Marvel’s Avengers received quite a polarizing response from the community during the initial gameplay reveal. With just a month to go for the release of the game, the beta is finally here and it seems like Square Enix has taken a lot of measures to appease the fanbase, however, things are looking rather bleak for the game.
The game starts off with the Golden Gate Bridge mission which we have already seen during the earlier gameplay reveals. The opening mission serves as a miniature tutorial, allowing players to get a hang of all the heroes present in the game. The moment you gain control of Thor, you can’t help notice that the game feels a bit on the clunky side with the combat coming off as unrefined. There are inherent inconsistencies in the core premise of the game, which makes one aspect of the game stand out, only to be downplayed by the other.
Characters like Thor and Black Widow have an impressive move set which will no doubt make avid fans of the franchise happy. At the same time, Iron Man and Hulk are not as exciting to play as their sections feel rather limited since you don’t have immediate access to late-game upgrades. This is exactly where crack’s in the game’s foundation starts to appear. The game seems to be having an identity crisis where it struggles to be both a story-driven action-adventure game and a loot focused co-op game at the same time- it falls short on both ends.
The heroes have a variety of move set and special abilities, however, most of the time you will be finding yourself mashing one button over and over again thanks to the limited enemy variety in the beta. There are a few shielded enemies and the game instructs you to vault over them to take their guard down as Cap, but I honestly had no issues taking them down by alternating just between heavy and light attacks. The special abilities might be helpful at times when you are overcrowded with enemies, but it feels more like a flashy gimmick than a tactical resource best saved for last.
Moving further from the basic enemies, there are a couple of boss fights in the game, and those end up being pretty mediocre as well. The first boss fight against the Taskmaster takes place in three parts, with the first one being a quick time event. The second is rather a short set-piece that involves shooting him down and occasionally dodging, while the final sets the ball rolling for a proper combat sequence.
The boss fights are heavily scripted and while we witnessed something similar in Insomniac’s Spider-Man as well, the latter excels in delivering a cinematic experience. For instance, in Insomniac’s Spider-Man, Taskmaster will mimic your moves so a tactical approach is required to take him down, while in Avengers, you can just rely on the button-mashing formula.
Speaking of the AI, you can’t proceed to the next area until you have cleared all the enemies in the current area. And while this is not something new, the lackluster AI completely ruins this aspect of the game. Many a times, we had enemies stuck in a corner of the map and we had to search for them actively or restart the level altogether to proceed to the next. The intrinsic RPG elements in the game are pretty confusing and the game does little to explain it to the players. There is an abundance of resources scattered across the world comprehensive upgrade and customization menu in the game; however, it is again downplayed by a lack of proper explanation.
The beta showcases the first few missions of the game, and while we don’t get to see much of the narrative, it’s still decent as compared to other aspects of the game. The popular superhero quips are there – however, one shouldn’t expect it to be as polished as Insomniac’s Spider-Man. That being said, it doesn’t do that bad of a job in building the chemistry between the characters, especially between Hulk and Kamala. This is well complemented by the stellar voice acting in the game, making the narrative one of the very few aspects the game can actually be proud of.
As far as the game’s visuals are concerned, it’s a far cry from the Insomniac’s Spider-Man or even Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which is built on the same engine as Marvel’s Avengers. We played the game on the base PS4 and the dynamic resolution combined with the excessive motion-blur makes the game look absolutely abysmal. While it is expected that the PS4 Pro and the PC version will look better, the animations are still pretty lack luster and it strongly suggests that the game still requires a lot of polish moving forward.
All in all, Marvel’s Avengers ends up being the jack of all trades and master of none. It tries to do a lot of things to appeal to a wider audience and in the process, it loses its identity. A focus on one genre might have helped the game’s mechanics shine out more, but in the end, all the good elements are bogged down by the inherent identity crisis.