PLATFORM: PC, PS4 (REVIEWED), XBOX ONE | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
At last, eight years after assembling for the first time on the big screen, The Avengers make their big console gaming debut. Sure, there have been Lego games and strategy games and fighting games before now, but Marvel's Avengers aims to do for Earth's mightiest heroes what the Arkham games did for Batman.
More than that, this game also serves as an introduction to one Kamala Khan – the inimitable Ms. Marvel. The story follows Kamala on her journey from doe-eyed fangirl to Inhuman Avenger, rubbing shoulders with the big guns. Although gameplay alternates between all of the main characters, the bulk of the story goes to Kamala. With the Avengers disassembled following a humiliating defeat five years ago (sound familiar?), it's up to the new girl to get the gang back together. And it’s a treat watching Kamala interact with the more established superheroes – particularly her friendship with Troy Baker’s softly-spoken, gentle take on Bruce Banner. Sure, she can be annoying at times, but aren’t all teenagers?
The story itself is solid and worthy of the franchise. Although markedly different from their MCU counterparts, our heroes look incredible – especially when in movement and combat. The game does a great job of establishing six distinctive play styles for its heroes, not skimping on any of the signature moves. It's a shame then, that the gameplay is that of an unsophisticated button-masher. There's little finesse or skill required, although some may be distracted by the overly busy arenas and swarms of identikit enemies. It's disappointingly ugly; the core gameplay repetitive and messy. It's so heavy with glitches that it feels, at times, broken (make friends with your PS4's restart button, you'll be using it a lot). There's little excuse for the game feeling this unfinished when its main campaign is so short. Most seasoned gamers should complete it in a matter of hours.
But then, the campaign is a secondary concern – Square Enix's real endgame is its Destiny-esque online mode, featuring daily missions, objectives and campaigns. Players will work with various factions to complete daily objectives, grinding to level up the characters and earn better gear. Cap doesn't get his first decent outfit until Level 50 – and the main campaign finishes with all characters somewhere around Level 9 or 10. The core looting mechanic sits ill-at-ease with the Avengers themselves; there's nothing less Hulk-like than pausing mid-Smash to open some chests or put on a protective bracelet.
Marvel's Avengers is a frustrating experience. It's a great introduction to Kamala Khan, with a memorable villain in MODOK. Its main story is engaging and exciting, if hampered by samey level design and repetitive gameplay. It's also far too short and tacked onto a horrible model which prioritises microtransactions and daily faffing over actual Avenging. While it does do some things well, this is the most disappointing release of the year. Stick with the Lego.