Marvel's Avengers is Bad and Here's Why
A Review of Marvel's Avengers
Marvel's Avengers was maybe my most anticipated game of 2020. I grew up reading the comics, still collect them today, even, and I like most of the movies. The recent Spider-Man game on the PS4 is probably my favorite superhero game of all time, and Ultimate Alliance 3 was an absolute joy. It should be no surprise that I'd be excited for Crystal Dynamics' new title, a multiplayer action game where I can play as two of my favorite heroes(Thor and Ms Marvel) on launch, with two more following as free DLC(Hawkeye and Spider-Man). I could not wait to see what this new imagining of the Marvel Universe might bring: an Ultron story, maybe? Or, since the Inhumans are involved, the Kree? And then it actually released, and it turns out, it's a pretty terrible game.
But before I get into why I think this game is so bad, I'd like to talk about the things I like about it.
First, I really like playing as most of the heroes. Ms Marvel is probably the best, and definitely feels the most fleshed out in terms of game-play. This makes sense, of course, because if you play the story mode then Ms Marvel is the character you'll be playing the most. Second best to her is Black Widow, who's style revolves around building a combo meter without getting hit so as to increase her damage. With Widow, you can combo an Adaptoid to death in about two seconds if you play it right, maybe less, and it is satisfying. After Widow comes Thor. Playing as Thor makes you feel powerful, at least insofar as any hero in the game actually feels powerful, but I'll get to that.
Next, the game really does look pretty good. I know the character designs drew criticism for looking too much like the MCU, but I personally thought it looked like they took the comic book outfits, and made them look like they would in the real world. Which... is what the MCU did.... So... I don't see the issue. The characters minus Cap look great. However, I do have some things to say about cosmetics later.
Third, the story campaign isn't a bad story. It's not anything ground-breakingly original, but it doesn't need to be, the Avengers have been around for almost sixty years. I'm sure most of you are familiar: the Avengers disband after they fail to stop a disaster in San Francisco. Five years later, AIM(Advanced Idea Mechanics) under George Tarleton and Monica Rappaccini have largely taken over in a sort of Homeland Security kind of way. In the meantime, the fallout from "A-Day" has caused hundreds of people to suddenly develop superpowers. Known as Inhumans, these people are now hated and feared because Marvel just plain doesn't care about the X-Men anymore of the damage they can cause. So AIM has been kidnapping a bunch of kids and putting them in cages(with the United States Senate's blessing, as shown in an early cutscene) to experiment on them and try to find a cure for Inhumanity. Kamala Khan, a young Inhuman who idolizes the Avengers, is forced to flee her home in Jersey City because AIM has found out about her powers. The story then follows her as she meets up with Bruce Banner and the two work on reuniting the Avengers and taking down AIM.
The story, despite its unoriginality, is really good. So is the voice-acting. But unfortunately, there's a lot more bad to this game than there is good:
One: Hulk. Hulk is bad. Do not play as Hulk. Unfortunately, he's forced on you for a lot of the early story missions. Hulk is easily the least fun hero to play as because he is supposed to be the strongest one there is, but this is not reflected in the gameplay. I am not saying Hulk should be an invincible god mode character, but I am saying that maybe the most basic enemy in the game shouldn't be able to stagger him out of his heavy attack? Basically, they did a bad job of making Hulk feel like Hulk. Why bother making a superhero game if you can't feel like a superhero when you play it?
But maybe that's just a personal gripe, and others might not necessarily feel that way.
Next, this game is really buggy. I've fallen through levels, been unable to interact with people or mission objectives, and had crashes and blackouts seemingly at random. But the most persistent bug I've experienced caused the camera to just go crazy, like a strobe light between two angles, where I'll be unable to move or act until it resolves itself after anywhere from 1 to 10 seconds. It doesn't make the game unplayable, but it is by far the most annoying bug I've encountered here.
Every mission is the same. Once you get the war table, you've already played the only interesting missions. From here, every single mission will play out as follows: Go to a place on the map, stand there while JARVIS does something and fight the same handful of enemies over and over, and repeat. If you're lucky, you might have to destroy some servers or something, which seems to take the same amount of effort with Hulk, as it does with Black Widow or Ms Marvel. I just feel like Hulk should be able to destroy a server in less than fifteen punches. Because of this weird balance of power thing, every hero largely feels the same.
None of them really have any unique game-play except for their traversal skills(Black Widow has a grapple gun, Iron Man and Thor can fly, Captain America can double jump for some reason, and wall-run). I think the traversal skills are a really cool idea, but there's not any missions where one is more useful than another. Any hero can go any where in any mission, which makes the traversals a wasted opportunity. I couldn't find any single area in a map that one hero could get to that another couldn't. It's not that important, but it puts me in mind of that line from The Incredibles: If everyone is super, no one is. If every character can do everything with aggressively equal competence, as they can in Marvel's Avengers, then there's not really incentive to play as one character over another.
Not even the heroes' ultimate abilities are completely immune to this. Ms Marvel and Iron Man, of all people, even have the exact same Heroic Ultimate ability of "become big, hit people in large, sweeping swings", albeit Ms Marvel's is stretching to that size while Iron Man gets the Hulkbuster armor. And the Hulkbuster armor is iconic, but only really from the movies. There's not much of an indication that this game's universe would need a Hulkbuster, since this game's Hulk isn't nearly as destructive as the movies' version, or the comics'. So the Hulkbuster is clearly, in my opinion, only here because it was in the movies, and not justified in the story the way Thor's Bifrost ability, for example, is.
A big issue with heroics is that some of the heroes' special abilities are absurdly useful while others are just not. Ms Marvel's "Embiggen" and "High Five", all three of Black Widow's abilities(Veil of Shadows, Power Surge, and Widow's Bite), Hulk's Thunderclap, and Thor's "Warrior's Fury" and "God Blast"(though they are almost identical) are all great! But most of the others aren't. Iron Man's Unibeam, for example, does high damage, but you can't really aim it well and it doesn't last long enough to make a huge difference against the harder enemies. Thor's Bifrost doesn't really do anything his other abilities can't, except for one instance in story mode where you need to use it to teleport inside an enemy's shield.
My next issue with the game is the serious lack of creative enemies. There are two super-villains besides MODOK: Taskmaster and Abomination. Taskmaster appears in the prologue for a fight, and in a side mission later on. It's basically a cameo. Abomination shows up for exactly one boss fight and completely vanishes from the game afterward, so much so that I forgot he was even in the game after a while until I saw a friend streaming his fight with the guy. In a AAA Avengers game, I honestly sort of expected to see some villains. Ultron or Kang, maybe, or even the Zodiac gang if they wanted to go old school. Instead, the main villain is MODOK and AIM, which is not inherently bad; the issue is that every single mission has the exact same incredibly small pool of AIM robots and personnel, with no real variation at all. Personally, I was hoping to fight everything from Kree to Frost Giants to Ultron drones, and the fact that they included Hank Pym as a character but have no mention of Ultron is just wild to me. Even Thor's character missions, which have Loki impersonating Thor, don't have any unique enemies and Loki himself is only ever seen as Thor.
One last nit-picky detail and I'll move on: The only way to access the Helicarrier's HARM Room, which is like the X-Men's Danger Room, but safe for lawyers, is through the War Table. Even though you can physically walk into the actual HARM room in the Helicarrier base, you cannot play HARM room missions unless you access them from the War Table.
Playing the game, you find loot in the form of gear and currencies. Currencies, plural. Because each gear slot takes a different curerncy to upgrade. And gear in this game is not cosmetic. All gear will do for you is take some numbers and make them higher. I can't customize my heroes the way I would like to, I have to use the pre-made character skins that I can unlock through individual battle passes or the fabricator. The fabricator isn't even a minigame, by the way. You just go to it, select a pattern, and that's it. That's how you unlock a skin. Instead of finding it in a mission and having the skin form there. You have to go back to the helicarrier and find the fabricator to confirm it. It's needlessly complicated. But I digress. Most of the character skins are woefully uninspired. They are almost entirely just different color variations on the same three outfits, although once again Black Widow manages to outshine the others with a few really unique ones.
The worst part of the different currencies is that, while character and power levels are not shared between heroes, your currency resources are. So if you want to boost Iron Man's levels but have only been playing as Ms Marvel, you'll have to go back and grind other missions again to get those resources. And none of the missions are actually fun enough to want to play them again.
I haven't really talked about the battle passes yet, and that's because nothing about this game makes me want to invest in them. It's a boring, repetitive game that absolutely is not representative of all that an Avengers game could be. The single player doesn't trust itself to stand on its own, since it's constantly trying to force multiplayer on you, and is structured completely around war table missions rather than a smooth narrative. But multiplayer isn't without its issues either. Namely, I've tried many times to play multiplayer, and only ever succeeded in matching into a game once. This is in addition to the bugs I encountered in single player.
One last thing. I paid sixty dollars for this game on my PS4, so I'll get Spider-Man. But one of my friends who might buy it for PC will not get Spider-Man despite paying the same price. The same price, for less content. It's shameless, really.
To sum up, I think that Marvel's Avengers could have been a great game, but it just isn't. Maybe they can add content and bug fixes, take out the ridiculous monetization, give us more story content and villains to fight... but until they do, it's really just not worth it to buy this game. Wait for some heavy fixes first, or at least a 50% sale. In the meantime, there are actually two Avengers games that came out in the last year or so that are much, much better than Marvel's Avengers. One is Ultimate Alliance 3: the Black Order, and the other is Fortnite.