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December 2023

Marvel's Avengers

Platform(s): Google Stadia, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Eidos Montreal (EU), Crystal Dynamics (US)
Release Date: Sept. 4, 2020


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Marvel's Avengers'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 13, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Featuring a completely original story, Marvel's Avengers is being designed for gamers worldwide and will be packed with all the characters, environments, and iconic moments that have thrilled longtime fans of the franchise.

Pre-order Marvel's Avengers

The heroic Avengers are beloved by all — until a horrible disaster occurs under their watch, leaving a city in ruins, Captain America dead, and a rash of mutations (called Inhumans) spreading through the populace. In the wake of the disaster, superheroes are banned, and an organization named AIM steps up with a goal of protecting people. As any good Marvel fan knows, AIM is up to no good. The only hope for stopping them comes from Kamala Khan, one of the Inhumans who's known as the superheroine, Ms. Marvel. Together with Dr. Bruce Banner, she aims to revive the Avengers and stop AIM's most dastardly plans in Marvel's Avengers.

Marvel's Avengers is odd in that it is set in a strange amalgam of the comic and movie universe while not being either. The characters are clearly modeled on the movie versions in personality and appearance, but they are not the movie versions, nor are they the comic versions. The closest comparison is the PS4 Spider-Man game, where it takes elements from everything. So far, the characters seem solid and should feel familiar to fans, and Ms. Marvel is an absolute delight to have as a main protagonist. It feels like it might have been better to go in its own direction instead of being the non-union equivalent of the "Avengers" movie.

The game is a 3D beat-'em-up where you and up to three friends can work together to defeat the forces of evil. Every character has a light attack and a heavy attack that they can string together for combos, as well as a long-distance ranged attack. They also have three powers, which are on cooldowns and can be used at will, ranging from an area-of-effect heal to a giant laser. Each character has unique skills in addition to intrinsic abilities that are exclusive to that specific character. Some intrinsic abilities run off a meter that's powered by attacking enemies, while others are just an innate part of the character's kit.

Surprisingly, combat is less button-mashy than expected. It's important to figure out how to efficiently use your combined abilities to defeat enemies. Running in and mashing the attack buttons will get you pounded down very quickly, and it'll save you a lot of trouble to learn which options you must disable to defeat armored or shielded enemies. You must commit to your attacks, so it's better to plan what you're going to do than to just mash the Square button. It's difficult to say how this will hold up as you progress in the game, but it seems like there's some potential to mastering the characters. My biggest complaint was that the game doesn't seem to model being bulky as well as it did for nimble characters. The Hulk feels too fragile for a guy who can take a tank shell to the face and keep going.

Despite the shared gameplay mechanics, Marvel's Avengers does a solid job of differentiating each of the playable characters with the intrinsic abilities. The Hulk has the innate ability to give himself a power boost and armor with his Rage status. Iron Man can fly, and he has a mix of close- and long-range attacks, as well as a personal shield. Ms. Marvel can swing and super-jump using her stretchy limbs, and she can temporarily change sizes or auto-dodge enemy attacks by embiggining herself. Black Window is fast and agile, and she has the ability to counter weaker attacks, as well as unload her gun on foes. Captain America has a mighty shield that will not yield, allowing him to block attacks entirely. Thor can throw and call his mighty hammer at will for some long-distance tricks that nobody else can do.

I was pleasantly surprised at how different the characters felt. At heart, Avengers is a beat-'em-up, and there are a lot of similarities, but there are also enough differences to feel meaningful. Iron Man excels at fighting at mid-ranges. He can fire repulsor rays from his gauntlets as part of his combo and manually, which gives him the greatest range of the playable characters. Combined with his ability to fly, he's awesome at handling anything that isn't in his face. (He's fine with that, too.) In comparison, the Hulk is brute force in the truest sense of the word. He can leap off walls and crush puny gods, but he depends on the Rage meter to get close enough to hit them. He can throw rocks from a distance, but his ranged attack is easily the least reliable in the beta.

Each character can also be powered up in a variety of ways. The characters all have a level and a power ranking. The former influences how many skill upgrades they have, while the latter influences the overall stats. Levels are earned by beating enemies, while power comes entirely from the gear selection. In true Diablo fashion, you'll unlock a lot of gear that may have the same stats but different special abilities, and combining them allows you to customize your character. A nice feature is that you can upgrade the power and stats of your equipment, so if you find a particularly good piece of gear, it won't become outdated when you move on to harder missions. There are also runes that you can equip for special boosts, comic books for power-ups, and a lot of cosmetic options. (My favorite is Ms. Marvel's Throg costume, which amounts to her wearing a fuzzy frog hat and a Thor t-shirt.)

The game is divided into main missions and side missions. The main missions are pretty cool. They are big epic battles featuring amusing Avengers style dialogue between the characters, interesting setpieces, and solid overall gameplay. The opening battle on the San Francisco Bridge feels extremely neat as you swap between the various Avengers, each of which has their own disaster to handle while things explore around you. I'm looking forward to seeing what some of the biggest and most dangerous fights end up being since there's a lot of potential there.

The weakest part of the beta was the relatively boring mission design outside of the main missions. These feel like the most cookie cutter part of the game: simple, short challenges designed mostly to funnel some extra XP and gear. The War Zones, areas where you can explore wider open areas for loot and challenges, were more interesting but still grindy. However, it's worth noting that this is the beta, and it's very possible the variety and quality of these challenges will increase as you get beyond the introductory areas. Hopefully the final version has some cooler stuff.

Overall, Marvel's Avengers is shaping up well. I worry about the variety of the content, but there's enough here to feel like an Avengers game. The characters are well represented, the combat is engaging enough to feel enjoyable, and there seems to be a lot of potential room for fun with friends. Hopefully, the full version will live up to its potential when it launches Sept. 4 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One and eventually for PS5 and Xbox Series X. (Only the PlayStation versions will have everyone's favorite web-slinger, Spider-Man.)

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