Flashier than Thor’s lighting bolts, Marvel’s Avengers brings together top-notch voice talent and talented developers for an adventure that knows how to set up major set pieces, but often feels flat during the lulls between. The adventure is undeniably entertaining, especially in its primary campaign – however the endgame (pun intended) has plenty of room for improvement.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Marvel’s Avengers is that is suffers from a bit of an identity crisis – which is actually pretty thematically on-point given the superhero theme of it all. It wants to tell a story, it wants to be bombastic and exciting, it wants to offer you a reason to keep playing after the campaign draws to an end, and by and large it hits all of those points – just some better than others.
Things open with a fairly typical but no less effective story that sees Kamala Khan attempting to pull the Avengers back together after an event called A-Day. I know there have been some grumbles questioning this choice, but I think having Kamala at the center of the narrative works beautifully here. She’s fresh to those who have been watching the exploits of Cap, Thor, Iron Man and so on via the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last decade. She’s also a bit more relatable as a one-time awkward teenager who is struggling to find her place in the world. I suspect there are a lot more gamers who can relate to that than Tony Stark the billionaire genius, or a thunder god or an enhanced soldier out of time. Those are all perfectly good stories, but the characters are less relatable to the average person I suspect.
The major set pieces here are absolutely gorgeous, rife with big action, towering buildings and scenic landscapes that are absolutely worth experiencing. That the myriad Avengers also manage to play quite differently from one another is also a huge win. Sure, there have been a lot of comic book based video games over the years, but most of the time the differences are relatively minimal. In Marvel vs Capcom you have different types of attacks, and in games like Ultimate Alliance you may have different skills that vary from ranged to melee, or healing factor versus the ability to fly, but those differences feel more like a palette swap after getting the hang of the different characters in Marvel’s Avengers. There is a world of difference in handling Black Window’s nimble skillset versus just how weighty Thor’s attacks play out.
With video game voice acting veterans such as Nolan North, Troy Baker and Laura Bailey (to name some – there’s plenty of other notables in the cast), it should come as no surprise that characters sound fantastic. The motion capture and line delivery are impactful and make the cut scenes and banter something genuinely entertaining. This helps to drive the story forward and kept me invested in what was happening. Where things started to come off of the rails a bit for me were introduction of multiplayer and the looter loop gameplay that are meant to keep gamers invested long after the core story concludes.
Look – I get it. I see exactly what Crystal Dynamics was going for here. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that games that focus on a storyline tend to hit the bargain bins far more quickly than those that have additional content and online modes. The publisher makes a lot less money if people beat the game and trade it into Gamestop within the first few weeks, than if they hold onto it for several months instead. To that end, what the developers were trying to do with their endgame that turns into a rather repetitious grind to unlock more cosmetics and costumes. I did have some fun working with my son towards some of the cooler, more iconic character missions, but the connectivity is definitely a bit laggy, and that choppiness is a detractor from the overall experience. It will get better, I’m sure – but I tried to give it a week and change from the release to see if it would be addressed and so far it’s still a pretty inconsistent experience.
That is part of what makes Marvel’s Avengers so hard to judge at the moment. The core combat with its brawler / juggling style is a good deal of fun and the presentation is top-notch to help support an enjoyable story. It’s just hard for me to get invested in the endgame content right now. It feels like this portion of the game is just not fully baked yet. I know there are plans to treat this like a living game, which no doubt means we’ll see tons of patches, improvements and there has already been a lot of discussion about the upcoming DLC packs. Because this somewhat incomplete feeling multiplayer gets embedded into the single player campaign, the core campaign suffers for it a bit.