The Avengers is a Marvel property everyone knows. From bombastic, summer blockbusters to lines of comics set in various different universes starring different iconic Marvel heroes, the team is so deeply ingrained in pop culture that is no surprise that it is being given its own video game. While games like the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series exist, Marvel’s Avengers attempts to take a more cinematic approach. Discarding bright, vibrant character designs for photorealism, it takes a step in a very different direction but follows the same path as other mainstream AAA games as service titles.
Marvel’s Avengers is mediocre at best. While reinventing the wheel is never necessary for a game to be a particularly good or grand experience, there are other titles that simply do what it does better and without the plethora of bugs.
Die-hard Marvel (specifically Avengers) fans may feel differently, as this game is mostly catered to those who are heavily endeared towards the collective franchises and familiar faces of the brand’s properties. It can be exciting to see some of the most notable characters in the franchise interact with each other through the story mode. But if you don’t care about these characters, it won’t really mean much as their characterizations are extremely distilled versions of who they are in the films and in the comics themselves.
Unfortunately, Kamala Khan falls victim to this, as the writing for her character specifically doesn’t contain the amount of thoughtfulness or complexity as it otherwise does in the various runs of her own series. Instead, she serves as a stand-in for the Marvel superfan–an over-enthusiastic and overzealous spectator turned hero that genuinely believes that the Avengers can do no wrong. And the game’s narrative doesn’t seek to challenge that notion either.
The story is as simple as they come, with the Avengers disbanding due to a disastrous event that has now created “Inhumans,” the not-mutant Mutant stand-ins that have been forever changed due to their exposure to Terrigen Mist. (Yes, I am aware that Inhumans do exist in the Marvel comics.) Kamala, superfan and staunch believer in the Avengers, learns of a conspiracy that reveals what really happened on that fateful day and seeks out the resistance in hopes of sharing the truth.
Through the story, we meet Bruce Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk, Tony Stark, Black Widow, Thor, and the presumed-dead Captain America. Kamala has her individual interactions with them that usually completely geeking out at first (which is endearing for the most part) before fighting alongside them to take down A.I.M. and bring the truth to light. The plot points are enough to keep the game going with some measure of momentum, but it drags on if you’re not invested or interested in the characters. As I mentioned prior, this game is mostly made for Marvel fans; anyone else might not enjoy the main scenario outside of a few really fun platforming segments and boss fights.
The characters themselves look somewhat bland, with the exception of Kamala. This is probably due to the fact that she does not need to vaguely look like an actor that has already been cemented as the face of one of the Avengers. Tony Stark is unimpressive outside of his Iron Man suit, but maybe that’s intentional. Black Widow and Thor vaguely look like how you would expect them to, but are mostly just characteristics you would associate with each respective figure–red hair for Natasha, slightly “Nordic” for Thor. Unfortunately, there are some characters that look so similar (namely Hank Pym from the Ant-Man series and Dante from the Inhumans) that they look practically the same outside of a different hair color or beard. At the very least, Kamala’s performance and the motion capture that goes along with it are great outside of a few visual glitches.
Regarding the individual gameplay of the characters, there is some degree of variation. However, players are equipped with a standard light attack, heavy attack, ranged attack, and usually some sort of special gimmick that sets them apart. The Hulk has a unique self-healing ability, and Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) has an amazing group healing ability that is invaluable in multiplayer. Iron Man and Thor can fly, while Captain America and Natasha have kits that are a little more grounded–quite literally. They can jump, kick, and punch with the best of them, and while their kits aren’t as bombastic or as supercharged as the rest, they’re still extremely fun.
I found myself enjoying the kit that Black Window came with, mostly due to the visual flair that accompanied playing this character. It was always exciting to watch Natasha flip around the field, and it was even more exciting and satisfying to string together combos when utilizing her grappling hook. What Black Widow lacks in support abilities, she made up for with her raw offensive capabilities. And while her kit sometimes put me at a disadvantage, since it is one of the riskier ones to play, it made me more thoughtful when I went in to engage. It made me think how to best approach a situation as my teammates smashed and tore through environments and enemies. Cooperative play was really when I had my most fun, unfortunately it was almost always laden with bugs and glitches.
These included falling through the map upon starting a mission for a prolonged period of time until the respawn timer allowed us to continue from the designated checkpoint. Occasionally, my co-op partners would completely disappear and their weapons or projectiles (like rocks in instances where The Hulk would vanish) would be the only way to locate them. Sometimes my co-op partners would reappear when given enough time or when meeting certain checkpoints; other times they would be gone for the remainder of the mission. This was usually only a problem in instances where I had to locate my partners if they were downed since the visual indicator to find them would also be invisible.
However, the most egregious of these issues would always happen in the Avengers Initiative, which is Marvel’s Avengers’ purely multiplayer mode. At the time of writing, accessing the multiplayer lobby came with a plethora of bugs. Namely being the need to reset the multiplayer lobby if you decide to break up your current group of players in order to make your lobby open for joining again. I needed to go back to the main menu of the game in order to open up new multiplayer slots that would be available for non-computer controlled players to join. And, if I chose to enter a mission with a single player, those unoccupied slots would not be open for other players to join unless I re-formed the lobby. (This will hopefully be patched out in future updates.)
Thankfully, if Marvel’s Avengers has one thing going for it, it is the AI. The computer controlled characters are actually really helpful and oftentimes very useful. This is especially handy in multiplayer story missions if players are not able to access or find your lobby. I never had to worry about them and, if I was downed during a mission, one of them would come and revive me. Additionally, if there were two AI companions split between myself and another player, one would follow me while the other would assist the second player in the session.
Marvel’s Avengers also comes with a closed captioning option that details the actions of every individual character in a scene–which is great for the hearing impaired. However, the subtitles and closed captioning are extremely small and there is no way to adjust or change the font size. Other than those two choices, there are no major accessibility options for Marvel’s Avengers, which is disappointing. Especially considering how cramped the UI is. I cannot stress enough how utterly cramped and cluttered it is.
There are a fair number of menus players need to navigate in order to find skills and everything that goes along with them. And with as small as the font is, it is extremely difficult to navigate. Reading the passive effects of gear, what “brand” the gear belonged to in relation to its set, and the stats attributed to it is almost impossible at times. This goes for the description of skills as well. Thankfully, there is a short video that accompanies skills when you hover over them, but these videos are also extremely small. And as simple as that complaint may be, it is persistent enough throughout the entire game that it caused serious eye strain as someone who played on a console.
Microtransactions are plentiful in Marvel’s Avengers. These come in the form of cosmetics, experience boosters, and the upcoming “battle passes.” Grinding is a chore, especially if you aren’t able to successfully find groups of players to engage with in the multiplayer missions. And it goes impossibly slow with the rate of experience you are given without boosts. Cosmetics are locked behind overall character levels, and I had played around six hours of Black Widow and was still attempting to reach a high enough level to unlock her first outfit. The system feels unrewarding and unfair, as it encourages you to spend real money to get credits to use for the mentioned experience boosters.
Ultimately, Marvel’s Avengers makes an attempt at breaking into an already flooded market of battle passes, cosmetics, and surface-level systems that attempt to show some kind of variety. There are better options out there for players to enjoy with fewer caveats and bugs. Unless you’re a major fan of Marvel comics and its many inspired properties, it is worth looking elsewhere for what Avengers provides. However, if you are deeply invested in the comics and the cinematic universe, this might just be what you’re looking for six months down the line.
Marvel’s Avengers is immediately available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.