Marvel’s Avengers Review: A Glitchy Action Spectacle

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Rating:

7.5 out of 10

Cast:

Kamala Khan … Sandra Saad
Bruce Banner … Troy Baker
Iron Man/Tony Stark … Nolan North
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff … Laura Bailey
Thor … Travis Willingham
Captain America … Jeff Schine
Hulk … Darin De Paul
Hank Pym/Ant-Man … Danny Jacobs
Maria Hill … Jennifer Hale
M.O.D.O.K./George Tarleton … Usman Ally
Taskmaster/Phil Sheldon … Walter Gray IV
Monica Rappaccini … Jolene Andersen
Abomination … Jamieson Price
Dante … Michael Johnston
Flynn … Cooper North

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Marvel’s Avengers Review: A Glitchy Action Spectacle

Marvel’s Avengers feels like a throwback to those classic Marvel team-up games of yesteryear, specifically 1992’s X-Men, 1993’s X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse, and 2004’s X-Men: Legends. And while the graphics have obviously improved, the gameplay feels relatively old fashioned — but in a good way.

Here we have a game that gives players the chance to step into the colossal shoes of Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Black Widow — who behave in a similar manner to their big-screen counterparts and even don the same attire all the while lacking the facial features of stars Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Scarlett Johansson due to, I assume, financial reasons — for a solid 15-20 hours of exhilarating, action-packed, though often glitchy mayhem.

As is the case with these button mashers, each hero boasts unique powers and abilities that kinda-sorta affects the gameplay. Iron Man and Thor can fly, for example, which makes them useful in missions based around massive military compounds tucked away inside ginormous canyons; while Hulk’s more aggressive fighting style works best against formidable villains like Abomination or those irritating spider robots who seemingly appear by the dozen.

Therein lies a minor criticism with Avengers. For all its wild ambition — and the game certainly is massive — the battles become redundant as you’re forced to fight wave after wave of the same listless Putty Patrol-like bad guys for hours on end. There’s also a surprising lack of creativity in these battles as players must choose to either punch or punch harder while occasionally unlocking a special ability or two in tricky situations. And while it is cool to fly around as Thor, the controls are rather clunky and don’t segue with the foot combat as smoothly as they probably should. Indeed, it’s a little perplexing that Crystal Dynamics didn’t go the extra mile and create a free-flowing combat style like those found in Arkham Knight.

Another gripe lies in the game’s destructive elements that allows characters to blow up objects like explosive canisters and computer terminals to great effect but prohibits the Hulk from picking up vehicles to use during combat. In a game like this, those kinds of details go a long way and would further distinguish each character from the other. As is, while Black Widow and Iron Man may show off their own unique abilities, their powers are mostly the same albeit rendered with different animation. Really, it comes down to whether you prefer bullets or lasers as they are each equally effective.

Another issue lies in the story itself. While it is genuinely awesome to zip through the sky as Iron Man or summon the Bifrost as Thor, it takes some time before such heroes actually assemble. For a majority of the game’s early run time players control Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, whose origin story more or less serves as the backbone on which the plot is structured. Said plot revolves around a horrific accident aboard a Shield Helicarrier that leads to thousands of casualties and the disassembling of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers team. As such, it’s up to Kamala to discover the Avengers’ whereabouts and stop the bad guys from, er, doing more bad things.

Look, on the one hand, it is cool (and quite terrifying) to experience a full-on Hulk rage meltdown from an outsider’s perspective — he chases Kamala all over an abandoned helicarrier in one of the game’s more thrilling set-pieces. On the other hand, it’s a tad annoying to have to wait so long to play as one of the main Avengers in a game called Avengers.

No matter, because once the heroes do pop up — each with their own grand entrances — they’re around for the long haul and given plenty of opportunities to shine whilst dealing with their own unique bosses which makes the game’s second and third acts all the more enjoyable.

And Ms. Marvel with all of her crazy stretchy arms and Ant Man-like growing abilities, is actually quite fun to play as and serves as an engaging, even relatable character in her own right. This is her story — the big finale has her fighting mano a mano against a gigantic villain amidst a war-ravaged city in an all-too-brief mostly cinematic showdown — and the character’s enthusiastic reaction to all things Avengers related lends the straight-faced plot a nice dose of heart to go along with Marvel’s trademark quirky humor.

Plus, Crystal Dynamics has pumped the game with so many side missions and objectives (some of which are multiplayer based) that it’s hard not to feel pleased when all is said and done. Make no mistake, this is a massive production. And if the final results don’t quite reach the lofty ambitions of its creators, or usurp top-tier superhero games like the Arkham series or even the recent Spider-Man, at the very least, Marvel’s Avengers still succeeds as an enjoyable set up for the sure-to-be better sequel.