Marvel's Avengers Hands-On Impressions: More Like Mehvel's Mehvengers

Marvel has created household names out of its deep roster of superheroes, thanks to their box-office record smashing movie series. Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, and more are all incredibly popular, so it was only a matter of time before the super group invaded the world of video games in a big way. Can Earth’s Mightiest Heroes hold up in an area already saturated with games like Destiny 2, The Division 2, Warframe, and even Anthem?

In short, no. While there are some fun moments here and there in Marvel’s Avengers, the overall experience just isn’t that compelling. Granted, I have only played a small section of what Avengers has to offer, but what I did get to try out doesn’t exactly have me excited for more.

The demo begins with a flashy, but heavily scripted scene that revolves around the events of A-Day. This was a day originally scheduled to be a big celebration of the Avengers, but thanks to a terrorist attack that destroys the Golden Gate Bridge (and inadvertently gives superpowers to many, many people), has been changed to serve as the day the Avengers disbanded. While the A-Day scene does give players the chance to try out the major Avengers heroes, the scripted nature of the scene actually detracts from the gameplay experience.

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Get ready to kick a lot of robot butt in Marvel's Avengers Photo: Square Enix

After the opening A-Day scene, the demo fast-forwards to a year or so later. Kamala Khan, better known as the future Ms. Marvel, has manifested her own powers from the A-Day incident and has teamed up with Bruce Banner to recover some old Stark Industries tech in an effort to reform the Avengers. This leads to a sequence of missions where Kamala and The Hulk take center stage, pummeling their way through AIM mercenaries during their search.

We’ll come back to these missions in a second, but eventually the demo unlocks the ability to play as Iron Man and Black Widow, in addition to The Hulk and Kamala. Here’s where things get weird. Playing the opening A-Day mission really didn’t get me excited about playing as any one hero all that much. However, once the scripted shackles come off, Iron Man is a much more enjoyable character to play as. Mixing hand-to-hand combat with ranged attacks, and including the ability to swap between walking, hovering, and flying at the push of a button all feels incredibly satisfying.

So with the mix of fun gameplay options between the different heroes, why did Crystal Dynamics choose to start this demo with something that does a poor job of getting you hooked, followed by several missions where you effectively are stuck playing the same character with two different skins? The Kamala/Hulk skillset, while differing lightly here and there, both almost entirely revolve around melee attacks. In terms of actual gameplay, playing as The Hulk or Kamala is practically an interchangeable experience. It only took away from my excitement and drive to keep playing.

Granted, the actual missions themselves weren’t exactly stand-out experiences either. Sure, the flashy A-Day mission had some major fireworks, and would probably have been more enjoyable watching it as part of a movie, but the other missions are all basically summed up by having players run to an area and beat up generic bad guys, and that’s it. There’s no tough boss fights, no appearances from major (or even minor) supervillains, and there’s nothing that shouts “this is a real Marvel game!” It’s all just generic beat-em-up action. 

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It takes a few hours into the demo before you can really team up with a squad of heroes Photo: Square Enix

So the missions may be boring and repetitive, but the gameplay is fun, right? Yeah, it’s all serviceable, but nothing really sticks out as truly interesting. It really reminds me of a third-person take on Marvel Ultimate Alliance, but without the massive roster. Lots of mindless button mashing to get through waves of faceless enemies until you get to something more interesting. Each character has his or her own unique abilities, but these have long cool-down timers and I found myself only using them when getting overwhelmed by enemies. They are less superpowers and more get out of jail free cards with fun effects.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a live service game without an overwhelming amount of moving parts. Players can level up their characters to unlock new moves and combos in combat, they can unlock new gear items to boost skills and stats, they can upgrade gear items, and there are cosmetic items to unlock that don’t actually change gameplay at all. This means that all the gear items just kind of disappear once you apply them to your heroes, making them pretty much just percentage points that you can use until the next percentage point drop that is slightly better comes along. This takes a lot of the thrill out of finding a cache of items, knowing you’ll mostly just throw away everything anyway.

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The God of Thunder doesn't play that big a role in the demo for Marvel's Avengers Photo: Square Enix

This all sounds pretty negative towards Marvel’s Avengers, but I should clarify that the game isn’t outright bad. It performs well enough, and has just enough entertainment value that I could get myself to keep going for another couple of hours if I wanted to. However, it isn’t particularly great either. It just kind of is. It’s a well-oiled, uninspiring machine. It feels like a game that is somehow dated, despite the fact that it hasn’t even come out yet. There’s nothing here necessarily different from what we’ve already seen in other games.

Could Marvel’s Avengers offer any great moments? It’s very possible. Who knows? Maybe the endgame content has some of that epic Marvel flavor with different heroes using their unique abilities to take down incredibly tough foes. Unfortunately, that was not present anywhere in this demo. If publisher Square Enix is hoping this slice of the game will incite more people to buy copies, that was probably a goof . Of course, if this is all that Avengers has to offer, it might have been the best they could do.

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