Sep 25, 2020
  • Release Date (NA): September 4, 2020
  • Release Date (EU): September 4, 2020
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montréal, Nixxes
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, RPG
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • Also For: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
“There was an idea. To bring together a group of remarkable people. To see if they could become something more. So that when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could.” - Nicholas J. Fury
Jordan Ryan

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Unless you’ve been living entirely off the grid for the last decade, it’s a safe bet that you’ve at least heard of Marvel’s superhero squad “The Avengers.” They’ve been a part of Marvel comics for decades, and the various members make up the core focus of Marvel’s critically acclaimed cinematic universe. Now, video games starring the Avengers and their various members are definitely nothing new, but does this latest game do what Nick Fury envisioned for the Avenger’s Initiative, or does it fall short? Let’s take a closer look!

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Though the Avengers are ever present and playable in the game, the story primarily focuses on Kamala Khan as she learns what it takes to be a hero in a post-Avengers world. The story begins “five years ago” in San Francisco, where the core Avengers--Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, and Black Widow--are celebrating the opening of a second headquarters with a huge event on their helicarrier that’s open both to the public, and to various fanfiction contest winners, including Kamala Khan. An attack on the city by Taskmaster during the celebration leads to massive collateral damage and the destruction of an experimental power source on the Avengers helicarrier called the Terrigen Crystal. The crystal’s destruction disperses a mist which, when exposed to, mutates normal people and gives them strange powers which have been dubbed Inhuman. Kamala is one of the many affected by the Terrigen Mist and gains her own Inhuman powers of polymorphing, primarily able to stretch her limbs and embiggen herself. The Avengers are blamed for everything in the event known as A-Day, and forced to disband. After A-Day, former Avengers scientist George Tarleton founds Advanced Idea Mechanics, or A.I.M., with the intent to find a cure for the Inhumans of the world and quickly becomes a dominant force for science and anti-Inhuman law enforcement. Five years after A-Day, after stumbling upon lost security footage from the helicarrier, it’s up to Kamala to reassemble the Avengers and uncover the conspiracy of A.I.M and Tarleton, who himself has been corrupted by the Terrigen Mist. His sanity is slipping, and he’s quickly becoming a mental organism designed only for killing.

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Let’s talk about the inarguable stars of any comic book property, the characters. The game features a ton of fan favorite heroes and villains from Marvel comics, and each one fits what I, as a Marvel comics fan, have come to expect. Visually, each character takes on the modernized, “realistic” design style popularized by the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Ultimate Marvel line of comics, while taking on a spin unique to the game. No one looks too much like a silly comic book character, but each is distinct and recognizable as themselves even in this new entry to the Marvel multiverse. While I’ve seen some people lamenting that the designs aren’t MCU-based, as that’s the “new” iconic look for these characters, I actually prefer the direction taken. This isn’t adapted from one of the Marvel films, so I’m glad they didn’t completely take on the actor's likenesses. There are elements similar to each of the main character's actors, sure, but those elements either have been, or have become, central to the character regardless. The exception here is the cannon fodder foot soldiers you fight in the majority of combat missions. Most A.I.M. soldiers and robots look nearly identical, and that does get old while you’re fighting wave after wave of faceless enemies. The villains you fight as bosses don’t have this problem though, thankfully. Performance wise, each character acts and sounds the way you’d expect, while again bringing an element unique to the game. Bruce Banner is calm and collected, Thor is boastful and proud, Kamala is the wide-eyed fangirl through and through, Cap is the ever stoic leader…and their voice performances all match this personality perfectly, and sound as you’d think the character would. I will admit, on a personal level, it’s a bit strange to me to hear Nolan North taking on the voice of Iron Man, as I’ve spent so long associating his voice in Marvel properties with the infamous “Merc with a Mouth,” but even that isn’t enough to take me out of the immersion. These are, without a doubt, the Marvel superheroes and villains I’ve grown up loving.

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On this note, one thing I applaud the game on is the immersion that the combat provides. With six main characters to control, it’s a sigh of relief when playing each one to find that they each play as expected. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has the same base when it comes to combat; mash the light attack, throw out a heavy once in a while, ranged attacks if you need them, and once one of your three special moves charge up you can use those to deal big damage. It’s nothing that’s very complicated, but as you level each character up you can use skill points to unlock specific combat abilities for each character, so that helps keep things from getting too stale right away, and adds some customization. Despite this standard base for combat, each character manages to feel unique. Thor hits hard in close quarters, and can summon Mjolnir after tossing it for his ranged attack. Iron Man focuses on different weapons for his suit and typically does best with ranged attacks. Hulk is the hard-hitting tank, and leaves a trail of collateral damage and destruction in his path… there’s enough difference in the unlockable moves and “way” each character plays to make them feel distinct and true to their source, and no two play exactly alike. Each hero also has three special moves unique to them, which just adds to that feeling of actually “being” the character. And as a result, combat is a blast…for about five minutes. 

The big problem here is that there’s just not enough variety in the gameplay. Most levels and missions amount to exploring the area, fighting a wave of faceless bad guys, continue exploring, fight faceless bad guys, and so on, and so on, and so on. It gets boring really fast, no matter how much you customize your combat loadout. This is only amplified if you explore each level to gather resources and collectibles, where what’s waiting to stand between you and the optional goals? That’s right, more waves of faceless bad guys! Thankfully this isn’t a problem during fights against named bosses such as Taskmaster and Abomination, where you have to change up your strategy and take on a unique opponent. In fact, the major boss fights are a breath of fresh air that I got excited for every time I ran into one. It’s just a massive shame that the majority of combat in the game leaves me wanting to just get it over with as fast as possible, rather than amplifying the excitement of playing as some of my favorite superheroes.

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Beyond the central story, there’s plenty to collect to keep you preoccupied in the game. Photographer mode lets you upgrade your screenshot game and make various adjustments from re-angling to filters and different lens options. Given that I had to take screenshots for this review, of course, I had a ton of fun with this feature. It’s not the easiest to take a picture that looks like it’d be out of a comic book, but with enough messing around and playing I feel I was able to get some pretty cool looking pictures, at least something better looking than your standard in-game screen grab. On the actual gameplay front, there’s plenty of training missions, side quests, and character-driven missions to break up the story and get you some rarer gear to use for the characters. There’s also daily faction missions to complete that offer in-game rewards, and give you a way to mix up your story and side missions. The main campaign itself averages between 10-12 hours, so while a bit on the shorter side, I never felt like I was at want for things to do while playing.

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Boxes full of resources for upgrades, upgradable gear for characters, and collectible comic books are scattered throughout levels. The comic book collectibles offer different boosts to the characters, while the gear can be equipped to offer different effects and bonuses in combat. This loot system, while annoying, is at least devoid of being pay-to-win, as everything is found through playing the game and exploring levels. Your gear upgrades, meanwhile, cost in-game resources which can be found in the exact same ways. The only thing you’ll be asked to pay for in game are cosmetics, such as alternate character skins and takedowns. This extends to the battle pass system, challenge cards, each one costing $10 per character but all that’s gained are cosmetic items, nothing that would grant any actual in-game advantage. It’s no surprise to see a microtransaction system implemented in the game, that’s sadly gotten to be expected these days. But it’s definitely a relief to see the microtransactions limited to cosmetics, and staying out of the gameplay. 

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Once you’ve completed the campaign mode, online multiplayer is the name of the game. There are a few select missions during the campaign where you can connect with a friend or random player online and have them play through that section of the story with you, but it’s the star of the show in the endgame here. The multiplayer mode has its own loose story that takes place after the main story, but you can access it at any time if you’re okay with spoilers… if you can access it at all. The first time I tried to play the multiplayer mode, the servers were down. Not a great start, but this is still a new game so I didn’t think much of it. When I did get in, I didn’t have any friends on my Steam account who have the game to play online with, so I went with the matchmaking option. I then sat for 20 minutes without a single result, before I got fed up and decided to just move forward alone. If you don’t have enough players to fill out a strike team, the empty slots are filled with AI controlled characters, so the game does at least let you take part in this mode regardless. But once I did finally get in, I was greeted to a recycled map from the main story with nearly identical objectives; get to the main interest point along this path, and complete optional side objectives along the way. It played, and felt, exactly like the main storyline did. This isn’t a bad thing, but going through so much hassle to get connected only to be greeted to the exact same experience I had in the single player campaign was a bit disappointing. I did eventually get into a match with a couple players, and even then the only “difference” I noticed was that the human players are typically a bit more competent than the AI. From what I’ve read, having a group of friends to jump in and play with is the ideal way to play this multiplayer which makes sense. In a way, your friend group becomes the Avengers, and the chemistry you share as a group would, theoretically, lead to a much more fun experience and a much more cohesive team. It’s something I look forward to experiencing someday, if I can ever make friends.

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So here I’m left on a note of longing, honestly. As a lifelong Marvel fan, this is a game I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. At surface level, the game lives up to the hope I had of it just being a fun Avengers game that puts a unique spin on the characters while staying true to their source material. But the fun doesn’t last long with repetitive combat and a mediocre online multiplayer. I enjoy this game, but I really am left wishing for just a bit more.

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Verdict
What We Liked . . . Great new look for the iconic characters Plenty of customization for all characters Microtransactions limited to cosmetics What We Didn't Like . . . Repetitive combat Story is on the shorter side Multiplayer really only works with a group of friends
9 Presentation
One of the strongest points in the game is the excellent looking visuals, and unique spin on the iconic Marvel heroes. Everyone minus the cannon fodder enemies looks great here.
7 Gameplay
When the game is fun, it's incredibly so. And every time I pick up a new character it's great that each one feels like I'd expect despite the core gameplay staying the same. That said, combat is repetitive and just gets so boring after not too long.
6 Lasting Appeal
There's plenty to do during the campaign from faction missions, the main story, and collecting resources through these missions. Post-game, online multiplayer adds plenty of added content...when it works.
7
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Avengers is definitely a mixed bag. The game looks great, and does what it can to immerse you in the story as you take on the role of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. But a repetitive combat system and borderline broken online multiplayer, the core of the postgame, keeps me from saying anything beyond “I liked it.”

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