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Pinball FX2

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Casual
Developer: Zen Studios
Release Date: Aug. 14, 2014


Xbox One Review - 'Pinball FX2' - Avengers: Age of Ultron

by Adam Pavlacka on May 29, 2015 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Pinball FX2 takes the pinball genre to another level with the most advanced ball physics and social features to date, along with a new collection of beautifully designed tables.

Given its long history with Marvel characters, it was no surprise when Zen Studios published the Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron table for Pinball FX2. After all, this is the company that already has Civil War and Infinity Gauntlet tables (based on the comics, not the upcoming films) in its back catalog. Age of Ultron lacks some of the flash of prior Zen tables, but at its core lies a solid entry that could actually exist as a real, physical table. It is this departure that ultimately makes Age of Ultron worth playing.

Given that most of Zen's recent entries utilize creative elements that could only exist in the virtual realm of video games, Age of Ultron may initially seem underwhelming. It is probably safe to say that Age of Ultron isn't a table that leaves a good first impression. That is especially true if you are playing the trial version of the table, as the trial usually ends before the introduction mode finishes. There is also a nasty bug on the Xbox 360 trial version of the table. When the trial ends on that system, it doesn't offer an option to quit. Instead, it simply hard locks your console until you power cycle the system. Oops.

Assuming you spring for the full version of the table, Age of Ultron is an experience that rewards precision and ball control. You can't just hit easy loops to trigger a multi-ball experience. If you want high-scoring madness here, you'll have to work for it.

The main playfield on Age of Ultron has eight separate lanes squeezed in, along with a center drop that opens up after you've hit the correct targets. All of them are just wide enough to take the ball on a direct shot. This includes the ramps, which don't have flared openings. If your shots are even slightly off-center, the ball is going to ricochet back into the main playfield. The upper level is accessed via a ramp and consists of three areas where the ball can drop down, along with a single flipper opposite an extensible entrance to Avengers tower. Like the main playfield, hitting this entrance requires your shot to be straight on. Connect with the ball on an angle, and you're dropping back down.

Triggering each of the individual game modes is done via the traditional pinball method of hitting loops and targets. Most of the modes are unlocked by repeatedly hitting the same ramp, though one is started by hitting a series of bumpers repeatedly, and another is started by hitting four specific targets and landing the ball in the center drop.

Once started, most of the modes require landing a series of specific lane shots to successfully progress. This can be more challenging than it sounds, as the design of the table lends itself to speedy ball movement. Trying to time your shots without first slowing down the ball can be more difficult than it looks. You really need to have complete awareness of the ball's location and direction at all times, more so than on most Zen tables.

One of the game modes that doesn't require lane shots is Hawkeye. When you trigger him, the table switches to a first-person view and requires you to shoot incoming Ultron drones with your arrows. Targeting is controlled via the flippers, with the ball launch doubling as the fire button. This is probably the most "video game" aspect of the table, but then again, it's not something that couldn't be done on a real table with a dot matrix or small LCD display.

Getting good enough to consistently trigger each of the modes takes a bit of practice, so you're not likely to see the best elements of Age of Ultron until you have some experience on the table. After you pass the initial hump, though, the table quickly grows on you as the different elements start to fall into place.

Another example of the level of ball control demanded by the table can be found in the U-L-T-R-O-N lights in the lower lanes by the center flippers. In most pinball tables (real and virtual), once you light a letter, it stays lit until the ball drains or you complete the word. On Age of Ultron, the letters flip between on and off every time the ball passes over them. This means that completing ULTRON is more than just dumb luck. Yes, you can move the lit letter left and right with the flippers, but if you let the ball drop into the wrong lane, it'll shut off a lit letter, undoing some of your progress.

Age of Ultron does have a difficulty setting that makes some adjustments to the scoring and the table angle (increasing the ball's speed on the higher levels), but it was difficult to notice any appreciable difference while playing. The one thing that could make the biggest difference in difficulty (the placement of the outlane pegs) seemed to be identical across all three difficulty settings.

The voice acting in Age of Ultron is a noticeable step up from the Guardians of the Galaxy table. Zen is still using sound-alikes, but the voice actors here do a much better job of sounding like their big-screen counterparts. One final tweak worth mentioning has to do with the postgame initial settings on the high score screen. On older Zen tables, you have to re-enter your initials after every game. In Age of Ultron, the table retains your last entry as a default option, so you can quickly confirm and move on to play again.

Although the modes in Age of Ultron aren't as over the top as other Zen tables, the core gameplay is solid and finely polished. This is a table that doesn't seem like much at first glance, but the more you play, the more appealing it becomes. Novices may find the table frustrating, but advanced pinball players will appreciate the depth of skill required.

Score: 8.5/10

Editor's Note: Be sure to check out our review of "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" movie.

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