When it was first announced that Square Enix was publishing a MARVEL Avenger’s Video Game from Crystal Dynamics and Edios Montreal in 2019 it got my attention especially with the MCU coming to an end for the foreseeable following Avengers End Game. The Announcement was full hype and huge plans for what was more than just a video game but in a similar model to the “Destiny Ten Year Plan” it originally had, MARVEL’s Avengers was set to be the start of a gaming experience that would stretch over years with new content expanding the base game. But then they actually revealed it by showcasing the prologue to the game and it worried me, a lot! I also missed every opportunity to get early hands on with the game with the last chance being EGX 2019 and perhaps the worst run demo stand I have ever seen. But jump to 2020 and now just a few weeks before release we have the second of a trio of Beta weekends for the game and thanks to being a Virgin Media Customer, I was able to get a code to try the beta out on my Xbox One X. To say it was a mixed bag of both good and bad elements was more than I had expected.
So why don’t I start with what I do like about what I was able to experience during this beta weekend and what actually surprised me the most was that I did not hate it but I also did not love it. That said there is certainly a lot of room for this to grow into something MARVEL fans could sink their teeth into. The Beta is pretty much a demo that again includes the full prologue now with tweaks to the character player models so they actually look far better than when it was originally revealed especially with Thor and Black Widow. The prologue itself sets up the events that the game’s main campaign story is built on but it was good to actually play through it finally and get a feel for this on the rails taste of what the game might offer. The prologue has you controlling the different members of the Avengers starting with Thor and switch to another character as the events which will be known in game as ‘A-Day’ unfold.
The gameplay feels very much like a blend of the MARVEL Alliance games and Destiny, in fact so much of this beta build reminded me of how Destiny is structured in a game that I almost expected Ikora to show up along with Nick Fury to give me a mission. Gameplay is a mix of using light attacks (On X Button) and Heavy Attacks (On Y Button) to do basic combos to begin with but as you level the character up you can use skill points to unlock elements to both buttons such as charged moves or aerial jump attacks. Each character has three special moves, one is assigned to LB, the other to RB and using both LB+RB activates a super move. All of which are tailored to the character and their powers so with Thor his melee is tied to his hammer Mjölnir which he can throw and call back but is sadly not as satisfying as throwing the axe in God of War ironically, but when the hammer has been thrown, Thor will revert to just punching which is a nice little detail. Switching to Iron Man and his repulsor blasts make up a lot of his attacks but being able to call in the Hulkbuster armour as his super power is thrilling with a really fun animation with a couple of moves like the machine gun punch and missile first launcher straight out of the MCU.
The Beta has the prologue and two campaign missions set further into the game following the prologue which teams Miss Marvel, Kamala Khan, now herself with powers as a result of A-Day with Bruce Banner and what the game refers to as ‘Broken Hulk’ and you can see that this it not the full Hulk but one that cannot not fully become the huge green behemoth that you get to use in the Prologue, though he is still big enough, angry enough and loves to Smash all be it in a reduce way which I really want to see explained in the story. Miss Marvel is a great character from what has been shown in this beta and Is voiced perfectly by Sandra Saad with Troy Baker really bringing Bruce Banner to life. The two campaign missions see the two in search of Tony Stark by acquiring a back up copy of Jarvis to help them locate him and aid the remaining elements of S.H.I.E.L.D. lead by Maria Hill. The remainder of the beta content is in side missions accessed view the map table in the current base of the wreck of the Chimera hellicarrier. The Story missions is where I think MARVEL’s Avengers will really deal the best player experience and going forward, if they can adapt the big MARVEL universe stories into this game going forward would indeed be worth the price of admission if they can get it right. Sadly though, that is not enough for me and this beta has too many signs that confirm my concerns about this game just going by what this demo build really, has shown.
Those concerns sadly right now are many and with such a short time to full release, I am worried. Starting off with just how incredibly buggy this beta/demo build is for I experienced a good few even before I can get into the gameplay issues I had as well. Cutscenes during the campaign missions would often lose the character dialogue track so would become a silent movie. Character animations in cutscene would also bug out such as Miss Marvel not having hair in one scene was quite disturbing. Several of the finisher animations that some characters have with Hulk in particular, was out of sync with the actual gameplay so was literally just beating up air.
The gameplay itself is very basic revolving around just beating things up and even the objectives of the side missions you can take a squad of MARVEL heroes on often comes down to just beating something up to destroy it or to protect someone or even just to control zones so JARVIS can slowly hack into the system for you. I also really hate how some of the side missions are so short and that the moment you complete the main objective its over with very little fan fair. The enemies you fight range from standard grunts with guns to melee enemies with shields which you will have to break down with heavy attacks before you can use light attacks on them. Depending on which character you play as, this can either be really fun or just down right repetitive and the side missions in this beta got really old, really quick for me.
Now the Devs did come out this weekend on social media to say that the full game will have a large variety of different enemies to fight and new locations that wont just be the same AIM building like in this Beta/Demo build but overall you will just be beating things up with your favourite characters and there is very little else from what this beta. The Gear system also had very little impact at all to my gameplay I found compared to the skills you can unlock as you level a character up. It uses the same system as Destiny for gear with different quality items having a buff effect and it can then be boosted further by the materials that you collect in the world in order to increase that Gear item’s power level. I do not feel that the Beta really showcased how the gear system will work, although a mission where enemies were using cryo weapons did say that having gear items that bet negate that would be advisable. Time will tell if this gear system can do as much to change your play style as it does in Destiny but it certainly shows just how much Destiny has played a part inspiring MARVEL’s Avengers.
Now the beta really came to life for me when playing with friends and forming a squad with all of us using the hero we wanted to use and when this happened, I did kind of love this beta but when playing it solo, I was forced to have a full AI controlled squad of the other three characters and to say the AI is a little iffy is an understatement. When you are knocked down and waiting to be revived, there were times when my squad did a full Gears companion AI and failed to revive me, there were also times where two of the squad just stopped and refused to join me further in the level. This could be a problem because it feels to me that this is a game that wants you to team with 3 friends for all the side missions with only the campaign missions reducing that depending on where you are in the main story. I do not mind playing with friends but sometimes I do like playing solo so I am hoping there is more refinement into who and how many AI controller squad mates you can have because the beta just gives you everyone and on some of the shorter side missions, you can really feel like you are not involved when you see Miss Marvel and Iron Man bust out their super move and become a giant and Hulkbuster and kick all the ass whilst you are not even nearby to throw a punch!
Coming away from this closed beta weekend on Xbox, I am not loving MARVEL’s Avengers but I am liking it far more than I expected to going into this weekend. There are plenty of elements that I really enjoyed by far too many that I disliked to make this an absolute day one purchase for me. This is following the same business model as a Games for service title like Destiny which means investing time and money in a game experience designed to run for years and not sequels and so far, not enough in this beta has me wanting to commit to that future spend based on what the beta has shown. I like Troy Baker as Bruce Banner but honestly hate the performance of Nolan North as Tony stark which is not helped by the cheesiest dialogue for Tony such as when he calls in his Hulkbuster armour crying out “Who you gonna call….Hulkbuster!” which sounds as naff as it was to type out.
Next weekend will feature the first and final Open Beta available to everyone on PS4, Xbox One and PC and I am hoping they have time to fix many of the issues shown in this beta as well as add more content that better reflects the full game experience because I really want to love this game but right now….too much is making me hold off hitting that pre-order button.