DEVELOPER: Crystal Dynamics/Eidos Montreal
REVIEWED ON: PlayStation 4 (Slim) from a copy purchased by the author. Add-on content is free to download.
Marvel’s Avengers, Square-Enix’s attempt to turn one of the most popular brands on the planet into a “Games as a Service” title, has been fighting an uphill battle since its launch. Despite selling well out the gate, the headlines since then have only been about how its player base is spiraling downwards and that it still hasn’t managed to recoup its development budget.
Those who bought into Marvel’s Avengers at launch were left with little to do upon finishing its brief, but highly enjoyable, campaign other than grind out the same few maps, tussling with boring robotic cannon fodder and less than a handful of recognizable super-villains. Had the launch gone smoother, players would’ve been treated to a new character and story missions not that long after launch, but instead the development teams had to allocate their resources to improving performance and squashing bugs.
Now, after a few delays, Marvel’s Avengers has finally received a new injection of content with a new character, Kate Bishop, who comes with her own short story campaign dubbed Taking AIM. Though it’s nice to have a new toy in the toy box and the conclusion teases some interesting developments going forward, the content here is little more than the same enemies and environments with some decorations hanging on top of it.
The Avengers have noticed an increase in tachyon rifts springing up across the globe. These are due to ongoing experiments being preformed by A.I.M and their new Scientist Supreme, Monica Rappaccini. When investigating a site of a disturbance, the team comes across Kate Bishop, the protégé of their teammate, Hawkeye. Both Hawkeyes were watching A.I.M during the Avengers absence but now the elder Hawkeye, Clint Barton, has gone missing. With the help of the Avengers, Kate must put a stop to A.I.M’s new research while searching for her lost teacher.
For the handful of hours it lasts, Taking AIM is a welcome injection of story material in a game that desperately needed it. Kate Bishop is also a wonderful addition to the cast, voiced with attitude and confidence to spare by Ashly Burch, and she fits in well with the established dynamic of the Avengers. In particular she plays a great foil to the egotistical Tony Stark.
An established gymnast, martial artist and marksmen, Kate is a well-rounded character who can hold her own with A.I.M’S forces both at a distance and up close. Using a variety of arrows ranging from regular razor tips to explosive ones, Kate is suited to taking out flying drones and turrets, but when the situation calls for it, she can also dish out melee damage with her sword and stolen A.I.M tech.
Kate’s biggest gameplay hook doesn’t come from her quiver, but rather a device that allows her to teleport in short bursts around the map. This can be used both in combat to close the distance between enemies as well as in traversal to reach higher ledges and distant platforms. In a lot of respects it feels like the mechanics featured in Deadpool and the Nightcrawler stages in the console version of X-Men: The Official Game, which is not entirely a bad thing. As you gain experience and begin moving along Kate’s skill tree, you can get to the point where she can essentially mimic the Devil Trigger maneuver from Capcom’s Devil May Cry, unleashing deadly slashes of purple energy from a distance.
As enjoyable as Kate is to power up and control however, the missions you find yourself in are the same few types just with an aurora borealis effect in the skyline periodically thrown in for good measure. The character at one point jokes about why the missions always have to take place in the snow instead of Hawaii, but the development team can’t be in on the joke without doing anything about it. Upon completing the new story levels and Kate’s questline, she doesn’t even get her own character specific mission like the rest of the team which is also a disappointment.
There’s a new wrinkle thrown in here or there like in a vault where there’s more verticality than normal to compensate for Kate’s new powers, but it’s still just another vault. The final mission even concludes with a Warbot battle and a section where you must run and hold the numbered squares in the right order. After nothing but Abomination and Taskmaster since launch, there’s a new villain in the form of A.I.M’S Super-Adaptoid robot which can mimic the powers of Thor, Iron Man and Captain America, but it’s a fairly anti-climatic battle and the last thing Marvel’s Avengers needed was more robotic foes.
Given that we haven’t really discussed Marvel’s Avengers much since launch here, it must also be noted that the additions the development team have made it are very welcome. Little things like being able to charge through barriers with Captain America or commanding foes to shoot targets and hack doors go a long way to make the experience that much more enjoyable. It just goes to show that the requests of the community are not falling on deaf ears and it will only help Marvel’s Avengers be a better game in the long run.
Taking AIM is a step in the right direction of making Marvel’s Avengers better, yet it still feels too slight to be a major game changer. If you’ve been hungry for more after completing the campaign, this is the perfect excuse to dive back in, and with how the finale plays out, it looks like things are escalating in some spectacular ways. Hopefully now that the game itself is in a much more stable place the developers can focus on getting new characters and story out on a regular basis. Provided they can keep up with a reasonable schedule, it could turn around Marvel’s Avengers significantly.
Marvels Avengers is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia and PC. It’s backwards compatible on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X. Next-gen versions are set to arrive in 2021.