From Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics comes the latest superhero game Marvel’s Avengers, which easily has the distinction of being the single most underwhelming thing to feature Earth’s Μightiest Ηeroes.
Marvel’s Avengers is a game that can be aptly described as one that feels like it was thought up sometime between 2013 and 2017 but only became less fun since. The gameplay is repetitive and tedious. The character lineup and story feel like they were written to cash in on Avengers: Age of Ultron and the plot itself reads like it was edited by Marvel’s old Creative Committee back when the company was still in the middle of its blood feud with Fox. But we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves.
The story of Marvel’s Avengers takes place five years after the events of A-Day. During A-Day the Avengers’ new helicarrier, powered by recently-discovered Terrigon Crystals, is destroyed, killing numerous people and resulting in the apparent death of Captain America, the disbanding of the Avengers, the emergence of the Inhumans, and a new organization known as A.I.M. that is actively hunting down the new race of heroes under the command of M.O.D.O.K. Matters are further complicated when an Inhuman named Kamala Khan discovers that there was more to the events of A-Day than anyone originally thought. She then sets out to reunite the Avengers, take down A.I.M., figure out what the organization is doing with the Inhumans, and discover the truth of what actually happened on A-Day.
As mentioned before, the story’s biggest problem is that it feels like something that the writers thought up roughly 5 or 6 years ago without changing a thing since. The game’s cast is primarily made up of the original Avengers and the group dynamic is almost identical to what we saw in films like The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Every member of the team is just a bit too arrogant for their own good. The Hulk is something of a wild card. The principle arc revolves around them overcoming their own egos in order to take down a common enemy. It does have a few decent twists towards the end but for the most part, but we’ve seen this all before and done a lot better in the films and other video games.
None of this is helped by the fact that it feels like it was written back when Marvel, under former CEO Isaac Perlmutter, was doing everything it could to replace the X-Men and the mutants with the Inhumans (which didn’t work). In this instance, the Inhumans are a group that is hated and feared by “normal” people and are hunted down and captured by A.I.M. and sent off to camps to be experimented on and possibly exterminated. Even the robots that A.I.M. uses to round up the Inhumans bear a striking resemblance to the Sentinels which makes the whole plotline feel like a blatant X-Men ripoff.
The only thing that feels somewhat fresh and new in Marvel’s Avengers comes in the form of Kamala Khan. She’s fun and it’s nice to see the character get a mainstream treatment. Unfortunately, even her storyline in the game feels like one that we’ve already seen a few to many times as well. It very much falls into the same territory as The Last of Us, Logan and Star Wars: The Last Jedi where a younger girl meets up with people who are old enough to be their parents and have lost their way. As the story goes on this young girl will eventually help these characters remember why they believed in their cause in the first place, rallying them to heroic actions in order to save the day. Once again, this concept is something that we’ve seen several times over the past few years to the point where The Last of Us Part II, the sequel to the game that arguably started this trend, opted to be something of a deliberate deconstruction of it.
That all having been said, none of this is necessarily done terribly in Marvel’s Avengers. The plot is incredibly derivative of other sources but it’s all done in a way that is perfectly serviceable and is all just interesting enough to make you wonder what happens next. The majority of the voice acting is pretty good with Nolan North, Troy Baker and Jeff Schine all giving their own unique spins on Iron Man, Bruce Banner and Captain America. The interactions between Bruce Banner and Tony Stark are particularly interesting because of how different they feel from the film counterparts. Essentially, Marvel’s Avengers frames their relationship as “Tony Stark the extroverted genius and Banner Banner the introvert genius” who are both equally smart but have personality differences that cause them to clash. But it still all has the feeling of something that has been done better elsewhere.
Now all of this may have been forgivable if the gameplay was stellar but alas it is, at best, underwhelming. Throughout the game, you play as Kamala Khan, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, and Captain America and at first, it is all good fun. The initial rush of playing these characters who have been dominating the silver screen for a decade is a nice little catharsis and will bring a smile to your face. Unfortunately, you quickly discover that the developers don’t exactly have anything interesting for you to do as these characters.
Just about every single combat encounter you have in this game involves fighting waves upon waves of enemy soldiers over and over again. The game’s only means of spicing the combat up is to introduce the occasional new enemy type that is initially difficult to take down. Not long after, however, they just become another unit in the mobs of enemies that attack you over and over again. It’s all fun and makes for a nice little power trip at first but it quickly becomes tedious and boring. It’s the kind of combat gameplay that isn’t challenging. What will ultimately take you down isn’t a difficult enemy or a challenging problem but a ton of enemy projectiles that hit you from every direction that you’re unable to keep track of because you didn’t wipe out the mob of enemies fast enough. 90% of the game consists of doing this in bunkers or open areas but always turns into a big crowd control button masher that gets old very fast.
What little variety the game does have sadly just makes it all feel worse. The main story features several platforming sections that are clearly designed to break up the monotony of the battles. In practice, however, they lack challenge or tension and feel like a lazy addition, possibly added at the last second to pad out the runtime. There is a section later on in the game that actually has challenge and tension and it is a fun little part but it ends up showing just how little the other platforming had in this regard. Even the occasional cool original set-piece, like Tony Stark blasting himself off into space, can’t help but just highlight how dull underwhelming the rest of the game is.
In the end, Marvel’s Avengers isn’t exactly what I would call a bad game but I cannot think of a reason for it to exist. The plot is fine but it’s completely derivative of other games and Marvel stories and the gameplay gets dull very fast. If you need a superhero gaming fix until Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Gotham Knights are released then this one may do the trick but it is by no means worth the $60 retail price that the publishers are asking for.
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