I’ve really been struggling with this one. I’ve played the beta on PS4 for the past two weekends and my thoughts on this game are all over the map. Trying to sort them out has been tougher than expected. My original plan was to post this earlier in the week and I’m glad I didn’t because this post got pretty negative. I’ve had some time to reflect and kind of come at this a new way.
I’ll be honest, I had mixed expectations going on. On paper, Marvel’s Avengers sounds awesome. Basically taking the gameplay loop of Destiny, adding loot, and giving players access to customizable heroes. Yeah, that all sounds great.
Unfortunately, I just never felt that same vibe once I actually got my hands on the game. Even though it’s a bit disappointing that the game didn’t reach what I had hoped it would be, it isn’t bad by any means. The game certainly has potential but as of right now, it’s just fine.
Okay, let’s start from the beginning.
Marvel’s Avengers is a live service focused, action-RPG style game where you can play and completely customize different heroes from the Marvel Universe. At launch you get six heroes: Iron Man, Thor, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Captain America, and Hulk. While there’s a single player campaign, ultimately, you’ll be able to take on all sorts of co-op enabled missions with AI partners or real players. As you level up, you gain skill points you can place in skill trees, unlock new abilities, and gear. It’s very Destiny-ish in this way.
How does it play? Well, in basic terms, Avengers feels like a brawler more than anything else. Levels are fairly linear as you’re going from one point to an end point. You’ll primarily be beating up loads to A.I.M. robots as you make your way from the start of the level to the end. Again, it’s fine but it doesn’t do anything particularly new in this regard. Some enemies are shielded, some have bigger health bars, etc. It’s all very standard stuff.
However, unlike Destiny, the six characters all feel very similar to one another. While Destiny has tons of different guns that all behave and feel different, Marvel’s Avengers is more melee focused so each hero is punching and kicking. It all boils down to Quick Attacks, Heavy Attacks, and ranged attacks, which all 6 obviously have access to. To that end, none of them feel all that unique outside of their obvious visual appearances.
While normal combat is pretty similar across the board, the big way these characters differentiate themselves from one another is through their abilities which are unlocked through the skill tree. These special moves add a little spice to the combat, but are on some sort of cooldown timer so they can be spammed. Each character also has an ultimate ability they can use such as the Hulkbuster armor for Iron Man or Ms. Marvel getting super sized for a short amount of time.
While these can be fun to use, their limited nature means that for most of these encounters, players will simply be using quick and heavy attacks which does get a bit repetitive after a while. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun for a little while, but doing the same thing over and over does get a bit tiresome. As I’ve said before, it’s fine. There were a few online missions that absolutely FLEW by as players rushed to finish the mission as quickly as possible, leaving little time to figure out what to do or why I was doing it.
That said, I did really enjoy my time with Ms. Marvel. She’s written and voice acted perfectly (Sandra Saad), bringing that unbridled optimism with her. The way she geeks out over old Avengers stuff is pretty awesome. While it may not quite feel like Kratos or his Leviathan Axe, Thor was also pretty fun to play, though he was limited to the intro stage only. IMO, Tony Stark (voiced by the wonderful Nolan North) felt a little too talkative, shooting off one liners left and right. Probably could have reeled that back in a bit.
I also really enjoyed the story missions in this game. Although they’re single player and the gameplay again revolves mostly around beating waves of bad guys, the story beats and narrative offered in these missions was interesting. At one point, Kamala stumbles into an old Avengers building and basically is awestruck with all the stuff she finds. The boss battle against Abomination was also a highlight.
I didn’t find the online matchmaking system to be super intuitive. You had to first join a lobby, then matchmake with other people, then select a mission, then the countdown began. When it ended, your group remained in the lobby but I think the host had to pick a new mission or something. I don’t know, it felt clunky at best, especially comparing it to some of its contemporaries who handle online matchmaking much better and faster.
There’s been some recent talk around loot and how it ultimately doesn’t change the look of your character. It didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I found the loot to not be very exciting, especially at lower levels. A lot of the stats are so minor you won’t really even notice a difference. In addition, the game has like 8 different resource materials, something which the game doesn’t do a good job at explaining how they work. Hopefully that’s a beta thing because it’s going to confuse a ton of people.
Ultimately, Marvel’s Avengers is just fine. For me, it really didn’t standout in any way. It’s well made, though most of the gameplay decisions feel somewhat generic, almost like they had a marketing checklist of buzzwords they had to hit. In smaller doses or perhaps with friends, the game has glimpses of what it could be. Ultimately, gameplay seems to boil down to just beating the crap out of enemies. Most of the time I could basically button mash quick and heavy attacks and still win especially in a group.
I hope the final product is stronger and that these things are more indicative of the beta version. Yes, Crystal Dynamics held a lot back from the beta, but my worry is that the gameplay loop is going to get tiresome and a bit repetitive after a few hours. Mashing away on the same nameless robot enemies does get a bit old. Yes, playing this with friends will likely help a bit, but it ultimately doesn’t change what you’re doing.
I know I sound really negative on the game but I’m really not trying to tear it down. There’s just a lot of it that didn’t sit well with me. Granted, this is a live service game, which means the launch is only the beginning. Hopefully through post-launch updates and expansions, Crystal Dynamics can continue improving it. I personally don’t feel strong enough about the product to pick it up on day 1, but who knows, perhaps in 6 months to a year it could be vastly changed. We’ve seen other games in this genre pull this magic trick before.
Either way, there’s less than two weeks until the game launches so we’ll no more soon. Here’s hoping these are beta related issues and the game actually is awesome. I’d love to be wrong here.
Did you get a chance to try the beta? What were your thoughts?