Marvel’s Avengers is one of the most difficult games I’ve ever had to cover. Not because of the gameplay difficulty or anything like that, but because it’s not really a game that inspires you to talk about it.
Whereas an amazing game gives you a tonne of things to highlight and praise, or a bad game provides plenty of flaws to discuss, games like Marvel’s Avengers are far trickier. I’ve been sat for a while now to try to collate my thoughts on the game, and there’s just one thing I keep coming back to:
Marvel’s Avengers is fine. Not bad, not amazing. Just fine.
It’s not as if Marvel’s Avengers is lacking in content to cover, because that’s something it perhaps has an overabundance of. It’s Stuff: The Game. Whether it’s fragments, comic books, gear, or one of the many other briefly explained resources, Marvel’s Avengers is overloaded with Stuff and Things for you to hoover up as you absent-mindedly press square and triangle to clear rooms of bad robot dudes.
Combat is a simple yet admittedly fun time, despite all the excess trimmings. You play as the whole cast over the course of the beta with each Avenger bringing something different to the team. Iron Man will probably be the most common pick in online matchmaking, his ability to jet around making him the most fun by default. Hulk maintains the character that’s been established over decades: smash. Thor can hit enemies with his hammer (bonus points for the “thwonk” sound effects) and also use lightning, though time with him is very scant in the beta. Captain America gets the shortest playtime of them all, yet his shield is as satisfying to use as you would expect. Black Widow is also here. She has guns.
Kamala Khan, for all intents and purposes, is the main character of Marvel’s Avengers. A lot of the story seems to revolve around her reverence of The Avengers and how she becomes a part of a broken team, though the beta is a little fractured in how it puts this across as there are missing story beats. She’s an endearing character who will almost certainly be worn down by reality over the course of the narrative, but her ability to embiggen herself and throw some massive fists will likely remain fun throughout.
Certain Avengers are better for different enemies with Hulk being the go-to tank to take on the big boys and Iron Man providing air support against drones. I’m not sure if Black Widow will be the most popular pick as she naturally feels a little underwhelming compared to the other Avengers. Her ability to turn invisible doesn’t make a tonne of sense when against the massive waves of enemies the game throws at you, nor do her weightless guns feel like they’re helping much at all.
Each Avenger gets three abilities mapped to a bumper input that can often turn the tide of battle. Most of the action boils down to hitting basic attacks with square and triangle while waiting for these abilities to become available — there’s very little to the combat beyond that. You may need to properly synergise with your Strike Team in the full game or on higher difficulties, but I found Marvel’s Avengers to be something I could dump my brain out for while shooting the breeze with friends. If that’s what you’re after — a big, dumb superhero game — Marvel’s Avengers will almost definitely scratch that itch.
Perhaps it will be a far deeper, more involving game by the time launch day rolls around, but I get the feeling that you can largely ignore resources like Polychoron, Catalyst, and Uru and just mash buttons to save the day. I actually had to look up the game’s resources as there are so many that aren’t really explained and just chucked at you, like someone thought The Division and Destiny were maybe underdoing it. There’s an absolutely absurd amount of loot and gear to find here, but Marvel’s Avengers is kind enough to let you hold L2 to equip the best gear, which saves you from descending into the game’s many, many menus too often.
It doesn’t stop all the loot from feeling pretty pointless, though. Again, this might be something that’s more fulfilling in the full game with raids and the like, but the loot in the beta doesn’t tangibly alter gameplay or give noticeable effect changes. Being able to see gear while it’s equipped might have helped loot to feel more significant and worthwhile, but it’s all invisible with actual visual customisation coming in the form of separate cosmetics instead. This, paired with how frequently you will be picking up gear and a million different resources, makes the hunt for loot just feel like busywork without purpose.
Marvel’s Avengers does a really poor job of explaining how its many moving parts work, and even its UI could do with some tweaking. Simply trying to find something in the myriad of menus is far too much of a hassle, so many different sub-menus and sections for so many different things. For whatever reason, Avengers also doesn’t tell you where a downed friend is with you instead having to press up on the D-pad and then swim through the barrage of icons that come up. There’s a lot here that feels not only unintuitive but also counter-intuitive, like it’s working against the player.
What really works, though, is the opening section, A-Day. Even though I’ve watched the demo at least a few times before I actually played it, the scale and bombastic nature of it has been the highlight of my time with the game so far. It rivals the MCU in terms of spectacle, a battle across a bridge where you leap across chasms as Hulk and rain down hell as Iron Man, the whole thing acting as one large, compelling tutorial as you swap between each Avenger. Crystal Dynamics seem to have polished this sequence to a T, so much so that everything else in the beta is a tad lifeless by comparison.
It doesn’t help that the mission structure can feel predictable after a couple of hours. There really isn’t much to the content in the beta, it mostly boiling down to clearing rooms or holding objectives. The actually meaty stuff does fare a little better, a Hulk vs. Abomination boss fight varying up the routine really well, but I just kept thinking how much better it would be to have missions specific to each character rather than the regular brawl for all that Avengers seems to consist of. Stealth sequences with Black Widow, large-scale city destruction with Hulk, aerial recon with Iron Man — the mind really starts to wander when you’re sat there mashing buttons.
I also have some concerns about how Marvel’s Avengers holds up on a base PS4 as I encountered a whole load of technical issues during my ten hours with the game. Slowdown was a constant concern, my weathered black box struggling to keep up with the sheer amount of things happening on-screen at once. Meanwhile, my colleague, who was trying the beta out on a Pro, had zero issues. The slowness of navigating the unresponsive menus, the bad matchmaking, and general technical hiccups will also all need tidying up, but that’s really what betas are for.
I can see myself playing more of Marvel’s Avengers, but it’s fair to say I wasn’t exactly bowled over by the beta. I had fun in spurts, though these spurts mostly came when playing with a friend, eyes glazing over as we cracked bad jokes and punched some heads in. Those who like multiplayer RPGs of a similar ilk will probably enjoy what this looter brawler has to offer, even if it’s difficult to gauge the longevity of a GaaS title in a restrictive beta. For me, Marvel’s Avengers so far is like Iron Man 2: it’s not great but not terrible, and though definitely enjoyable at times, you might not be missing out on much by skipping it.
A PS4 beta key was provided by Square Enix for the purposes of this preview.
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