Alright, well, this is awkward.
It was just a few weeks ago, in this very column, that I said some rather uncharitable things about Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers--specifically, about the developer decision to release Spider-Man as a PlayStation exclusive character. I implied that this decision severely impacted my interest in the game. And that was true! At the time.
Honestly, prior to last Wednesday, I had no intention of purchasing Marvel’s Avengers. However, one of my close friends ended up buying it, and, I mean… it’s got that online co-op…
So, against my better judgment--despite the disappointing Spider-Man decision and a lackluster beta period--I ended up buying the game to play with friends. Luckily for me, that decision turned out to be the right one, because against all odds Marvel’s Avengers is actually very good.
The campaign focuses on the efforts of Kamala Khan--also known to comic fans as Ms. Marvel--to reunite the Avengers several years after a public disaster forces them to go into hiding. It’s a classic ‘getting the band back together’ plot, with excitable newcomer Khan giving the narrative a ton of heart.
It was a smart move to center Kamala’s story; she’s a young Avengers fan, much like the intended audience of the game, and her enthusiasm for her heroes is infectious. It’s also nice to see a comic book property giving due focus to a character who is A) female, B) a person of color, and C) a legacy character (she inherited the Ms. Marvel title from her idol, Carol Danvers)--all of which need more representation in the mainstream comic book space.
The campaign is a little on the short side, but it’s packed with big-budget superhero action in addition to its lovable protagonist. Narratively, I don’t think I’ve got a single bone to pick with it; I’m really excited to see where this version of the Marvel universe goes in the promised post-launch content.
The story isn’t the only thing to love about the game, though. The gameplay is solid, too--it’s a fast-paced beat-’em-up with light RPG elements. Featuring six playable characters at launch with more coming as downloadable content later, one of my favorite things about the game is how well it differentiates each of its heroes.
In addition to Ms. Marvel, players can step into the shoes of Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, and Black Widow. Each character has their own unique playstyle: Captain America is a balanced brawler, Iron Man is a master of ranged combat, Hulk… uh, I’m sure you can guess. It’s not just combos and special powers that set heroes apart, though--the differences are deeper than that.
For instance, let’s look at the ranged attacks each character can use. Captain America can hurl his shield, ricocheting it between different foes from a distance. Iron Man can swap freely between rockets, lasers, and repulsor blasts. Thor can pin enemies to walls with his hammer and keep fighting with his fists, taking a powerful foe out of the fight for a while. Hulk rips up pieces of debris to clumsily hurl at enemies, while Ms. Marvel’s stretchy arms can punch and grab far-off foes. Black Widow has pistols that don’t pack a huge punch, but fire much faster than other ranged moves.
Stuff like that makes every character feel interesting and special; best of all, it makes them each feel like the hero from the comics and movies. When I load up my Iron Man, I feel like Iron Man: I fly around the map, firing rockets at evil robots from afar before closing the distance and slicing baddies up with my lasers. It’s fun, it’s satisfying, and it’s a markedly different experience than the one I have when playing as Hulk (which consists of a lot of punching and screaming, punctuated by grabbing the occasional enemy and slamming them face-first into the pavement).
The best part? You can do all this with friends, building your own little four-player Avengers squad. The co-op needs a bit of work, I’ll admit (no way to ping loot boxes? Really, guys? Come on, it’s 2020), but it’s still a ton of fun to beat up bad guys with your buds.
Although I didn’t expect a lot out of Marvel’s Avengers, I’m happy to report that I was way off-base. The campaign is a wild ride from start to finish, and the design of the different characters and their abilities is spot-on. I’d highly recommend this game to any fan of the comics--or anyone who likes a good action-RPG, really.
More articles and reviews by Ethan McIntyre can be found at rollwithit.blog.
Alright, well, this is awkward.