Title: Marvel’s Avengers
Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC, PS4, and PS5
Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montréal, Nixxes
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Action, Adventure, Single Player, Multiplayer, RPG
Version Tested: Xbox One
Official Site: https://avengers.square-enix-games.com/en-us/
Release Date: September 4th, 2020
Going into my review of Marvel’s Avengers, I had high expectations for Crystal Dynamics’s adaption of the Marvel franchise. At E3 2019, Square Enix welcomed journalists behind closed doors to preview the then-upcoming game. During the meeting, journalists were shown a presentation of in-game footage, characters, actors portraying them, multiplayer, and customizable attributes; after the presentation, a demo was available to try. Based on that preview, I had high expectations for Marvel’s Avengers. Sadly, since my playthrough of the recently released game, I feel a bit disappointed. How could a studio that brought us the successfully rebooted Tomb Raider franchise go so wrong? Now, by no means am I saying that this game is a complete disaster, but it’s a bit of a letdown.
So what caused this highly-anticipated superhero game to feel like a videogame out of the early 2010s? Let’s breakdown my experience based on gameplay, graphics, sound, controls, and replayability.
Each year when a new video game releases, the most common questions are how is the gameplay, followed by how are its graphics? These questions are important factors when deciding on what game to buy next. Most gamers do not want to spend their hard-earned money on a game that will leave them feeling disappointed. Luckily, Marvel’s Avengers does not let players down when it comes to gameplay.
The Marvel’s Avengers storyline is on par with the most recent superhero films and games. Marvel’s Avengers is predominantly the story of Kamala Khan reuniting the Avengers after the disastrous events of A-Day. On A-Day, after a terrorist attack interrupts the unveiling of the Avengers’ second headquarters in San Francisco, the Terrigen Crystal on the Chimera explodes, turning individuals into Inhumans. Guilt-ridden and blamed for the events of A-Day, the Avengers go their separate ways. During the campaign, the player will play as different Avengers to take on Tarleton (MODOK) and his forces.
Gameplay, Fighting, and RPG Mechanics
In Marvel’s Avengers, each character has a unique skill tree and gear. By equipping different gear the player can modify the character’s playstyle. Each gear piece modifies the characters’ different stats and power; depending on the gear, the character’s melee, ranged, defense, and heroic stats can be altered. While completing missions, side quests, killing enemies, and opening chests, players can find different gear. In addition to gear, players can find components and comic books. Components can be used to upgrade gear or buy gear from the vendors. Comic books grant the player different modifiers increasing character stats and item drops.
In addition to gear, players can alter their skill trees to change how their character plays. New abilities are unlocked using skill points. These skill points are only unlocked when a player’s character levels. The game allows the Avengers to modify their combos, special attacks, and ultimate abilities. This makes is a more rounded RPG feel. Once the player’s character reaches level 15, the player unlocks the Mastery Skill tree and a second minor artifact slot.
Combat in the game can feel satisfying when enemies are weaker than you or enemy is the same strength. The game’s four difficulties provide players with a variety of challenges. Depending on the difficulty, players must strategize before entering the mission. Sadly, the game’s combat system feels rather limited beyond the stated abilities. Character combos are rather constricted making you crave to play a fighting game rather than an action-adventure RPG like The Division or Destiny.
Dangers with Co-Op
About halfway through the story is where problems start to emerge. After getting Jarvis back online, the player is directed to train in the combat simulator. By this point, you should know the controls of the game. All this does is give you a place to practice but does not allow the player to skip the training. A few missions later, you’re finally given the opportunity to do missions cooperatively. The game being co-op is not the problem; however, the co-op system is.
Marvel’s Avengers allows you to play side missions cooperatively. For many, this would be fine, however, there are a lot of downsides to playing cooperatively before completing the story. You are unable to play as a certain character if the host has not reached a point in the story. This makes it even more difficult to find a match. When you try searching for co-op partners during side missions, the game will pair you with someone around your same power level. If you are unable to find someone around the same power, you can be matched with someone who has a higher power level. Matching with said individuals will make the mission even more difficult and you will feel useless. Following some research, I noticed players have resorted to equipping weaker gear when searching and then changing it once in the mission to get around the difficulty boost.
Continue Forward with Caution (Co-Op)
In addition to the level boost issue, the co-op has other issues. To play cooperatively with a non-match-made individual, they must be on your friends’ list. This does not guarantee they will be able to join, since the game will still search for players unless all players in the lobby disable the search feature. If during the mission a player disconnects, the AI will take over a character and that Avenger can change. The player is then unable to rejoin. This can cause issues when trying to complete side quests that require a specific character to open a side quest door.
If you decide to go into a side mission by yourself then be careful. Playing with the game’s AI can be frustrating. Half of the time, the AI will stand around doing very little, and the other half will be doing their own thing. Why is a flying character walking on the ground? Even in actual co-op, the AI has issues; if a player is inactive, one bot or both bots will stay with the inactive player. If the AI is unable to revive the player, the game allows the player to self resurrect; sadly, this feature does not always work.
The final issue with the game’s co-op is player warping. Players are forced to go to the next objective even if they do not want to. This can be a double-edged sword when playing online. The warping allows players to move their partners up if they are not at the rally point; however, it can interrupt a player completing a side mission, making their effort useless.
Stunning Cutscenes / Mindnumbing Bugs
Marvel’s Avengers‘ graphics without a doubt is its weakest attribute. The only positive thing about Marvel’s Avengers graphics is its cutscenes. The game’s cutscenes can be captivating and leave you in awe with how far gaming has come within the last 30 years. Sadly, this is where the train comes to a screeching stop. Outside of cutscenes, character models are rarely rendered fully. Typically, the only character models to be fully rendered in free roam are the Avengers. This means almost all of the game’s AI models are not rendered fully or are deliberately blocky and plain. This look makes the game feel like it is from the late 2000s to early 2010s.
The game also has a problem when it comes to rendering the environment or character models. Upon entering a new area, Marvel’s Avengers seems like it needs an extra minute to render the area. Countless times throughout the game, environmental attributes would render after the team was passing them or on top of them. The character model’s movements and rendering will also lag when entering a new area; there were countless times where NPCs, even the Avengers models would be missing, inside one another, floating randomly, or partially underneath the level. If you want a game this buggy or with similar textures, just look at Bethesda’s Skyrim instead.
It would be interesting to see if all graphical issues were resolved by playing on an Xbox One X rather than on an Xbox One Hopefully, the loading time between menus and cutscenes will be reduced.
The game also has issues if a lot of character or enemy models are within an area. In instances where there are more than 10 models, the game would lag causing things to jump, attacks to go through enemies, and even potentially result in death. Tips or notifications within the game can also bug out to where a notification can stay permanently on the screen or constantly show up despite already resolving the issue.
In cutscenes, the characters look spectacular. Outside of the cutscenes, The Avengers typically look great but less detailed. As they move throughout the levels their character model will typically remain the same. Aggravatingly, most levels are decently designed with only the side mission levels feeling repetitive aesthetically. Rendering and lighting throughout the levels can be rather problematic and mess with the player’s eyes. Some visual aspects such as video calls or news reports should have been cut out due to poor video quality.
Marvel’s Avengers‘ controls are relatively simple excluding Iron Man. In the game, melee attacks are controlled by X (light) and Y (heavy). Players can jump using the A button and dodge using B. Like most loot shooters, LT aims while RT shoots or throws an object. When the player is not holding LT, RT uses the character’s special ability; with Hulk, holding RT uses his built-up rage, while with Ms. Marvel it increases her damage and deflects damage. Pressing the left stick in causes the player’s character to run. Left and Right Bumper control the character’s special abilities. Iron Man’s abilities are probably the most complicated with the player having to use the directional pad to rotate through projectile types.
The game’s controls are easy to use, however, the game’s graphic issues can make it a bit hard to play or predict enemy movements.
Sound in Marvel’s Avengers
Just like graphics, Marvel‘s Avengers sound quality has its good and bad moments. The special effects in the game sound amazing and the voice acting is superb. The range of emotion can be felt throughout the campaign thanks to the voice talent in the game. Outside of the main cast, the supporting cast of voice actors liven things up; the only thing that can kill it is the game’s auditory issues. At times, NPCs voice lines will lag and then rush to catch up. This can also occur with special effects and during cutscenes especially if the controller disconnects. At times, the game’s audio can break where a character will be stuck on a single word and the player is unable to interact with other characters until the game is reset. NPCs seem to have at least three different voice lines that they rotate through.
Marvel‘s Avengers was designed to keep players playing. Sadly, it does not allow the player to go back and replay story missions. If you want to do that you will need to sign onto a different account. The game’s end game content is grinding levels and farming gear. Some of the game’s achievements are level specific so achievement hunters will have to work for it. At the moment, players can only power level 6 characters. The game currently features timed challenges and missions for players to farm. The player can also grind materials to unlock a variety of cosmetics.
At the moment, there are plans to release additional Marvel characters to expand the game’s universe. Based on the Chimera’s layout, it appears as if Hawkeye will be an early addition to the game. Also, we expect that Black Panther will be an early added character.
Overall, Marvel‘s Avengers gameplay causes a love-hate relationship. The story is enjoyable and even the side missions have meaning; however, all the flaws related to gameplay can become exhausting. Lack of campaign replayability hurts the game despite amazing voice actors and beautiful cutscenes holding it up. The game’s graphics and sound effects have a variety of bugs that make the game frustrating to look at. The game briefly hints at Captain Marvel but drops the character almost instantly. If you are a fan of Action Adventure RPGs like Borderlands, Destiny, or The Division, then you are in luck; otherwise, we would recommend waiting until Black Friday or even later to pick up Marvel‘s Avengers. Hopefully, as the game grows, new updates will be released fixing a lot of the mentioned issues.