|Platforms||PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One (reviewed), Xbox Series X/S, Stadia|
|Release Date||September 4, 2020 (PC, PS4, XB1, Stadia)
November 10, 2020 (Xbox Series X|S)
November 12, 2020 (PlayStation 5)
Since its reveal at E3 2019 and subsequent preview opportunities in conventions and at home, Marvel’s Avengers has been climbing an uphill battle. From one thing to another, there has been some issue brought up, and so mountains were made from Ant Hills. Some of these concerns were not unfounded.
Violence: Marvel’s Avengers is a cooperative looter beat-’em-up. The titular hero squad take on a multitude of threats, from robots to humans to whatever MODOK is. Players use a variety of weapons to dispatch these foes and save the day. There is occasional blood splatter from enemies, though it is usually just fluid from the robotic foes. MODOK’s gradual descent from human to Mechanical Organism Designed Only for Killing can be seen as disturbing.
Language: Sh*t is used a few times.
Sexual Content: Captain America has a few outfits where he is shirtless. Black Widow has some tight outfits, but nothing truly scandalous. Both have outfits that seem to accentuate their posteriors. That IS America’s. . . never mind. Hulk is shirtless with a majority of his outfits, as expected.
I will just get this out of the way. No matter how good this game was going to look or be presented, it was going to be criticized and mocked and dragged through the streets like the shaming of Cersei in Game of Thrones. Having to be a follow up act to Avengers: Endgame, the highest grossing movie of all time (not adjusting for inflation, important note) and containing a finale so good not even Star Wars could land, there was so much riding on this game that the pressure was unbearable. The developers knew this, and they stuck to their plan. And it works.
Marvel’s Avengers takes the characters we have seen on the big screen for the past decade and sets them in a new direction. These are not the same people portrayed by RDJ, Chris Evans and co.; these are new interpretations that are using what you know and twisting the story in a way you do not. In the fallout of A-Day, people are gaining superpowers and are subsequently labelled Inhuman by George Tarleton and his company AIM. He has taken over Stark Industries and shut down SHIELD. The Avengers are disbanded, and evil has been quietly accepted into society. Inhumans are hunted in the streets by Robotic Synthoids and dragged out of their homes by AIM enforcers, never to be seen again by friends and family. This is the world now, and everyone blames the Avengers. But there is one willing to expose AIM: a teenager from New Jersey, Kamala Khan, herself a victim of A-Day, who knows our heroes are innocent. And she will bring them back, whatever it takes.
This is the basis for the 10-hour campaign. The story introduces one hero at a time and gives a short tutorial section before letting loose. Playing the story is vital to the overarching narrative experience of Marvel’s Avengers. Most missions are solo only, but a few are cooperative enabled once enough heroes are unlocked and present at that time. Game design and continuity complement one another; Captain America cannot be played in an early mission, for example, because he is not recruited yet. There is a lot to like in this story, and it is well worth the time needed to get to what everyone got the game for: the Avengers Initiative.
The Avengers Initiative is the multiplayer suite where everything is open to play, granted gear score is high enough. The missions it contains vary from quick five minute excursions to longer-form raids. In between all these are Iconic Mission chains that highlight one specific hero and their ties to the main story, some of which lead to the introduction of villains that are not in the campaign. Every mission except the Iconic ones rotate out of the War Table to play multiple times per day, so there is always something new to conquer. Eventually, when you have a hero at the gear score cap of 150, they are ready for AIM Secret Lab, this game’s equivalent to a raid. Every mission also has side objectives such as gear caches, trapped Inhumans or SHIELD agents in need of rescue. Sometimes these are hidden behind either puzzles, smash-able doors or a hacking terminal. But not all heroes can do all things. Black Widow is unable to smash doors (as Cap was until recently patched), and Hulk cannot hack terminals. While I understand that this serves to add some more distinct identities to these characters, it still feels unnecessary when nobody plays the same in the first place.
All of this does not work if the core gameplay is not fun, but it is, so it does. Heroes juggle between using light and heavy attacks, combined with dodges and parries, and finish with abilities or takedowns. Abilities come in three flavors: support, assault, and ultimate. Support is all about boosting teammates whether it is through damage, cloaking, or healing. A little support goes a long way in a pinch. Assault abilities do heavy damage and are most useful when used in a larger group of enemies. Ultimate is the complete package, boosting yourself and your abilities and your teammates. All of these in tandem can lead to some insane damage dealing. Be cautious; if the dodge and parry abilities are not used as well, the enemies faced will have no qualms of dishing out pain as well. Not every mission is a walk in the park. But leveling up the abilities like Black Widow’s combos makes things easier. As she lands consecutive hits without taking damage, a meter builds until she achieved a status called overcharged, which deals even more damage. Building this combo meter gets easier the higher her level gets, and eventually she turns into that one friend who button mashes his way to victory all the time in Injustice (I will never forgive you, Aaron).
I get more and more enjoyment out of the game every time I play it and I cannot wait to play more in the months and years to come. However, I also cannot overlook the issues it has. The biggest one I had was getting into Avengers Initiative. I would invite friends to play with me only for them to not be able to join because “they had yet to unlock multiplayer,” even though it was stated before launch that it would be available whether the story was finished or not. There have been times where enemies have gone all Kitty Pride and vanished through walls, forcing checkpoint resets at the end of a mission to which there was no end. Buildings, environment objects, and everything in between has just not spawned in a level before. I have had instances where the game has either crashed or soft locked as well, though it thankfully never erased my progress.
Another thing about this game is the micro-transactions. Like other games like this, there are battle passes—named Challenge Cards here—to unlock new cosmetics like skins, emotes, takedowns, and title cards. Each hero out of the box has a free card with forty tiers to unlock. Completing these tiers requires finishing daily and weekly challenges. They can also be skipped with currency called credits purchased through the system’s respective stores. What is nice about these challenge cards is that they do not have an expiration date and can be snowballed for future cards, as new heroes will have both a free version a and paid version that will cost Credits. Finishing one card will give enough Credits that no real money will need to be spent unless you want to buy from the marketplace. If you choose to grind it out and finish all launch cards, you can have 7,800 Credits (about $78 worth). The downside is that this is enough to buy only five costumes from the Marketplace. This amount feels gross with how much costumes cost and the amount of grinding needed to procure the funds for it. Also, the costumes do not rotate out of the store at a suitable pace that it feels special to check the store daily. Hulk’s Just Joe outfit was in the store for nearly a month after release.
As to be expected with a game of this size and scope, Marvel’s Avengers has many ups and downs. Even though my ups are much higher than the downs, the problems are still ever-present and being dealt with in updates. But when it comes down to it, I cannot pull myself away from this game. The daily and weekly challenges for heroes, gameplay loop, and ongoing story keep me coming back day after day. This may not be the masterpiece we wanted, but it is a dang sure ton of fun. Destiny was not perfect at its launch, and neither is this. A brand should not always be expected to nail the superhero landing, but it tried really hard and I am glad there was more effort put into it than others would dare to exert. Looter cooperative games are here to stay and this is the one for me, no matter the score. Like Kamala’s father says, “Good is not something you are, it is something you do.” And that is exactly what Marvel’s Avengers does.
The Bottom Line
Despite it having its fair share of issues, Marvel's Avengers is the licensed Destiny clone that is more than just that.