Back when in-person conferences were a thing, Square Enix revealed Marvel’s Avengers, a video game with a torn personality. SE promised that the game would focus on story, with the apparent demise of Captain America, yet kept throwing words around like multiplayer, character progression, and weekly challenges.
To me, it raised some warning flags. My impression was that halfway through production of this game, Marvel’s other video game outing in Spider-Man had instilled fear in a company that had been pushing for games as a service, when players clearly just wanted story. Then came the company promising that there was a campaign to focus on, and at that point I switched off.
Then from one little titbit of news to another, I found myself almost starting my own little boycott. But with a new game not being bought since March, and a rally of surprisingly positive pre-release reviews, I failed to resist that FOMO urge, and found myself waiting patiently for midnight with Marvel’s Avengers already pre-installed in my PS4.
While only a few hours into the game, there are a couple things that I can surmise from the experience that I had in those hours. Starting right out the gate, the narrative set up is far superior to that I had anticipated. We are treated to a delightful sequence, with an excitable Kamala Khan hurriedly exploring her way through the theme park like amusements of the Avengers Day celebrations. Kamala’s relatable enthusiasm genuinely sparked up that child-like fascination that reminded me of running manically through Alton Towers, trying to get on every ride before the queues started to fill.
But excitement is replaced with anguish. Quickly this family friendly day turns into one of disaster, and the mighty Avengers step into action. Through some introductory play with our various heroes, we are quickly thrown ahead to a world full of hate, rife with totalitarianism and completely devoid of that iconic superhero team.
Despite its depressive state, Avenger’s starting hours are kept light by an infectiously giddy Kamala, who’s world is thrown into disarray when she goes on the run. While you run for your life as someone like Hulk chases you down, she does so with a quick quip and a shudder knowing that she is being chased down by one of her idols. She knows it’s dangerous but can’t but feel like she in one of the comic stories she obsesses over. Kamala appears to be the centre piece of this game, and is used effectively to remind its players that you are bunking up one room over from Captain America’s old room, or standing toe to toe with the Incredible Hulk.
Sporadically sprung between the frequent cut scenes, and QTE events, Avenger’s next big focus is combat. At the three-hour mark in the game you have briefly played as Kamala, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and Captain America. While at this point in time each of these did not feel unique enough to prefer one specifically over the other – outside of Kamala perhaps – the ridiculously expansive upgrade trees look sure to include to variety of abilities, combos, and fighting styles.
One of the longest slogs of a punching sessions had me play as Hulk, and in these early hours there wasn’t much else to do other than spam square, triangle and my three abilities. Coming to the end of a mission which took up the best part of an hour, I felt numbed by the constant barrage of destruction and the seeming lack of variety when it came to its enemy types. Contradictorily however, Kamala’s gameplay felt much more fluid, adaptable and most importantly fun to play. It will be interesting to see how gameplay changes through its rapid upgrading of various different play styles, and I have my fingers crossed that higher levelled enemies come with more difficult attack approaches, rather than a mere boost to health.
After my time with Marvel’s Avengers, I felt simultaneously surprised, yet reserved in my outstanding opinion on the game. I stand at more of a chance to like the game right now than I did yesterday, however its staying power will completely rely on its ability to adapt and evolve. I am endlessly curious to see how willing I am to play when the endgame content becomes the focus after the completion of the main campaign. But one thing is for sure: If Avenger’s wants me to put hundreds of hours into these characters, it has to make sure to keep things interesting.