Marvel’s Avengers Review — A Great Game If It Were Finished

Maybe I’m just cynical, but I like my $60 games to feel finished. Throughout my experience with the Marvel’s Avengers, I couldn’t take my eyes off the constant visual glitches and anomalies. There’s a chance the devs will patch these, but it still seems wrong to charge full price for something that’s only part of the way there. Aside from some of the visual quirks, Marvel’s Avengers presented us with a solid story and even better gameplay — all wrapped in a familiar superhero package. With that being said, let’s dive a little farther into our Marvel’s Avengers review and see what makes it tick.

The game rewards your grinding efforts with a huge array of unlockable moves. This presents a deep opportunity for varied playstyles to flourish between the available heroes. The controls made sense and the fighting mechanics were very rewarding — however, the game lacked the overall fit and finish that you expect out of a AAA title of this caliber. Throughout my time with Iron Man and the crew, I felt very few of the awe-inspiring, goosebump-inducing goodness that makes the MCU such an amazing thing to experience. Don’t feel like hearing me ramble? Continue on to the TL;DR at the bottom. No shame in that.

Ol’ Cap makes a pretty early exit.

Story

A Brutal Introduction

Marvel’s Avengers begins its story on a pretty high note. The team assembles for Avengers Day (A-Day, for short) — the launch of the new Avengers west coast HQ. Kamala Khan — essentially the protagonist of the campaign — is a fangirl extraordinaire. She obsesses over the Earth’s Mightiest and is attending A-Day on a story-writing contest for obsessed youngsters.

Unfortunately, the festivities do not go off without a hitch. The unstable energy source that the Avengers are using to power their behemoth Chimera helicarrier goes kaput and levels half of San Francisco. With it, the Chimera takes down Captain America and the hopes and dreams of all of the Avengers. The Avengers are outlawed, S.H.I.E.L.D. is liquidated, and villainous-looking defense corporation AIM takes the figurative reins of the world. During the events of A-Day, some attendants — including Kamala Khan — gain incredible powers from the effects of the blast. These Inhumans, as the world has taken to calling them, are vilified, and AIM leader George Tarleton looks to cure them or eliminate them from existence.

The Narrative Has a Lot of Heart

The story of the campaign centers around Kamala and her attempt to re-assemble the remaining Avengers and take back control of the world from AIM. All-in-all, the story is pretty cohesive, with plenty of callbacks to Marvel lore. The story of the campaign limits the player somewhat on which Heroes they have access to, choosing to incrementally integrate the playable characters rather than give them access to the entire roster right away.

Throughout my Marvel’s Avengers review, I thought the narrative presented was adequate and had plenty of intrigue to sustain my interest throughout. In true Avengers fashion, bickering and in-group drama pervade throughout the narrative. But, old wounds begin to heal and the group learns to work together once more. I didn’t feel the awe that typically accompanies an MCU entry viewing, so that was a bit disappointing. While I certainly wouldn’t give the narrative any academy awards, it operates as a decent means of giving the player the opportunity to be wowed by the impeccable gameplay.

Stretch-punching robots never gets old.

Gameplay

If there were one shining jewel in the crown of Marvel’s Avengers, it is definitely the gameplay. The feeling of zipping around as Iron Man, or stretch-punching robots in the face as Ms. Marvel does not disappoint. While the companion AI can be a little funky in combat, most of the combat controls feel very tight and offer a decent level of challenge. If you tend toward button-mashing, you better brush up on combat a bit. Instead, the game forces a good degree of defensive moves such as block, dodges, and counters. Mastering these aspects are key to success in Avengers.

The special “Heroic” moves (of which, each character possess 3), allow the player to feel like a true superhero. Really, nothing beats the feeling of wielding Mjölnir and slamming down from the heavens to utterly obliterate anything that dares oppose your godly might.

Like many other aspects of the game, Avengers does possess a few quirks in terms of gameplay. More specifically, small movements can be a little odd. Movement speeds can be awkward in non-combat scenarios, saddling heroes with either a slow-as-hell walk or tweaked-out run with no way to split the difference. Certain aspects of platforming retain their functional appeal, but tend to look a little…off. Uncanny, in a way. Despite some of the quirks of traversal, the gameplay is incredibly rewarding, allowing the player to truly become one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

The devs took steps to alleviate Thor’s bad “Bethesda Beard”

Controls

The logistics of the control-scheme in Avengers makes sense. It’s not difficult to get used to the particulars of offense and defense. Even if a player is struggling with controls, the game has multiple training modes to players with both the overall controls and the various eccentricities of the individual heroes. The control scheme allows for the player to easily transition from hand-to-hand combat to ranged attacks, which really lends to the playability of the game.

Veterans of the action-adventure genre will take to the controls of Avengers very swiftly. Newbies might have a little more trouble, but with all of the support that the game provides, it shouldn’t be difficult for anyone to pick the game up with ease.

Visuals

Throughout my experience with the Marvel’s Avengers review, my single biggest complaint was the visuals. While the game was just released, you can’t really tell by looking at it. Hair looks like floating spider webs and glitches constantly. Lights flicker in the background. Lips don’t match the words being said. And the water looks absolutely unacceptable. How did this happen? The team spent 90% of their time creating the beautiful loading screens, probably. While visuals may not be everything, seeing Ms. Marvel’s costume constantly phase through itself really breaks immersion.

Not-So-Memorable Faces

When Avengers was first announced, it’s safe to say there was a bit of backlash around visuals. Character design was a specific complaint among social media-goers. This was not without good reason, honestly. The initial character designs looked horrible and people hadn’t adjusted to the truly jarring sensation of the Avengers not consisting of RDJ and all the dudes named Chris.

While there may have been some improvement since the announcement, the end result was still not ideal. I’ll just say it — the character models look bland as hell. If you put the characters in a lineup, I probably still wouldn’t be able to pick anyone out. Marvel’s Avengers Tony Stark looks identical to my old boss from the cell phone I worked at in college. This wouldn’t be a problem if my boss looked anything like what Tony Stark is supposed to look like.

The visuals at a distance look great. Stunning vistas and scenic locales look positively dynamite. However, this illusion quickly fades if you get up close and small details look like they were rendered on a Palm Pilot. I encountered a waterfall in the early part of the campaign that definitely could have been in Banjo & Kazooie, instead of a modern AAA game. If I am going to buy a game that costs me $60 of hard-earned money, I definitely expect it to look like it was finished — decent quality assurance can go a long way.

Kamala and Bruce’s relationship is a real treat to watch

Audio

One of my favorite parts of my Marvel’s Avengers review was the sound. In true Marvel fashion, Avengers contains some excellent music. The score is riveting and really helps to drive home the over-the-top feel of the game. Ms. Marvel’s elastic punches and kicks pack a fleshy thud. Iron Man’s repulsors have that characteristic charge-up whine. While visuals felt unpolished, the sound design in Avengers truly won me over.

Avengers packs some substantial voiceover talent. It shows. Eternal voiceover god Nolan North lends the voice of Tony Stark — not all that different from his previous work as wisecracking grave robber Nathan Drake if you think about it. Travis Willingham’s portrayal of the always-aloof Thor was spot-on. Sandra Saad was the shining star, bringing Ms. Marvel to life and allowing us to truly feel her plucky fangirl charm.

Multiplayer

If you’re more into single-player action and narrative, the game past the 12-hour or so mark won’t be for you. Once the main campaign wraps up, the idea that the game has a narrative structure falls by the wayside. The game immediately becomes an Avengers-themed Destiny clone. All the gear and loot you’ve been collecting in the campaign finally becomes relevant. Now we know why JARVIS was so upset about all these damn boxes. By the time you complete the campaign, your characters will likely only have unlocked a small fraction of the available moves.

Following the campaign, the transition between the campaign and the live-service model (Avengers Initiative, as it’s called) is a bit rough. You can expect a heavy ramp up in difficulty after the conclusion of the main story, and a list of missions and levels that are all basically the same. If you feel like getting to the level cap, there’s not really much more to play for aside from beating up bad guys with your buddies in co-op.

Hopefully, as Crystal Dynamic adds more content to the live-service end of things, it will begin to be worth playing. Additional playable characters such as Hawkeye or Captain Marvel would definitely make things more interesting, as well as new stories and campaigns pushed to us as time goes on. For now, we’ll just have to see what the devs have in store.

TL;DR

In my Marvel’s Avengers review, I found that the game presents us with a solid story and excellent gameplay. Fighting endless hordes of robots is very rewarding. The voiceover is convincing and the sound design is superb. However, the experience is severely lessened by poor quality assurance. Graphical quality issues and glitches are constant which really breaks immersion. Multiplayer feels like an afterthought, but, then again, we are in the age of “games as service.” Hopefully, Crystal Dynamics will iron out some of the issues and add additional content to keep the game alive. Since the Ms. Marvel-centric campaign is awful quick, I would expect new stories just around the corner. If you’re a Marvel or action game fan, you’ll probably get a kick out of it. Maybe just wait until it gets updated a time or two.

You can purchase Marvel’s Avengers on the Microsoft Store.

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