Published on January 13th, 2021 | by Jamie Kirk
Marvel’s Avengers Review #XSX
Summary: Marvel's Avengers features fun combat and an endearing campaign that showcases Kamala Khan. Unfortunately it also features a post-game experience that is repetitive, lifeless and a slog to play through.
Marvel’s Avengers is an epic, third-person, action-adventure game that combines an original, cinematic story with single-player and co-operative gameplay*. Assemble into a team of up to four players online, master extraordinary abilities, customise a growing roster of Heroes, and defend the Earth from escalating threats.
While not a native Xbox Series X (XSX) title, Marvel’s Avengers Review features Smart Delivery which means if you purchased this game on the Xbox One/X, you automatically have the title for the XSX. Additionally it gives you 4K Ultra HD, HDR (High Dynamic Range) and faster load times. If you have a TV or monitor that supports HDMI 2.1, the game offers 120 frames per second opposed to 60. However in essence, it is the same game as the Xbox One X or the PlayStation 4.
Marvel’s Avengers is in its own civil war regarding what it wants to be. Is it a cinematic campaign experience complete with big action set pieces and requisite moments of snark and heart? Or is it a full-on loot-based brawler, pulling you in for just a few more hours with the promise of more superhero action? In grafting the two aspects together Marvel’s Avengers reaches for both but doesn’t fully achieve either. The one thing that it can claim though, is that its damn fun to play with Marvel’s superheroes.
There are big things working against Marvel’s Avengers right from the start. The first issue is out of the games control. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been ubiquitous over the last decade. It has raked in billions of dollars and also made Earths mightiest heroes household names. Avengers does not feature the likenesses of the stars of the movies and as a result feels slightly… off.
This is not really a fault of the game per se, but it is jarring nonetheless. Troy Bakers Bruce Banner probably fares the best here, as he is given a substantial amount to do in the campaign. His relationship with the other characters, particularly Kamala Khan, help ground the story.
Speaking of Ms Khan, the best decision Crystal Dynamics have made is to centre the campaign around her. Kamala Khan is an Avengers super fan turned superhero after the disastrous events of the first chapter, which will come to be referred to as A-Day. This chapter begins with Kamala exploring the Avengers Heli carrier with various other fans, excitedly reciting details about memorabilia and freaking out when she gets to speak to an actual Avenger. It is a great introduction and the game returns to these quieter moments with Kamala several times throughout the game. These moments are always full of attention to detail, humour and a hefty dose of heart. The voice performance by Sandra Saad is exceptional and really helps propel the games short campaign.
Without spoiling too much, the story of Avengers is a classic getting the band back together tale. You start out with Kamala Khan, then gradually add more until the full roster is complete for the final showdown. Kamala’s story of finding her identity as a superhero is highly endearing. So it is a little unfortunate that it gets somewhat lost in the second half of the campaign. Much like the MCU movies, as it builds to a conclusion the smaller moments get lost to an increasing series of bombast.
The big action set pieces are mostly successful just because of how great all of the Avengers feel. It is incredible fun to fling through the air using Kamala Khan’s stretchy limbs, or smashing things to pieces with the Incredible Hulk. Each Avenger has their own separate play style and there are no weak links here. Black Widow’s hyperkinetic hand to hand combat is just as fun as zipping through the air as Iron Man.
Each hero is also easy to pick up and play, as every character utilises the same controls. There are light attacks, heavy attacks, ranged attacks and dodges, along with some special moves unique to each hero. Switching between heroes doesn’t involve learning complex new systems, but this comes with a downside. After playing the game for several hours, the system does devolve into a standard button mashing brawler with a Marvel coat of paint.
The campaign is short but fun. Smashing your way through various AIM facilities doesn’t outstay its welcome. However, there are issues with it. The biggest issue is the existence of the Arkham games and Spider-man. Both of these games combine bone-crunching combat with a freewheeling sense of exploration in a living breathing environment. The Avengers has the combat, but lacks the other parts that make these games so special.
Most of the levels in Avengers are either cramped buildings with drab designs or large yet empty open worlds . The open world environments suffer as they are re-used multiple times in the multiplayer endgame and offer little attraction unless you love scouring maps to open chests to obtain small upgrades. There is little that makes the world feel alive other than the Avengers themselves. The waves of boring synthetic enemies do little to help here either. There are some famous Avengers villains sprinkled in but it doesn’t have the same flavour as Batman and Spider-man’s rogues gallery.
The biggest problem with the game lies with the post-game multiplayer content. Once the campaign is over the game becomes an endless grind-fest to earn more powerful gear. The mission structure here lacks variety and suffers from re-use of assets. The most baffling aspect of this is how it is grafted on to the campaign. The campaign features maps with loot upgrades that don’t really come into play until the postgame. You will also constantly get notifications that your inventory is full. This means you spend a lot of time futzing around in your inventory with useless items.
The stat increases and skill tree unlocks seem to have been made with the post-game in mind, which means you will play through the campaign without unlocking some of the heroes most interesting abilities. This means that the full potential of the combat system isn’t truly unlocked until you’ve spent hours brawling through repetitive online missions. Playing online can be fun when you cut loose with a few of your friends. Playing for progression becomes a drag quickly.
This aspect may be fixed as time goes on. Many loot-based games improve their systems as time goes on and it would feel odd if the developers decided that what they had was perfect. There is also the promise of several additional characters, including the confirmed Hawkeyes coming soon. Unfortunately, as it stands I won’t be playing further unless significant improvements are made.
Marvel’s Avengers seems uncomfortable with itself. The single player campaign is charming and only lags in the areas that feature dull loot collecting sections. The post-game features fun combat in a co-op setting but can be a genuine drag to slog through. Overall the game is lacking a sense of life and variety to compliment the fun combat. It’s a shame because playing as the Avengers is a delightful experience, with each hero having its own endearing play quirks. Perhaps future updates will nail the balance, but right now it’s not quite worthy of lifting Thors Hammer.