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Marvel's Avengers Review: Fan-service only?

Marvel's Avengers Review: Fan-service only?
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Marvel's Avengers has potential, but also some deep flaws. Here's what we thought of Crystal Dynamics' take on the superhero genre.

Marvel's Avengers Review: Fan-service only?
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Announced more than three years ago by Square Enix, Marvel's Avengers is finally with us. But does it live up to the hype? Read on.

  • Genre: Action
  • Release Date: September 4, 2020
  • Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Developer: Crystal Dynamics
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Price: $54.99
  • Version Tested: PS4 Pro

Scenario and Campaign

Before launching its players into the deep end of loot hunting and build optimization, Marvel's Avengers offers a campaign of around ten hours that serves as an introduction to the roster available to players in this 'vanilla' version of the game.

Kamala Khan, a devoted fan of the Avengers since childhood, is quietly enjoying A-Day — at least until a mysterious gas, the Terrigen, infects the population and routs the superheroes.

Several years later, exposure to Terrigen has led to people developing superpowers. Khan is also affected, now capable of enlarging her limbs at will.

After having deciphered a video discrediting the scientist at the head of AIM, the company supposed to replace the Avengers, the young Khan sets off in search of the resistance. This will lead her to cross paths with the heroes present during A-Day, which is a perfect pretext to take turns playing Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor and Captain America.

We feel that Crystal Dynamics wanted to put on a great show for players, but unfortunately it works too rarely. Between the clumsy staging, the overly-generic writing and the moments of bravery hampered by the approximations of the gameplay, in the end we only appreciated the following:

  • Kamala Khan - the only character with any depth;
  • the handful of original set-pieces;
  • the final boss - the only moment we felt the particulars of each character were really brought together for a common objective (apart from the introduction).

We expected more, of course, but we must face the facts: the campaign in Marvel's Avengers is a 'distracting' introduction to the multiplayer aspect of the game — which is the ultimate point of the game.

If you're looking for an adventure in the vein of Insomniac's Spider-Man or Rocksteady's Arkham series, then Marvel's Avengers will not be for you.

Marvel's Avengers

Gameplay and Content

Marvel's Avengers doesn't ask anything spectacular in terms of combat. You'll tackle waves and waves of enemies, using a battle system that plays like a derivative of that which Rocksteady introduced in Arkham Asylum over ten years ago.

Coloured signals will warn you of the nature of your enemies' next attacks, and it's up to you to react accordingly: yellow attacks can be countered, while red attacks must be dodged.

As in the aforementioned Arkham games, targeting is secondary outside of boss battles, since your character will target the enemy automatically according to the tilt of the stick. However, this system poses some concerns in multiplayer mode, since your ally can get in the way of your line of sight.

In addition to the usual light and heavy attacks, the game provides each hero with three skills: a special attack, a defensive or support technique, and an 'ultimate'. These are all governed by a cooldown system that clashes with the dynamism of the system.

Having this kind of timer associated with more powerful techniques isn't necessarily a problem. However, the latter is far too long in Avengers, at least in the early hours of the game. Subsequently, progressing your pet's skills and equipment should activate auras that accelerate cooldowns under certain conditions.

This is where Marvel's Avengers will likely lose superhero fans who just wanted to unplug their brains and relax with friends — beneath the fan-service aspects, there is a rather complex action-RPG system. There are three skill trees per hero, more than ten stats to juggle, and a loot system of grey-to-red rarities that go well, all complemented by active and passive bonuses to complete the loop.

The mechanics integrated with care, with a fairly clean interface, and in a way which lets the player experiment with all kinds of builds. You'll feel the growth in power of your favorite hero, and if you feel like changing characters, you'll always be able to craft good-quality equipment via the many vendors in the central hub using resources collected from the field or by dismantling old gear.

Marvel's Avengers

Each Avenger has their own gameplay, with strengths and weaknesses identifiable within a few minutes. Sticking these early trials out will result in you having a ton of fun, since the increase in experience isn't done at lightning speed like in similar titles.

You'll have to be patient if you plan to raise even one character to the maximum Level 50. Unfortunately for Crystal Dynamics, quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality, and Marvel's Avengers plays the recycling card to the extreme.

Each mission is built in exactly the same way - or thereabouts - with an open area punctuated by points of interest. These house small events, ending up in an AIM complex filled with the same types of unit.

The problem here is the lack of diversity of the activities offered - during the review, we counted seven different objectives, repeated again and again, and which often fail to capture the imagination.

This repetitiveness and uninteresting tasks, associated with a bestiary light on variety, will likely quickly bore you - so much so that you feel like you've seen all the game has to offer within the first ten hours.

It's a shame, because there is really potential in Marvel's Avengers, and it has all the weapons necessary to become a good game. However, for the moment the mediocrity of its content means you don't feel quite as you should when you pick up the controller to assume the dream roles of Hulk or Captain America.

This will change in time, with Crystal Dynamics planning to add more content soon with free updates.

Marvel's Avengers

Production

Tested on the PS4 Pro in Performance Mode, Marvel's Avengers suffers from major technical problems which tarnishing the experience.

The framerate regularly drops below 20 fps when the screen is loaded with enemies and effects (which happens very frequently), while the motion blur and the overbearing pyrotechnics clash too often. The rest is ultimately like the game — rather generic, or at least far from being inspired. The few areas covered in the countryside are reused for a variety of "minimum service" environments, which are appealing but far from current standards.

A great deal of bugs, which are more annoying than not, marked the thirty hours that we spent in the company of Cap and his friends. We very much hope that the developers will fix these quickly, because for the moment the experience is undermined significantly.

Ultimately, it's only the superheroes themselves who manage to redeem the whole disaster, with solid modeling and stylish animations.

Speaking of the heroes, we can't end a review without talking about the game's economic model. Avengers will come with a $10 battle pass that allows access to skins and other cosmetic treats.

This is nothing bad in itself - in fact quite standard - except in the implementation of finishers. Heroes have only two basic animations here, and if you get tired of seeing them over and over you'll have spend or farm an extremely rare additional currency in order to ease the monotony.

We aren't going to be picky here, because Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics seem well motivated to sprinkle the game with free DLC for a long time to come, but it's always unpleasant to see free-to-play gatcha mechanics are embedded in games sold for an initial cost.

Marvel's Avengers
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Between a disappointing campaign and the whole 'fan-service' idea of a gamne with substantial content but limited interest, Marvel's Avengers didn't really convince us.

We will have to see how ot evolves, and there is clearly potential behind its progression system and superheroes of very distinct approaches. However, right now we can't stress enough that you think twice before embarking on this adventure.

In addition to all the flaws related to its structure and its flagrant lack of variety, the game throws out an stream of irritating technical problems - some of which block your progress. 

In our eyes, it's a case of 'we'll see what it's like in five or six months'.

Six heroes, six ways to play
Progression system works very well
Worthy homage to the comics
Fairly flexible multiplayer that allows you to chain missions quickly
Bugs and technical problems
Bestiary too limited
Repetition of the mission objectives
Disappointing campaign

Marvel's Avengers: Significant day one patch necessary

A pretty sizeable patch, weighing in at 18 GB, will need to be downloaded on release day for Marvel's Avengers. It should fix many bugs and optimization issues, among other things.

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