Arguably the first of the big post-summer blockbuster games is here with Marvel’s Avengers, published by Square Enix and produced by Eidos Montréal, it comes out this week for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. We tested it on a PlayStation 4 Pro.
We thoroughly enjoyed Eidos Montréal’s last game – Shadow of the Tomb Raider – and were looking forward to their take on the Avengers franchise the moment it was announced. Fans were generally underwhelmed at what was shown for the E3 reveal though, and similar sentiments were expressed during the recent open beta phase. Were we wrong?
When we met with the developers about a year ago, the only point of criticism we had was that the game doesn’t feature the likenesses of any of the actors we’ve been seeing in the movies for the past dozen or so years. We completely get that that would have turned into a complex and costly license deal, but coming off of the (then) recent and hugely successful Avengers movies, it was a shame that it doesn’t feel like we could be a part of “their” universe.
The official word, of course, was that the team was excited to be able to craft their own vision for The Avengers instead, but in a “no questions” sessions I couldn’t shake “but what if you had access to the likenesses and voices of the actors?” from my head. A year later, and further removed from those movies, and it’s easier to separate the two and accept Marvel’s Avengers (the game) for what it is: a darn good superhero game, but one that will have to prove itself over time.
Surprisingly, the developers went with Ms. Marvel as the central character for their game, with many of the familiar names from the movies being reduced to supporting characters. This makes a lot sense if you consider that those movies were going to serve as a benchmark, and having someone ‘new’ as the main protagonist is going to help in that regard.
Marvel’s Avengers also serves as an origin story for Ms. Marvel, who starts off the game as Kamala Khan. Young and in awe of the Avengers, she is invited to a festive event that her heroes are also attending. Things quickly turn sideways, as the event is under attack from Task Master. A huge explosion follows, a mysterious disease quickly spreads among the people of the city, and the Avengers fall from grace and are disbanded.
Square’s new game, much like the recent PS4-exclusive Spiderman game, plays a lot like the Avengers movie you never saw. There is some great storytelling here, with perspectives that shift and tell you about the (personal) struggles that Kamala and the former Avengers have to deal with. Despite all the high octane action found within the campaign, the story campaign in the game is fantastic mainly because it manages to fuse together the moments of action with touching character-driven sequences of storytelling. The campaign is far shorter than the one is Shadow of the Tomb Raider or Spiderman, but if you’re in this for the single player then it’s a must-buy already.
Over the course of the single player story campaign, you’ll play with Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and of course Ms. Marvel. All of the characters more or less control the same way, but have very different fighting styles and a look and feel that is both fitting and unique to the character. They’re all different at the more basic level, but you can further customize each character using a variety of loadouts before sending them into battle, allowing you to explore various approaches to combat – and encouraging replays, because I regretted picking the same two characters most of the time after completing the campaign. And even if I decide to revert to my old choices, I know I could do so while picking a completely different approach – focusing more on melee than ranged combat, for instance.
Square is counting on the multiplayer aspect of the game for its lasting appeal though, and I thought this portion was…. less impressive. It’s a lot of fun to take your superheroes out for a few online multiplayer romps, don’t get me wrong, but the format something that we haven’t seen done many times before already. At its core, it’s a looter-shooter/brawler like experience where you can grind your way towards plenty of additional content, but it’s repetitive in comparison to the adrenaline rush and emotional rollercoaster that is the single player campaign.
There’s a good chance that the multiplayer portion of Marvel’s Avengers will get better over time, as more characters are supposed to join the roster in the next few weeks and months, which should add some much-needed diversity. From our understanding these characters will be free of charge, with cosmetics for them being the only premium content. Objectives and maps need more diversity as well though, which at the moment makes a second playthrough of the campaign seem more appealing than sticking around for more multiplayer.
I believe that Square is going for a “come for the single player, stay for the multiplayer” kind of approach here, with an ongoing game model. For now, I’d say “come for the single player” because it’s excellent, and if the multiplayer portion ends up expanding to something bigger and better then that’s a lovely bonus.