Lego Marvel Super Heroes is, in my books, the best game that TT Games has ever produced and also one of the greatest Marvel video games of all time. Given that TT Games, the developer of the Lego series of games, parent company is WB Games who owns DC Comics, it was a miracle that Marvel would get the Lego treatment. It seemed like it would be a spectacular one-off until news broke early last year that TT Games would once again be returning to the Marvel Universe, only this time they were turning their focus to the events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, namely The Avengers and other Phase Two Marvel films that never received the video game treatment outside the mobile market.
Initially there was a lot of skepticism over Lego Marvel’s The Avengers due to the fact that it was tying itself so heavily to Marvel’s TV and film products that while insanely popular, doesn’t have the robust characters of the Marvel Comics Universe as a whole. How can you follow-up a game that has not only The Avengers, but the likes of the X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and the Guardians of the Galaxy amongst a cavalcade of other famous heroes and villains with just The Avengers? The answer is really well, actually. Though the story suffers from being a bit disjointed compared to that of Lego Marvel Super Heroes and the lack of famous Marvel characters is certainly felt, Lego Marvel’s The Avengers is still an absolute must play for fans of TT’s first Lego Marvel game, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and or just simply Marvel in general.
Whereas Lego Marvel Super Heroes told a wholly original story that crisscrossed nearly every corner of the Marvel Universe, Lego Marvel’s The Avengers story campaign plays out famous scenes from both Avengers films as well as Phase Two Marvel films Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. At this point you would be hard pressed to not find anyone who hasn’t seen many of these movies at least once, but even still the game’s narrative unfolds in a way that can be confusing and could’ve perhaps been handled better. The game starts out during the spectacular assault on Baron Strucker’s facility at the start of Age of Ultron before flashing back to the events of the first Avengers and then back to Age of Ultron. The events of the non-Avengers films despite being full levels fell separate from the main story as the game pushes you right back into Age of Ultron, forcing you to seek them out from the world map to be played in any order you wish instead of how the events unfolded.
Unlike the first Lego Marvel game which had all originally recorded dialogue made up mostly from the case of Marvel’s slate of animated series, Lego Marvel’s The Avengers takes a cue from Lego titles like 2012’s Lego Lord of the Rings and last year’s Lego Jurassic World that featured dialogue ripped straight from the movies they were based on. When it works, such as in the start of the level cut-scenes that are humorous takes on well-known events (my favourite being the first Hulk transformation from the first Avengers), it’s great, but other times you’ll wish they would’ve maybe just went back to freshly recorded dialogue with voice actors.
Certain actors for some reason or another are absent and you’ll see a dialogue that plays out between Robert Downey Jr. and Pepper Potts where the former is taken from a movie and the latter is recorded by a voice actress and it’s very awkward. Also weird is characters within levels while fighting enemies will just randomly recite lines that are meant as battle cries when in the context of the film it was just dialogue as part of a conversation. Luckily there are some returning actors from the MCU such as Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill and Hayley Atwell’s Agent carter who have recorded dialogue just for this game. All three do a wonderful job and have a lot of great in jokes for fans in particular of the TV series. Atwell’s character has a fantastic quest log in the open-world Manhattan portion of the game that does a very respectful job of summarizing the complete first season of Marvel’s Agent Carter.
Issues with presentation and story telling aside, it’s still amazing to finally be an active participant in the events of these films that have never gotten the video game treatment they deserve. Even with Lego mini-figs replacing actors and a family friendly tone, you’ll still get chills the moment you get to play as Hulk during the iconic “I’m always angry” scene, complete with Danny Elfman’s score playing in the background. It’s clear that TT Games love these films just like the people who watch them do, and if you doubt their conviction, I recommended watching both Avengers films after finishing up this game to see exactly how well the stages match up with the events of the movies.
How the campaign plays is business as usual as sorts for the Lego series and if you’re a fan, you’ll feel right at home but if you’re not this won’t win you over either. The name of the game as always is punching bad guys, smashing objects and gathering Lego studs, and assembling devices and using character specific abilities to solve puzzles. There are some new additions though, with some being great, while one in particular is an overused chore. Characters can now perform moves by tapping circle that are character specific finishers or team up maneuvers with other characters that not only help beat enemies faster, but are great to look at as well. With dozens of characters to unlock and play as, it’s fun to experiment with different combinations of characters to see how their finisher will look.This can be cumbersome though at times, as the circle button is taxed with three functions: countering, teaming up characters, and activating speed ramps and other devices within levels and the open world.
The weakest new addition is the scanning device that is not that hard to figure out or use, just overdone far too much. Specific characters can use a scanning device where you have to move a cursor back and forth through a screen until prompted to hit square when a wavelength starts going up and down fast. It slows down the game, is tedious, and you better get used to it because you’re going to be doing it a lot both in the campaign, as well as the hub-worlds.
One of the most fun things to do in Lego Marvel Super Heroes was to explore the sprawling New York City map completing races, uncovering gold bricks, unlocking characters and vehicles as well as taking on side-missions provided by quest givers. This section in Lego Marvel’s The Avengers is also the best part of the game and you not only get one gigantic New York City playground, but also several smaller hub-worlds to play around with as well such as Asgard and Clint Barton’s farm from Age of Ultron among a few others. All are a lot of fun to explore, and you’ll easily spend hours tracking down collectibles telling yourself “I’ll just do one more” before you find out hours have melted away.
The way in which you complete quests and explore has been greatly fixed as well, such that it will be difficult to go back to Lego Marvel Super Heroes. Flying around New York was a pain at times in Super Heroes due to how the controls for descent and fall were mapped to the same button, which made some of the ring races unnecessarily frustrating. Here flying around is handled with both analog sticks with one controlling horizontal movement and the other controlling vertical, and it’s leaps and bounds better. It’s also much easier to complete quests that involve tracking down and guiding NPC’s. In Lego Marvel Super Heroes you had to stick with someone and guide them back to a starting point and the AI would often get caught or stuck somewhere, forcing you to hunt them down or start over. In Lego Marvel’s The Avengers you just have to find them, tap a button, and they’ll get to where they need to go on their own. It’s refinements like these that make what was already fun to do in the first Lego Marvel game even more enjoyable here.
Though this game’s campaign and open-worlds take inspiration from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s still plenty of love given to Marvel Comics as well. It’s disappointing not to get to play as any of the X-Men or any Spider-Man or Woman, however it’s great to see characters like the new Ms. Marvel, the new female Thor, Sam Wilson as Captain America and the Young Avengers represented so well. Even Iron Man who had an abundance of iterations in the last game feels fresh as you can go into Tony Stark’s visor like in the movies to select your suit, each having a great accompanying summoning animation, my favourite being the Mark V from Iron Man 2. With well over a hundred characters and many more to come via DLC however, some are so obscure that even the biggest fan of everything Marvel will have to turn to Wikipedia at least once.
Those worried that Lego Marvel’s The Avengers would not at the very least land on equal grounds as TT Games’ first Marvel outing can put their fears aside as Lego Marvel’s The Avengers is yet another terrific Lego game that will eat away dozens of hours of your life if you let it. Issues with story telling and presentation aside, it’s still very satisfying to get to finally play out some of the most beloved portions from all the films represented here and it’s just a fun as ever to explore the multiple open maps for collectibles and characters. While it may not be a direct sequel to Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Lego Marvel’s The Avengers is still an astonishing spiritual successor that will satisfy those who love Marvel films and the comics they take their inspiration from.