Last weekend, the closed beta of the new superhero game Marvel's Avengers ran on PlayStation 4 and we put on the suits of Captain America, Iron Man and Co. fighting for the good cause. Our beta conclusion however is not really super.
For over three years, developer Crystal Dynamics has been working on Marvel's Avengers for Square Enix, which is set to be the ultimate superhero game for the current generation of consoles. After several hours with the closed beta, our conclusion for the Marvel's Avengers release is mixed.
The Story of Marvel's Avengers
Marvel's Avengers begins on what is known as A-Day, a holiday in honor of the famous superheroes, when the team of Captain America, Black Widow, Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor actually wanted to unveil a new high-tech headquarters in San Francisco. Taskmaster and his AIM henchmen are going to burn down half the city and blame Tony Stark for the whole thing. As a result, the Avengers are (once again) disbanded, while the oh so friendly AIM troops are supposed to protect mankind from the contaminated Inhumans and their superpowers.
Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) is one of the new superheroes and, as a big Avengers fan, does everything in her power to reunite the team and work together to bring law and order. After the intro, in which we alternately get to try out all five heroes, we slip into Khan's skin to rescue JARVIS together with Hulk and reunite the Avengers. So much for the basic story. Unfortunately, Marvel's Avengers hardly illuminates the events between the intro and the first mission, and even the details the game provides us with hardly provide any suspense. Let's just hope that it looks better in the finished game on September 4.
Blunt is Trump: Avengers on the Trail of Destiny
The story is not the only problem of Marvel's Avengers. There is no linear or open heroic adventures like in Marvel's Spider-Man or the Batman: Arkham series. Rather, the superhero game sees itself as a kind of loot shooter like Destiny or The Division - only with melee attacks. At the War Table, we choose one of several areas where we then tackle different missions.
Together with three AI comrades or human players, we comb relatively large areas and come across various secondary tasks. Collect a secret crate here, eliminate a squad of elite soldiers there. Yawn! On our journey we collect various resources, but the game only partially explains their use. Some of them can be invested in new outfits, others go into improving your equipment. The repetitive mission design runs like a red thread through the beta of Marvel's Avengers. Unfortunately, we are looking for really exciting tasks in vain, but those can still come - after all, the test version only comprised a tiny fraction of the finished game and only one main mission.
Button Mashing Par Excellence
While we still have hope regarding the tasks, the gameplay of Marvel's Avengers doesn't look rosy. Yes, Cap, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel and the Hulk play very differently. They all have unique abilities that they can draw on when fighting the four different types of enemies. Not all of them are fun though. The outside areas are still quite large, but again and again, the game forces us into boring and narrow tube areas inside a warehouse, factory or other building. Not only do they always look the same, but heroes like Iron-Man with his flying skills are hardly playable in them. You'll continuously get forced into tight areas where you have to land.
It should be noted that Hulk and Ms. Marvel are much better at this. Speaking of playing Thor and Captain America were off the air after the intro mission. That's too bad, we would have loved to try them. We spend a large part of the time in Marvel's Avengers with close combat against AIM henchmen. Sadly there aren't any complex attack combos. Instead, the fights consist of blunt button mashing. At least light and heavy attacks can be combined with three hero specific special attacks each.
However, the love affair never really takes off, especially since even on the PS4 Pro (in performance mode!) there are sometimes violent frame rate break-ins, when you encounter a large number of enemies.
Creative Hero Building
If there's one thing Marvel's Avengers deserves praise for it's the leveling system. For leveling up we unlock talent points which we invest in different skills. Not all skills were available in the beta by far, but in the final game, a lot of combinations should be possible.
It's a similar situation with the equipment: Every second we collect new items, that come up with additional effects and a higher gear score, but you won't notice most of these stats in the game. The gear score, on the other hand, makes us stronger or lets us take more damage - anyone who has ever played The Division 2 knows how the system works. It's just a pity that the different armor, helmets, gloves, and other gear have no visual impact on our heroic troops.
But enough complaining: Marvel's Avengers really isn't that bad. In the end, if you're a superhero fan you get what you expect from a popcorn blockbuster. Continuous action and cool heroes. The game is not only aimed at fans of the MCU, but also wants to appeal to comic fans with legendary outfits and details about the origins of the heroes.
Conclusion on the Beta of Marvel's Avengers
Crystal Dynamics designed Marvel's Avengers as a live service game. This raises the hope that there will be a lot more to come when the game is released in early September or at least in the following months. The idea of an Avengers game as a Destiny clone works quite well. Diversified heroes, a well-done leveling system, and details for comic fans make you want more.
On the other hand, there are the repetitive missions, the boring combat system, and the poor technical implementation, which make us doubt it all. Levels that push you into tight spaces with boring and repetitive combat aren't going to be fun in the long run. In terms of gameplay variety and quality of the story Marvel's Avengers has to improve a lot. Otherwise it won't be much more than a mere Destiny clone in a superhero suit. If you're looking for a few hours of continuous action in a co-op the game then the title will probably do the trick. You just have to know what you are getting into.