Since their surge in mass popularity during the 2010’s, I’ve been yearning for an Avengers game that would appropriately blend the varied powers of the Earth’s mightiest heroes with actual fun gameplay. Things were looking very promising when Marvel’s Spider-Man released two years ago on the PlayStation 4, but all of those positive feelings slowly drained away as I spent some time with Square Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers beta.
The beta opens with the San Fransisco demo that’s been shown off before, swapping you between Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Black Widow throughout various points in the level. In another, better game, swapping between the heroes every few minutes would be a lot of fun, granted it managed to nail that blend of power fantasy with the cohesion of team dynamics that the Avengers are known for. But based on this beta, Marvel’s Avengers doesn’t succeed at either.
From the start, you have to confront the awkward and unresponsive controls. Everything feels delayed, undermining the brawler feel that other superhero games have done well like the Batman Arkham series or even Marvel’s Spider-Man did. Some of the special abilities and heavy attacks pack a good punch, but by and large most of what I played in the beta felt pretty bland in the combat department.
Marvel’s Avengers combat failings stem from its desire to be a live-service game. Enemies have bloated health bars and can take multiple massive green fists to the face because my gear score or whatever wasn’t high enough. I understand that’s just an aspect of how a lot of these games are, but this decision honestly robs Marvel’s Avengers of letting the player feel like a superhero. The Hulk should not be getting taken to task by some generic robots holding shields.
There’s also the issue of the game not explaining a lot of stuff to you, but I acknowledge that this might just be a beta issue and hopefully will be addressed, but there’s a lot in Marvel’s Avengers that I just never understood. For instance, you’ve got a health bar at the top of the screen with a mysterious superhero specific bar underneath it. What this bar is, I don’t know. What I do know is that while I was getting my ass kicked by a swarm of robots, the bar went down. Was that the health bar? If that’s the case, then what’s the other one for? Are all of my special abilities on a cool-down that might get faster with better gear or skill upgrades, or can I do something in game to impact them?
Maybe all of this is explained in the mess of a pause menu they’ve got, where the landfill of gear, crafting materials and currencies live. It’s one of those screens where your eyes just glaze over because of the sheer amount of garbage that’s on it. Luckily, there’s a button you can hit that will just equip the best gear for you, letting you avoid the nightmare of that entire menu.
What’s upsetting though is how none of your gear has any visual representation whatsoever. There’s plenty of articles of clothing to equip among the Avengers themselves, but none of it actually shows up at all. I actually understand why that isn’t a thing though. Marvel probably isn’t onboard with people making new Iron man armor from welded together scraps you found in a factory or a jungle. They want to “preserve the identity” of the characters or something, and letting you to adjust their appearances to something that isn’t “on brand” is probably a no. Also, I’m positive that buying alternate costumes is the monetization strategy for Marvel’s Avengers.
Ultimately Marvel’s Avengers just feels like a big miss on every front. It’s not a good action game, it doesn’t make you feel powerful, and it seems rife with ways to nickel and dime its player base. I can’t say definitively that it’s a disappointment yet, considering it isn’t actually out. This is a “beta,” and technically everything is subject to change. Sure the full game releases in just a few weeks, but maybe this is an older build of the game. Whether that’s true or this beta is indicative of what you can expect at release however, this was a miserable first impression.