I was able to spend quite some time with the beta for Marvel’s Avengers and I’ve found myself feeling quite conflicted with how I feel about it. At first glance, it’s everything I’ve wanted from an Avengers game but as I delved deeper and continued to play, the cracks started to surface and that’s when I started to worry.
The beta kicks things off with A-Day, a celebratory event for the Avengers that quickly turns into a disaster after Taskmaster and a group of terrorists attack. We’ve seen this mission in action many times and it acts as a tutorial of sorts, allowing you to play as each one of the avengers and get a feel as to how they play. There are a couple more single-player missions involving Kamala Khan AKA Ms Marvel and the Hulk which give you a small insight into the relationship between the two and the story. I would be lying if I said I did not get The Last of Us vibes, especially with Troy Baker voicing the green machine. After completing these single-player missions, the beta then allows you to take the action online with up to 4 players. The roster was limited to 4 playable characters, these included Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow and finally Ms. Marvel, excluding Thor and Captain America.
Starting things off, I want to say that I did enjoy the combat to an extent. Each hero feels very unique and with only one skill tree available in the beta, I can only imagine that they will become even more distinct once those further skill trees become available. I played with a couple friends, switching between Iron Man and Black Widow who I found more enjoyable as I spent more time with them and learned how to play them. Iron Man can fight up close or take to the skies and attack from range with either repulsor blasts, lasers, or rockets. Black Widow, although quite similar what with her dual pistols for ranged attacks and batons for close combat, feels a lot more agile and quick. I tried every available character, but I found these two to be the most enjoyable.
I liked Ms. Marvel as a character way more than I expected. The moments when she was fangirling over the Avengers were cute and I can see her adding an interesting dynamic to the story. However, I wasn’t the biggest fan of her gameplay-wise. For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Marvel, she essentially has the same powers as Mr. Fantastic, she is very stretchy. This means she is best from a distance and is very effective against large groups of enemies, similar to the Hulk but with a bit less smashing. Speaking of Hulk, initially he was extremely fun and he felt like a total powerhouse compared to the other heroes. However, over time he felt a bit repetitive and it was as if I was seeing the same moves over and over again despite actively trying to switch up how I played.
In my short time with Thor and Captain America, I did enjoy them a lot, more so Captain America as he felt a lot less sluggish than the God of Thunder, but wielding Mjolnir did feel great. Each character has a set of special abilities too. Iron Man, for example, is able to shoot his unibeam out of his chest wiping out anyone in front of him. His best ability, though, allows him to call down the HulkBuster, a machine that towers over the Hulk and feels awesome. A cool detail I noticed is that any one of your teammates can hop in the suit and cause total devastation to surrounding enemies; it’s not limited to whoever is playing Iron Man.
Whilst there were some characters I enjoyed more than others, that doesn’t mean they were bad, I just preferred one over the other and I think it will be like that for a lot of people. As mentioned before, there was only one skill tree available for each character in the beta so I’m positive we’re going to see a lot more variation in their move sets which will hopefully add more complexity when pulling off combos and allow for creative ways of dealing with enemies.
As for what I played of the single-player, I am quite hopeful for what could be a good campaign. From the short amount I played, it seems like it could be an interesting narrative that is not afraid to embrace the silly side of comic-books. The voice acting was great, and I am most excited to see these characters interact with one another, as it is those moments where the Avengers are at their best.
Visually everything looks really good, from character models to particle effects and even the environments (more on that later). I wasn’t blown away by anything in particular but it’s definitely not a bad looking game. I will say sometimes things can look a bit generic, and it’s more noticeable when you’re not in combat, but again, it’s far from an ugly game.
Unfortunately, that’s where the high praise ends. In the roughly 5-6 hours that I played, my list of concerns only continued to grow. I don’t think this game is bad, nor do I think its great; it’s more so that there a lot of things worrying me that could impact the games longevity, and most importantly, how fun it is.
One of the main issues I had with the multiplayer was the lack of mission variety. More often than not, I felt like I was doing the same mission over and over again albeit with some minor differences. I was either defending an objective, capturing a zone, or destroying something all whilst waves of enemies would flood in. Not only that but I never had any interest in whatever I was doing, I have no recollection as to what those missions were because I was too busy fighting. There were some different enemy types that I appreciated but honestly, it did not feel like it forced me to attack differently or be a bit more strategic.
It is evident Square Enix does not want the game to be seen as a button-masher that’s lacking in depth, yet in the beta that is how it felt. That does not mean it is not fun though, far from it. It can be a lot of fun, especially when playing with friends. However, when the missions start to feel repetitive, then so does the combat. I can give the game the benefit of the doubt though since this is the beta. I could be eating my words when the game launches with a ton of mission variety. Not only that, but, once those other skill trees are available, I’d like to think the combat will expand immensely.
In the beta there are a few different locations you can play around in, yet in every mission I played, I felt like I was in the same area. I found myself fighting enemies in a facility of some sort every time — they seriously felt copied and pasted at times. Another thing to mention about these cramped environments is that some characters do not feel too great in them. I can imagine making all these characters traverse and fight comfortably together in different environments was a challenge. Games like Spider-Man PS4, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction or the Arkham Series can tailor the environments and missions around that specific hero, something that isn’t possible with Avengers.
The Avengers needs to take into account 6 different heroes at launch and more in the future; that’s not an easy task to accomplish. For example, Hulk and Iron Man are suited way more to big open areas, so when they are crammed into a lab with corridors and tight spaces, things can get quite messy, especially when there is so much happening on screen. When things start getting hectic it can be hard to see what is going on, and this can get frustrating when you cannot see where you are or what direction you’re being attacked from.
The greatest issue with this beta that must be discussed is the frame rate. I had several instances where the frame rate felt as though it was dropping to around 20fps. Whenever there were loads of enemies on screen or me and my friends were pulling off all the flashy moves, the game seemingly could not handle it and it significantly impacted how much I was enjoying the combat. The motion blur does not help either and as much as I want to think, “this is only the beta, it will be fixed at launch,” I am not so sure it will be.
I have mixed feelings on the loot system in the game. Each piece of gear contributes to your overall power level and can provide stat-bonuses or modifiers to your weapons. Yet, in the beta, I felt like I was only putting on the strongest gear just so I could increase my power level to access the harder missions. I didn’t really think of them as anything more than a number. I do not have a problem with gear not impacting the appearance of the characters if the gear feels like it genuinely has a significant difference on my playstyle, however, I can see it damaging the grind. There are a lot of in-game resources that act as a way to level up your gear similar to any other game of this genre. The problem is that, with something like Monster Hunter where farming the same monster over and over again leads to an awesome set of armour, Avengers will just present you with a higher power level, which is not nearly as satisfying.
Despite a lot of the criticisms I have highlighted, there is a lot of fun that can be had with this game. I enjoyed the combat the more I played, and I can see it making the game worth playing, but other aspects severely dampened my enjoyment. If things quickly become even more repetitive in terms of level design and mission structure, then combat is going to eventually feel monotonous even with the additional skill trees. I am honestly impressed with how different each character feels and that is certainly one of the game’s biggest strengths. I’m not put off by the game but rather worried that certain elements will stop this game from being as good as it could be. Currently there’s certainly a lot of room for improvement.
I will be playing this game at launch with my friends and I’ve already shot-gunned the “definitely dead” Captain America. I am excited to see if the game is a lot more fulfilling when it’s fully released.