Marvel's Avengers (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 31.10.2020

Review for Marvel

Square Enix' and Crystal Dynamics' take on Earth's Mightiest Heroes is sending a group made up of the MCU favourites bundled with a young Champion on an action-adventure romp heavily inspired by games like Destiny and Anthem. Crafting an ever-evolving "Games as a Service" style of experience that promises years of content updates and new experiences, it is a system that could immediately put some people off. However, with claims of no "Pay to Win", no "FOMO", and no "Lootboxes", could this be exactly what critics of "Games as a Service" have been asking for? Cubed3 finds out.

The story is completely welcoming to every type of fan in the audience, whether they are completely new to Marvel, fans of the MCU, or die-hards who know the differences between Earth 616, Earth 92131 and Earth 199999. This particular story is a whole new reality, though the introduction to it borrows pieces from many existing ones and hints at many more over the course of the game. A young Kamala Khan is flying with her father aboard a Quinjet to a grand celebration of the Avengers. The Avengers are setting up and unveiling a new West Coast headquarters alongside a brand new Helicarrier that is powered by an experimental crystal known as Terrigen. The event gives rise to a festival and Kamala is in attendance to take part in a fanfiction writing contest. The winner is never established as the festivities are interrupted. An attack on San Francisco bridge headed up by Taskmaster combined with sabotage upon the experimental new Helicarrier results in a disaster that wipes a chunk of San Francisco off the map.


Jumping forward five years, this disaster is now known as A-Day and its repercussions are still being felt. The Terrigen within the Helicarrier blanketed San Francisco with a mist, and many people inside were transformed, being dubbed Inhumans and seen as a threat by the masses. Also seen as a threat now are the Avengers themselves. Following A-Day, they not only lost their leader with the death of their Captain, but they also lost public backing. In another comic-familiar turn, this tears the team apart. Each member goes their own way, giving up the superhero life, and in their place scientist George Tarleton has evolved his company AIM into a country-wide defence force. A sinister force of peacekeeping robots is using the citizens' fear of these superpowered people to install AIM as a replacement to the Avengers and Shield. This X-Men rip-off has been Marvel's take on the Inhumans for a while now; ever since the Fox MCU issues. While many of the stories did not land, some great things come from it. Case in point is the young Kamala Khan here.


What follows is the first thing that sets this apart from most "Games as a Service" style games: a superb campaign. Most of these titles are built around the gameplay loop of replaying the same areas over and over, and while this is present - more on that later - the campaign is a welcomed surprise. A surprise, indeed, because this was never particularly marketed or publicised. Marketing instead focused on snippets of gameplay and explaining the core mechanics. The story puts Kamala at its heart and is a compelling coming-of-age tale for this young hero, while also treading the age-old ground of the hot-headed Avengers disassembled before reassembling to overcome a new threat.

Screenshot for Marvel's Avengers on PlayStation 4

Alongside the main campaign, there are sets of side missions that double the playtime of the main campaign, going from around 12 hours to 24. A set signature mission for each hero along with some side missions for the two big factions in the game that reward lots of experience, cosmetic items, and items to upgrade equipment, is available. This all adds up to a fantastic experience which is exactly what many of the critics of this game wanted instead of the "Games as a Service" style experience. A solid story to play through, with some fantastic performances and amazing set piece stages.


The Destiny type experience appears after the main campaign is finished, in a mode known as the Avengers Initiative. Technically, this is fully accessible at the start of the game, but it opens with an exposition dump that ruins many parts of the story and really should be left until that is completed. The heart of the endgame is the war table. This worldwide map shows a range of missions to embark on with friends in teams of up to four heroes. This alone will be enough to sell the game to some. The thought of being able to play this type of game with friends online is a dream come true for hardcore Marvel fans who glimpsed it with Anthem's Iron Man-like experience. Now they can finally crew up with friends as Earth's Mightiest and smash through legions of enemies or go at it alone with bots.

The main meat of the gameplay is a 3D loot and smash, except for Black Widow, with whom it is more of a loot and shoot. The 3D action combat is fast and entertaining, with every character having a series of special attacks, signature attacks, and the ability to charge up ultimate attacks they can use to destroy hordes of enemy robots across various stages in this world. The combat is very responsive, with each character feeling sufficiently unique and some truly satisfying feedback to the attacks. Hulk's huge shockwave-causing slam is able to blast through groups of enemies. The "TWANG!" of Cap's shield bouncing between heads, or the reverberation of uppercutting an Aim scientist on the Jaw and watching his limp body fly through the air, is just one of the great parts of this title. Moment to moment, Marvel's Avengers offers up a comic book nerd's dreams.


The missions themselves are decent enough but suffer from the same issues that all of their ilk are well known and well criticized for, which are mostly related to the topic of diversity. After a few runs through each location, it is down to farming and repeating the same missions over and over. That same issue is amplified in the enemies on hand. The AIM soldiers and AIM robots get old after a few hours in the endgame, and the worst yet are the bosses. There are four real boss type encounters, two giant mechs and two supervillains in Abomination and Taskmaster. The Avengers have an insanely extensive catalogue of criminals to call from and hopefully, Crystal Dynamics will have the opportunity to pull many more from Marvel's expansive list. At least, there is the promise that each new character will come with a story update and a new villain. More are really needed sooner rather than later to help address the repetitive nature of the existing boss fights in the endgame.

Screenshot for Marvel's Avengers on PlayStation 4

There are numerous goals to aim towards in replaying these missions and coming back to the game, which all ultimately come down to players customising each of their Avengers. Most players will be hitting around level 20 to 30 on their characters at completion of the main campaign but there is a cap to reach at 50, and then there is gear to farm. Gear of varying levels, quality, and with special bonus effects can be found in the standard green/blue/purple/gold system that has become the norm these days. These equipment pieces range in power up to 150. The Avengers each have three types of skill trees to tinker with alongside these equipment pieces that result in builds that can make each player's version of a character feel and play very differently from one another.


For most players, the biggest draw initially in the endgame will be the Challenge Cards. Challenge Cards are effectively the Battle Pass of Marvel's Avengers. Every character has their own Challenge Card and it contains 40 unlockable rewards, including new costumes, new nameplates, emotes, materials needed to level up equipment, and even premium currency. These rewards are unlocked by completing daily and weekly challenges, which are the sort of simple little tasks such as killing 10 enemies with ranged attacks, destroying enemies following combos of at least 7 hits, or utilising character-specific special moves a specific set of times. There are two daily challenges a day and each awards 3 points. The weekly challenges usually require more playtime investment, such as completing a set amount of special stages or opening a large number of lockboxes. These weekly challenges reward 11 points per challenge, giving 64 points in total per week. There are 200 points total to finish the card, so it will not take an extensive amount of time to finish them and, thankfully, there is no time limit or "FOMO" to these. The hardcore players can knock out every daily task across all six characters in a few hours a day, while the more casual can just focus on their favourites first, incentivising replaying but not unhealthy gaming behaviour.


The Challenge Cards are at the heart of another controversy around the game, that is the microtransactions. A few things were promised when the game was revealed, including no loot boxes, future characters being free, and any microtransactions would be purely cosmetic. Impressively, these promises were kept, but there is a bit of an asterisk around the new characters. For all of the existing characters the Challenge Cards came included with the base game, but for any future characters only the first 20 levels will be able to be unlocked. Levels 21 - 40 have to be unlocked with premium currency in the amount of £10. To offset this, completing the Challenge Card rewards more than £10 of premium currency to use on a future character or any other cosmetics.


It is a familiar setup like the battle passes of Fortnite, the difference here being that there is no time limit and as such no "FOMO". Players can progress at their own pace and those who are already playing can easily amass sufficient premium currency from the base characters' Challenge Cards ready for the first new character that is due to appear at the end of October and even for the next character currently scheduled for the end of November. Those who do not wish to spend a penny will be able to, as long as they utilise the credits the game gives out effectively. Doubtlessly, there will be plenty of temptation though as there is a wealth of potential outfits and cosmetics for the Avengers.

Screenshot for Marvel's Avengers on PlayStation 4

This is where another issue appears. The asking price of the items is absolutely absurd. New costumes for a character range between £7 for a rare, £10 for an epic, and £14 for a legendary one. Emotes start from £2.50. It is insanely high and hopefully something that is reconsidered in the future. Thankfully there are plenty of costumes to unlock in-game without spending real money, including some iconic looks and wonderful easter eggs that long-time fans will enjoy, especially considering the current looks of the heroes. When first revealed, there were memes aplenty with characters looking like the stunt doubles of the MCU actors and it is easy to see why. The base outfit and a few of the unlockable variations are too close to the MCU designs, making them look a little like cheap knockoffs. Not to mention Steve's SWAT-style gear, that was showcased through all of the promotional material, looks terrible. However, thankfully, as soon as he becomes playable in the expanded game, he has a Winter Soldier style outfit that looks great. Pretty much every character has a costume unlockable just via finding rare costume fabrics or on their character card that addresses this.


Whilst on the topic of the presentation of these Avengers, the vocal talent on hand is top tier, with each of the Avengers being portrayed by some of the biggest voice actors out there. Troy Baker is a great Banner, and the wonderful Laura Bailey always knocks it out of the park. The only slight issue is Nolan North's Tony Stark. His time playing Deadpool seems to have leaked through a little and his lines during gameplay sound more like Merc with a Mouth than Shell Head. In cinematics though he delivers, especially when playing off against Sandra Saad's Kamala, a relative newcomer that has a real breakout here.


Interestingly, the developers sent out a survey following the beta, asking which characters players would want to see as part of the game in the future. Developers included options like the Guardians of the Galaxy and even the X-Men. There are teases throughout the story of Captain Marvel, off-world enemies and so much more, maybe characters such as Ultron, Sentinels or Ms Marvel will even be buddying up with Lockjaw.


Additionally, Kate Bishop, Clint Barton, and T'Challa are lined up for the next few months with glimpses and promises of so much more to come in the future. Best of all, the new characters are promised to expand on the story experienced during the campaign.


For many, the "Games as a Service" elements will be an instant dismissal for this game. Other games have tried and failed on this front and the entire subgenre has been seen as negative, but this game could show that it does not have to be. Yes, there are elements here that need work, and certainly, some quality of life improvements are needed, but for the main story campaign alone this is worth picking up.

Screenshot for Marvel's Avengers on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

This is the perfect example of "Games as a Service" done right. Marvel's Avengers offers up a superb campaign story to play through that is promised to be expanded on in the future. The gameplay may be repetitive, but it includes just enough to keep players interested and invested in the endgame content that is available now to keep this game going until the next step in its roadmap. The possibilities and potential in the future here are hugely exciting.

Developer

Crystal Dynamics

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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