After being gifted MARVEL’s Avengers on my Birthday I have to admit I was both excited and rather cautious about getting my hopes up that MARVEL’s Avengers from Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix could deliver what they had promised it could deliver for MARVEL Fans. The E3 2019 trailer quite frankly looked terrible from the awful “try not to copy MCU Versions of the Avengers but do enough to just about look like them” style to the visuals and character models to the on the rails segment to the prologue whomever pieced the trailer together thought looked amazing. Reality set in and between that trailer reveal and the months leading to release, changes to the character models were made and the promise of improvements to the final game that would reassure fans this was indeed a game they could invest both time and their hard-earned money in. The platform Beta’s that were scheduled in the three weekends before release confirmed many of my fears and when firing up the full game it became a more frustrating experience than something to continue for fans where the MCU had left off.
In the twenty days since launch, this game has had multiple patches in the hopes of addressing the many MANY issues that have plagued this MARVEL game because believe me, not even Loki himself could have caused the amount of chaos and problems that somehow Crystal Dynamics managed to miss before the game launched. Just last week on September 18th, a massive 12.4gb patch was released with the social media posting claiming it was addressing over 1000 issues….not kidding, 1000 issues reported since the game launched. Twenty minutes after updating my game on Xbox One X and my game hard crashed at the end of a long HIVE mission during the final boss level. Pretty much sums up how playing this game post campaign genuinely feels right now.
But I will admit that not everything in this game is a woeful mess so why don’t we start off with what does not suck about MARVEL’s Avengers, the story campaign. I really liked the story campaign which sets up a new Avengers universe and makes the clever decision to drive the narrative of the story through the eyes and experience of Kamala Khan, an Avengers Superfan who on A Day, a day designed to celebrate all things Avengers, sees Kamala as a winner of a writing competition getting VIP treatment joined by her father. Kamala is truly a super nerd when it comes to our heroes, she knows everything about each of the Avengers and is genuinely thrilled to be at the event. By far the best voice performance in the game comes from Sandra Saad as Kamala Khan, she just brings the character to life far more than anyone else on a voice actor cast that has some pretty big names, all but one, give good performances but more on that later.
By now everyone knows what happens in the prologue as the first gameplay reveal trailer and the beta weekends showed that the events lead to a new power source causes the Chimera, the Avengers hellicarrier to crash but not before an explosion creates a cloud which engulfs New York, and in the five years that follow, people are turned into Inhumans with many discovering that they have super powers of their own and not all want to use them for good. The Avengers are blamed for the tragedy and forced to disband, Tony Stark loses his business and fortune which is then taken over by AIM who promise to help Inhumans and protect the world in the wake of the Avengers fall. Oh, and Captain America died in the accident…yup, course he did.
The story really is satisfying to play and is well paced and written as Kamala, now with her own super powers to become Miss MARVEL, is still obsessed with the Avengers, now five years later from the events of A-Day and is trying to find out what really happened that day and discovers what she believes is evidence that shows that Cap was murdered. Kamala takes it upon herself to seek out Bruce Banner to try to get him to help her bring the Avengers back together based on the evidence she has which leads to exploring the animosity that lead to the fall and disbanding of the Avengers and it really is very enjoyable. The Campaign is absolutely worth playing through not only because you actually have to if you want to unlock all the Avenger characters to use in the events post campaign but it actually is one of the better MARVEL stories told via a video game for me, not quite on the level of Spider-Man PS4 but it certainly delivers that “could be a graphic novel” experience that you want to have in a game. Kamala is just such a compelling character thanks to the performance of Sandra Saad and I really liked Troy Baker’s Bruce Banner, his delivery of the man suffering from the regret and guilt over A-Day makes this one of my favourite portrayals of the character outside of the comic books and animation. The really is a lot to enjoy about the campaign.
Sadly, and I do mean this, sadly there are just too many things about the game that really bring down the good elements that almost every session with the game revealed more and more problems, some were known from the Beta and just never addressed to issues from the full game that somehow made it through quality testing and were put on the “oh we can patch it out in the months to come” list of things that Crystal Dynamics should be ashamed they allowed into a full release title. I will start with the difficulty settings where no thought whatsoever to how scaling the difficulty should and could have been implemented. I played on Hard simply because normal offered no challenge in the beta and at first, I felt it did work ok. That was until it became very clear that playing on HARD or even higher did not mean that enemies would actually scale to your player or power level once the flawed ‘gear system’ came into play. Instead you will encounter enemies that can simply one hit put you down, with the majority of the attacks being cryogenic (ICE) based. There really is nothing lazier that not having a true scaling system but to just see your level and make every enemy, from boss level to grunt, have the ability to drop you with a single shot to make any progress you feel you have made with your chosen hero feel worthless.
Now let’s talk about the gear system, this painfully and poorly copied mechanic completely ripped off from Destiny 2 and just one of many aspects of Destiny that Crystal Dynamics just lifted and plopped into their own game. The gear system is purely there to add another level of grinding alongside the character level each of the Avengers have. Unlike the Skills system which is unlocked with the Experience Points you gain from reaching a new player level, the gear system is simply there to give you something else to work on once you have hit the 50 Level maximum cap of that player level. Now unlike Destiny, there is no actual change in cosmetic look to your character with gear equipped but instead some can give you a perk or buff to the hero and can be ‘boosted’ using the many materials you collect through the levels. Starting with the standard “white” for common, “Blue” for rare, “Purple” for Epic and of course “Gold” for legendary, the different quality can give you one, two or three perk boosts. You will spend more time simply picking the one with the highest number and boosting that until you can replace it with another higher number item that most of the time the perks that they have are pointless and they mostly feel pointless as well as the real strength comes in the actually quite good skill system.
When you do take control of a new Avenger, you will find that in the five years since you were able to play as each one for five minutes in the prologue, they have either forgotten their skills or lost them. Some of which is explained via the story such as Hulk being “Broken Hulk” and not able to become the full big green angry machine we all know and love, Tony Stark has lost access to all his suits and his money, without SHIELD Black Widow has gone underground and Thor felt he was no longer worthy to wield Mjolnir and left it at the Statue of Captain America in Heroes park. The detail in how you can rebuild their skills and abilities however is very much the best part of this game, as you can feel them getting more powerful and useful the more skills you unlock. Combat is relatively simple with just a Light attack, Heavy Attack, Ranged Attack and then the hero’s Intrinsic ability which is simply a defensive mode. Using level points, player can add combos to those attacks to create chain moves or just adding new moves to the characters offense and defensive arsenal. Some feel basic but on the road to Max level 50, you will first unlock al their basic skills before using skill points to boost their special moves and then their Mastery levels which is where you can truly create a nice build depending on your play style. There are some lovely nods to the comic books and animation but particularly the MCU, with some move’s fans will instantly recognise from the films such as Thor gaining the ability to spin Mjolnir to spin hit enemies and Iron Man having his spinning laser move from Iron Man 2. This by far was the most fun element to the game, unlocking skills and seeing just how powerful the heroes could become.
But post campaign is where the fun becomes a frustrating grind of rinse and repeat of the same missions in the same locations and there is only so many times you can be asked to fight a clone of Abomination and Task Master before you wish they had cloned the Avengers for you to fight evil versions of them for you to fight. Technical issues also make it a complete nightmare at times with hard crashing of the game on my Xbox One X during big battles with massive particle effects somehow causing the game to freeze or having actual execution of some character moves, having the animation actually make you fall through the world forcing a reload of the most recent checkpoint, this was very much an issue with Iron Man for me post character level 50. Crystal Dynamics spent so much time replicating the Destiny experience that they forgot to make it a MARVEL one once the campaign was over. It really becomes such a repetitive chore that once you have all the Avengers to level 50 that all you have left is to grind your way to get them to Gear Max Power level of 150 and trust me, trying to break through 140 with the amount of materials you suddenly need to boost gear to their max level and you will just wonder what is the point after farming the same missions over and over for the tenth time with little reward. Even the faction missions, the game’s version of Destiny’s daily bounties can all be completed with just two missions meaning you are just waiting another 23 hours and 20 mins until you can get some new ones.
It really is such shame that Crystal Dynamics did such a piss poor job with MARVEL’s Avengers, do I have confidence that they can turn this around in the future, well maybe they can but I can bet my savings right now that whatever new content they will bring will have to be paid for. The best cosmetics and pointless emotes are all tied behind a pay wall and whilst you can earn in game credits for some cosmetics and unlocks others with gameplay, you can see that the more visually appealing items require real money purchasing of the in-game currency. Now each Avenger does have their own Battle Pass called the Challenge Card which unlocks even more cosmetics, boosting materials and nameplates, the cosmetic outfits tend to be just three types coloured in differently than anything majorly wanted by fans. These challenge cards can unlock he real money currency and with every new Avenger added to the game requiring the purchase of a challenge card, you can in theory earn enough in game to purchase one and repeat but the grind to complete the challenge card really is ridiculous and having gotten the base Avengers halfway through theirs, I really cannot be bothered to complete them.
MARVEL is the world’s hottest IP right now thanks to the success of the MCU and it really should be a complete no brainer that a publisher such as Square Enix and a developer in Crystal Dynamics would be able to make a game universe fans could instantly fall in love with. Instead they made a right bargain bin attempt right off the bat which is far more broken than Anthem ever was. Twenty days since launch and after three big game patches, issues and problems are still being reported and experienced and playing through the same missions every single time I fire this game up, even managed to stop the fun of playing with friends from being a good reason to fire this game up. As a gamer I am annoyed by how broken a condition this game launched in and how it continues to be a bug-ridden mess. But as a MARVEL fan I am saddened by how poor a job Crystal Dynamics did with this license and at this moment, there is very little that would see me part with any money to expand the game with any planned expansions for a game that supposedly is designed to run for “years to come”.
Avoid until it is below £20 in a Christmas or New Year sale, they may have even fixed most of the bugs by then because the only thing worse than the broken gameplay is the god awful performance of Nolan North as the worst adaptation of Tony Stark….EVER, not kidding…..Tony Stark sucks in this game!