the expense of of locked, jerky 30 fps. It is obviously high time for generational change on console and we will return to just Marvel Avengers when we got our Xbox Series X to the editors, because Square Enix promised free upgrades to the game for the next-gen machines that will be released this fall (both PS5 and XBSX).
The sound is generally good. The voice actors deliver nicely, veterans Troy Baker and Nolan North each do Avenger and Travis Willingham channels an almost perfect Christ Hemsworth imitation in their portrait of Thor.
Unfortunately, the game is dragged with looooong charging times (even from SSD) – to die and recharge a checkpoint can take up to 30 seconds and that is too long. Furthermore, the game also suffers from bugs; it feels like it would have benefited from a few months of extra development (which in itself is true for 90% of all major games today, which get patch after patch). There have also been complaints about the financing model, aka “microtransactions”, something that is never usually well received (question EA). You can wear all the content for free – but it takes a lot of time – and even if it does not feel like a dealbreaker for us, the system is supposed to arouse some bad blood in fans who just feel that they have to unlock everything. You have to be aware that Avengers is a bit of a games-as-service concept.
Although Marvel Avengers is several years newer than Tomb Raidergames from the same studio, the game somehow feels older and more ax-wielding. The controls work, but are not directly tight – it is a bit slack and inaccurate, something that makes flying and platforming less fun than they could otherwise be. And all this permeates Marvel Avengers as a product – it’s not a bad game at all really, but it’s so uneven and generic that it’s prevented from reaching higher heights.
Maybe the next few months will give us the patches, fixes and performance that the game needs to reach its full potential. Here is a single player mode that is fun to play through and reasonably long (about twelve hours). But basically, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that this is a bit of a half-hearted attempt to milk money from a beloved brand, especially considering the games-as-service model, without having the time or really the ambition to make a really good game on the coup. Nice entertainment for fans of the genre, especially if you can get the game at a good price (we saw SEK 400 for the PS4 version and it’s totally OK). But expect nothing new Spider-Man, or even Tomb Raiderlevel for that matter.