Want to be a superhero? Of course you do.
Marvel’s Avengers, developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, allows you to do just that. Well, it allows you to be a range of superheroes. The full Avengers squad, in fact, plus protagonist Kamala Khan (aka Ms Marvel). It’s big, brash and bombastic; and from start to finish, Marvel’s Avengers is a whole lot of fun.
Unlike Marvel’s Spider-Man, 2018’s PlayStation-exclusive adventure, Avengers isn’t strictly a single-player game. The focus is on online multiplayer; players can team up as squads, and tackle any number of missions together. Like the best loot-based games, you can play missions multiple times at various difficulties, with bigger and better rewards up for grabs. But if you prefer to play solo, you shouldn’t worry that Marvel’s Avengers doesn’t have anything to offer you. It’s surprisingly adept at being a single player experience, too.
There’s a storyline to follow, which centres around Kamala Khan. As the game opens, you join Kamala and her father at San Francisco’s Avengers Day, a fan convention celebrating all things Avengers. She’s a huge fan, you see. Unfortunately, not everything is as joyous as it should be; an evil force attacks the city, resulting in mass destruction – and many of the residents ending up with supernatural powers. The Avengers are ultimately blamed for the event, and they’re forced to go into hiding.
Fast forward four years, and we pick up with Kamala. She’s ‘inhuman’ now, having inherited polymorphism abilities: basically, she’s super-powered and super-stretchy. She’s been fixated on finding out what happened to the Avengers and, after discovering that perhaps some foul play was involved, she takes it upon herself to hunt them down. So begins your adventure; first, you’ll team up with Bruce Banner – the Hulk – and together, you’ll track down Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor and Captain America.
You’ll be able to take control of each character; some missions require a particular hero when you play for the first time, but others let you choose your preferred character. Each hero, as you’d expect, has their own unique attacks and skills. It can be a little disjointing moving from one to another as you need to reacquaint yourself with the abilities at your disposal, but thankfully basic moves remain tied to the same button inputs. You’ll no doubt have your favourites, though. Tony Stark’s flying ability means he’s ideal for traversing large environments, and his laser beams make him great for ranged combat. Kamala Khan’s stretchiness gives her a unique dodging ability, on the other hand, or maybe you prefer the Hulk’s sheer brute force. There’s something incredibly fun about being able to rip a chunk of concrete up out of the ground and lob it at any enemy, after all.
It’s easy to love pretty much all of the characters, though, thanks to excellent writing and dialogue. Sure, they’re not voiced by (or modelled on) their Hollywood counterparts, but they feel real. Tony Stark has just the right level of cocky arrogance, and Bruce Banner is as troubled as one would expect a scientist who transforms into a huge green ogre to be. But Kamala Khan is perhaps the highlight. Her childish joy at the beginning of the game is infectious, and her upbeat personality rarely falters even when the going gets tough. It’s refreshing to see the world through such optimistic eyes; even in times of trouble, there’s still pleasure to be had.
But no matter what character you choose, there’s pleasure to be had from playing the game itself. Missions come in various shapes and sizes. Often, you’ll have to travel from A to B, fighting your way through hordes of enemies on the way. Sometimes you’ll have to activate switches, clear out areas or hunt around for a key piece of information. While far from open world, levels are pretty sprawling, and there’s plenty of opportunity to travel off the beaten path. There’s a lot of fun to be had in exploring, and by poking around you’ll find better pieces of equipment and extra loot.
Disappointingly, equipment isn’t tied to your appearance. You can find (or purchase) new outfits for your heroes, but these are cosmetic only. Equipment that affects your stats has no bearing on your appearance, which is a shame. But of course, it doesn’t make it worthless; like all good loot-based games, upgrading your equipment is a key part of the experience. You’ll constantly find new pieces of armour to equip and, providing you’ve got enough resources (which come in various forms), you can upgrade them to increase your power even further.
There’s a heck of a lot of detail to enjoy in Marvel’s Avengers, and fans of the franchise will get a bigger kick out of it than most. From finding comic books to in-jokes and one-liners, it’s been made with Marvel fans in mind. But that doesn’t mean those less familiar with the MCU won’t enjoy it. It tells its own story; it’s not part of the ‘Cinematic Universe’ so it works perfectly as a standalone game.
Regardless of how many Avengers films you’ve seen, it’s easy to appreciate the amount of care that’s gone into bringing the Chimera helicarrier to life. Acting as your initial base of operations, there’s a lot to be found and enjoyed by poking around its multiple rooms. But the same goes for all locations; whether it’s the barren landscape of Utah or one of AIM’s many bases of operations, every environment of Marvel’s Avengers has been created with care. It’s all too easy to ignore your primary mission marker to simply nosy around and see what you can find.
While the main story will take you somewhere between 10 and 15 hours to complete, depending how much time you spend getting distracted by side pursuits, your time with Marvel’s Avengers is far from over at that point. Missions can be played multiple times, and outside of the story are many other missions to be jumped into in multiplayer. Levelling up your characters means unlocking new skills, finding increasingly more powerful equipment, and becoming the best hero you can be. For players who enjoy the loot-chasing gameplay loop offered by games of this type, Marvel’s Avengers does not disappoint.
Whether you’re an avid Marvel fan or simply enjoy sinking numerous hours into action RPGs, there’s a lot to love about Marvel’s Avengers. Its characters and its world have been brought to life with a lot of care and detail, making it a pleasure to spend time with. But it’s just how fun the game is that really draws you in. It’s a Hollywood action movie you can play, basically. Sit back, relax, and enjoy punching, shooting, flying and looting. It might not require much in the way of brainpower, but it’s one heck of an enjoyable ride.