Captain America. Iron Man. Hulk. Black Widow. Miss Marvel.
That right there is a powerhouse collection of heroes, Earth’s greatest and most bankable defenders. Any game starring the lot of them should be able to knock a homerun straight out of the park, and yet, something was not quite right with the recent Avengers beta. Early access left me feeling mixed on the game.
It looked great, but it felt like it cribbed too much from Destiny 2’s homework. The characters have powers ranging from amazing through to sensational, but you barely got to use them. The opening bridge sequence is a work of cinematic art that showcases how nobody does getting from Point A to Point B while all hell breaks loose like Crystal Dynamics can. And yet the overall X-factor just wasn’t there.
A few hours into Marvel’s Avengers and I was ready to throw in the towel on a frustrating experience. A week later, a rainy weekend where I had nothing better to do but try the game a second time with a fresh patch installed, and my opinion has changed…mostly. Thanks to some much-needed tweaks, I think I’ve got the hang of what Crystal Dynamics is trying to do, and even though there’s still a lot of work to be done in the months after it launches, Avengers is starting to feel worthy of the brand that it represents.
That’s thanks primarily to combat that feels bloody fantastic. It’s no small feat coming up with a competent gameplay strategy for any single character, but doing so for five initially and more down the line? That’s a heck of a feat. What I do appreciate is the uniformity between each Avenger: Light and Heavy attacks based on their offensive style, an Intrinsic power that regulates their unique abilities and more powerful slobber-knockers that can be unleashed when you need an edge.
One of my big concerns with the power-attacks was how long the cooldown took between using them, but the latest beta build seems to have addressed that issue. I still think the cooldown period could be cut shorter, but considering how gear-driven Marvel’s Avengers is, I’m also certain that loadouts will factor into play here in the grand scheme of things.
What I really do enjoy, are the skill trees. There’s at least a trio of them between characters, that make a tangible difference when you invest in any single path. I’ve been favouring Iron Man specifically, as he suits my style of play perfectly: A mid-range walking tank who can scrap with the best of them if anyone gets too close.
Iron Man’s collection of repulsor tech, lasers and rockets makes him a menace at any distance, while his combos are designed to cut bigger enemies down to size. That’s the role that the armoured Avenger fits perfectly into, while the rest of the playable cast also fulfills certain combat niches surprisingly well. I’m still figuring out how to best play as the Hulk, but a giant green muscle monster that can ragdoll his way through opponents shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.
Here’s where the entire system comes undone though: Avengers seems to be a bit on the brutal side with keeping your chosen hero in danger. There’s a power fantasy to be had when all the puzzle pieces do align, but it is beyond frustrating to be given skills that you can’t properly unleash due to overwhelming rush mobs of enemies.
Here’s an example: Iron Man has a great combo for knocking down shielded opponents, but it’s almost impossible to pull off when the enemy it is designed to counter is shrugging it off and knocking you flat on your ass before you can even complete the string. Having all manner of chaos explode around you at the same time as a half-dozen goons introduce you to a surround sound bollocking also makes it difficult to nail those hero beat moments.
But when it does happen? Absolute magic, and I giggle with glee whenever I unleash a Unibeam attack that melts tanks into molten metal. I think the key attitude to have here, is that you don’t need to be the hero all the time in Avengers. You’re part of a team, not a lone wolf vigilante who needs to shoulder all of the responsibility for saving the world. Trust in your friends, support each other and strike when the opportunity presents itself.
The game is built on creating dopamine rushes of power, giving you a chance to shine and use your character’s talents to save the day. With some extra polish, a retuning of the enemies and less frequent knockdowns, there could be something magical here down the road. I’m still not entirely sold on the live service model and having a battle pass system in play this early in the lifecycle of Marvel’s Avengers feels premature, but I’m slowly feeling it!
Consider my interest assembled on what should be at the very least, an interesting year ahead for when Earth’s mightiest mortals join forces.
Last Updated: August 17, 2020