Live Service games these days usually have a bad rap, and with good reason. Most Live Service games face a lot of issues on release. Whether it be enormous patches at launch, inability to access the servers, or anything bugging, from items in your game to resolution rendering wrongly.
But maybe if you put enough big companies behind an IP, maybe it’ll work out, right? The usual issues of being short on resources of either time, budget, or just the IP not having enough to build on would ideally be issues that are tackled by the marriage of Square-Enix’s capable publishing and Marvel’s robust amount of material to go on. Unfortunately, the resulting experience wasn’t a lot to write home about.
We start the game by playing an audience stand-in kind of character, who is portrayed through Kamala Khan. A day meant to celebrate and meet the Avengers inevitably ends up as a big mess that would allow the game to start on.
Production (3 / 5)
I’m not certain as to why they decided to make the models the way they were, different from the actors from the movie but close enough to quickly see the resemblance. Regardless, the end product was something I found pretty attractive. At the very least, I won’t have to look for exact movie references for every interaction the characters make through the game (but there is a lot, and I mean a lot of references to the movies).
Certain scenes feel well planned out, particularly for story set pieces, where they appeared to be going for Marvel movie-esque cut scenes. Environments are detailed and can quickly add to the immersion of the experience, cities are busy, sewers are filthy, canyons are rocky, and each base has an army. Characters also move and animate well, watching them do moves that are new and from the movie can leave a good impression, they more or less express their intended characters very well.
However, there’s a lot of issues that plague the experience. One of the first things I noticed was the strange tearing at the edge of the screen while moving through stages or as the camera swivels from one side to the other.
You can also really feel the PlayStation 4 struggle when in larger environments, which is already painful to see when the game on the console is already locked at 30 fps. Optimization is seriously a huge issue for this title for most of my experience during my play through.
The music isn’t really a lot to talk about, but I’ll give it that the voices had been well-performed. However the occasional sound bug, does disturb the experience.
Mechanics (3.5 / 5)
Now I did say that the game leaves a good impression, however in this case, first impressions don’t exactly last. In a sense they don’t really change the wheel but it does leave much to be desired. When you’re using tried and tested formulas already, I think it’s fair to expect that it’s either done extremely well or a unique spin is made on it to stand out. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Marvel’s Avengers.
So yes, you can do light and heavy attacks, you can jump, dodge, and parry, where attack variations are also built around that. Almost every time the best way to defend yourself is just to dodge, and while heavy attack exists, you almost don’t want to rely on them unless you’re Iron Man. The reason being that while it does break the guard of those pesky shielded enemies, you are most likely going to get hit by their attacks because of how long you have to charge your guard breaking attacks. There is also the inclusion of headshots in what generally is a brawler game, which has left me wondering what the big idea is, why is this needed? Especially when aiming feels so horribly awkward? It only feels good when you’re using Iron Man or Black Widow.
With that out of the way, the game also features 2 layers of character development, one through multi-branched skill tree and the other being equipment, which is basically the loot system of this title, which basically feels like it was lifted directly off Destiny 2.
Each character will also have three active abilities available to them, one offensive ability, one support ability, and one ultimate. All of them pretty much take forever to charge unless you find power-ups in whatever stage you’re fighting in.
Fighting in general, feels good so long as you’re not on the receiving end, because unfortunately they don’t have a good radar system for you to know what’s going on around you with your limited camera angles. It doesn’t help that you can get stun locked to death.
That’s it for the general mechanics of the game. Really, it offers a lot more in variation of content between characters, which we’ll go into next.
Content (2 / 5)
The content makes the game feel pretty lopsided, you can tell that they put a lot of work in some aspects but unfortunately other parts of the game don’t enjoy the meticulous preparation that the characters were given.
Let me get this straight, the characters are great, even if they for some reason deviated from their movie counterparts. Even the characters I don’t really enjoy. Honestly I’m not really a fan of Kamala Khan, but they managed to flesh her out pretty well on this game, and felt like a real character instead of somebody’s forced, blatant insert for reasons other than making a good story. While I was ready to dismiss her as a bad addition to the series, she actually plays the role of the audience-stand-in and as a story protagonist pretty well.
The plot itself hands a number of conveniences to get the story going, which I can imagine would be met with rolling eyes by other fans. Iron Man’s password or the surprising lack of other characters to be around when they need to be being prime examples of these. Others may find themselves wanting to see more out of the actual Avengers they know in this game by Square-Enix and Marvel, but I’d argue that the known roster are already well-established without the game, so all they have to be are awesome characters from the get-go.
Speaking of awesome, playing almost every character does feel pretty good. They all feel like they have their natural inclinations, Ms. Marvel is your all-rounder that plays well in brawls, Hulk is your melee bruiser, Black Widow is your more technical comboist, and so on. And these characters really start to shine when you finally unlock their other abilities on their skill trees.
Then, there’s the levels and the enemies.
Who designed these encounters in such a way that Hulk has to fight a teleporting sniper? Why does he have to aim a rock the size of a small car as accurately as Iron Man aims his repulsor blasts? The game starts to fall apart when you’re fighting generic enemies that seem to take forever to kill, and these enemies are pretty much the same things you fought a few hours ago. It doesn’t help that story missions don’t really stand out from your free missions in terms of what you get to do or what happens. I could quite literally say that story missions are basically the same as your free missions, but with cut scenes, and maybe a unique boss.
Another pain point is that the game appears to be trying to teach you something repeatedly, even if you already know about it. You see the game starts with a mission where pretty much your entire playable cast is introduced to you. Where they actually teach a lot of the basic mechanics of not only the game but some of the specific mechanics of each character. For some reason, 3 hours later, I’m being taught how to fly with Iron Man for a second time. Where all these will again be demonstrated to you during his training mission, which is required to pursue his very own quest chain. While I’m all for teaching things when it’s contextually significant, how all this is conveyed in a truncated form, pausing the gameplay, when a lot of it already feels repetitive makes the experience painful.
Features (1.5 / 5)
While I would be happy to tell you that the game features a cooperative online multiplayer experience. I have failed to experience this at all, for some reason whatever efforts I have made to go online, which was a lot of trouble, to say the least, requiring you to join the Square-Enix membership to have access to it was something very odd for me. And getting that out of the way was pretty confusing.
Anyway it was eventually all worked out, where I was lead to wait forever, matching for anyone, anyone at all to play a mission with me. Nope. At around 15 minutes of waiting, I decided to give up and continue playing single player.
There are also such things as battle passes which give you unique skins and takedowns, which is by the way, the ONLY way to change the cosmetics of your character. Not that any of them look that great in the first place. This decision defeats much of the looting system, as that would make any gear little more than numbers on a spreadsheet. Sure, the battle passes are free for now, but that’s not going to be a thing forever.
There’s enough things to like about the game as there is to criticize it over. This is one of those difficult cases that something comes off as painfully mediocre. I would argue that the people behind the Marvel’s Avengers are actively holding out on its audience to ensure that there is attractive down the line, because the game just feels so lopsided in terms of development. How can you create characters that you can tell are ideally fun to play, but put them in front of generic, uninspired cookie-cutter content to be featured in?
It’s like they gave us a shiny new sports car, but asked us to drive it around a mini-golf course. While you’re given something neat to play with, it quickly loses its charm as you don’t have much to take it to.
Bottom-line time. Who would I recommend this game to? Well, either to someone who has hours to sink, because they’ve literally built this game to grind with, just that the grind itself isn’t fun. Otherwise, you might want to wait for the game to become good, as Live Service games that survive, tend to improve vastly sometime after they launch.