DEVELOPERS: Crystal Dynamics/Eidos-Montréal/Nixxes
PUBLISHER: Square Enix
RE-REVIEWED ON: PlayStation 5 from a copy purchased by the author.
For further context, click HERE to read our initial review of Marvel’s Avengers.
Listen to me talk about Marvel’s Avengers on the Games my Mom Found podcast HERE.
Arriving hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed Marvel’s Spider-Man, not to mention the one-two punch of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, Marvel’s Avengers was set up to be the next big thing in comic book video games. Helmed by the mega talented Crystal Dynamics with support from Eidos-Montréal and having a creative director who previously worked at Naughty Dog, on paper Marvel’s Avengers read like a sure thing both from a critical and financial standpoint.
But then it wasn’t.
Despite being the number 1 best-selling game in its debut month of September 2020, it quickly fell to 14th position by October. The following months were also not kind to what’s ostensibly Marvel’s first big push into the Games as a Service genre of perpetually updated games with too many negative headlines to recount here. With everything from Square Enix publicly calling Marvel’s Avengers a commercial failure, bugs that plagued progression, a controversial PlayStation exclusive character in Spider-Man initially promised in January of 2021 before being delayed to the end of that year, for many it was fun to point and laugh at what pundits on social media had dubbed an entity that needed to be euthanized. Here at comicbookvideogames.com, we were also unkind to Marvel’s Avengers which you can read in the review that we wrote for shortly after its launch in 2020 and headlines afterwards, including our 2021 Game of the Year awards.
Matt McMuscles breaks down a lot of Marvel’s Avengers tumultuous history in this video in his “What Happened?” series.
But, like the Star Spangled Avenger who adorns the game’s cover, the developers behind Marvel’s Avengers stood their ground, proclaiming to the internet and world at large that they could do this all day. It’s now been 2 years since the launch of Marvel’s Avengers, and while for many it will simply never be the game they dreamed of upon its initial reveal in early 2017, the narrative written about it that it’s a flop deserving of cancellation is frankly cruel. If you wrote Marvel’s Avengers off, deleted it from your system of choice and told yourself that you’re never going to touch it again, you might want to change your mind and give it a second look as you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy it.
Like it was at launch, one of Marvel’s Avengers strongest selling points is its “Reassemble” campaign. Though brief, and padded with missions clearly designed for its multiplayer component, the story of Kamala Kahn, a self professed Avengers fangirl getting powers of her own and coming to terms with them while also helping to get the band back together will easily hook you from beginning to end. It’s still a shame that many of the characters, including Thor and Captain America, don’t show up until the end, but many of the set pieces here, including the opening and thrilling conclusion, are easily some of the best crafted for any comic book video game to date. If you’re late to the game and mostly like to play solo, the epilogues starring Kate Bishop, Hawkeye, and the War for Wakanda expansion add even more hours to your runtime. Those expecting a Marvel Ultimate Alliance level of character choice 2 years in will still leave disappointed, but taken for what it is, Marvel’s Avengers weaves a tale worthy of its license.
Though it includes traversal like wall-running, double jumps, and swinging, Marvel’s Avengers is at its core an action game where you select one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and bash waves upon waves of A.I.M troopers, robots, and a handful of super-villains. There are perhaps those who can get into the minutiae of what has changed as patches have been implemented, but Marvel’s Avengers simply feels tighter compared to what it once was. Hits feel more impactful, dodging and countering seem more fluid, and overall it just plays tighter than what it ever has. Fortnite may have this game beat when it comes to the volume of Marvel characters it has in its roster, but Avengers makes you feel like you’re a superhero. Whether you’re Iron Man peppering enemies with rockets from the sky, Captain America kicking back his thrown shield to pinball more enemies or swatting baddies as an embiggened Ms. Marvel, the repetition in its small number of maps and activities feels lessened now more than it ever has. It speaks volumes on how well each of these characters work when many of them could be spun off into their own series using their movesets here as a template.
An issue that plagued Marvel’s Avengers for some time was that there just wasn’t enough to do. The level cap for your character was set at 50, and the power level associated with your equipped gear maxed out at 150. Once you met both of those criteria, it made no sense to continue on with your best character. This too has been alleviated with the addition of raids, special timed events and Champion levels that can be earned past the previous threshold of 50. It’s fun to experiment with new characters in Marvel’s Avengers, but for those who find their main and crave something to do that merits the effort they put into making them powerful, these new updates have been excellent additions.
Much progression of your team of heroes in Marvel’s Avengers was tied to your equipped gear, something that at launch was cumbersome to say the least but has gotten far better. For starters, equipping loot and upgrading your character once required you to move through pages of confusing menus. Now, all of that information has been collected into one easy to navigate page. Also, loot was once powered up by using one of Marvel Avengers‘ many currencies, however this only comes into play now once your hero of choice reaches a power level of 100. Up to that point, you just swap in new gear to buff your stats. Upon reaching power level 100, it’s just a simple matter of merging older pieces of gear into new ones, which is something that the game has greatly simplified. If equipment can be powered up, it will have a handy arrow on it alerting the player that it can be strengthened with other gear. When destroying excess inventory now, multiple units can be highlighted and crushed at once, further simplifying this process too.
Marvel’s Avengers is, at its core, a multiplayer game but you can choose to play it solo for the most part. For anyone dipping their toes into this game for the first time, new onboarding tutorials have been set up narrated by none other than Nick Fury explaining the leveling system, gear, and the various mission type that make up this game’s multiplayer suite. An iconic mission chain now unique to Nick Fury not only gives you rewards, it also intuitively funnels new players into all of Marvel’s Avengers systems to catch them up to speed for higher level events. Daily missions tied to S.H.I.E.L.D and the Inhumans that once required you to jump between 2 unique locations can all now be selected from helpful terminals in hub areas like the Chimera helicarrier and the Ant Hill.
Initially launched on machines that were approaching 7 years on the market, Marvel’s Avengers has greatly benefitted from the horsepower provided by the current generation of consoles, and if you can get them of course, it’s the best way to experience the game. Whereas once you had to sit through lengthy loads getting into missions and parts within them, now you’re into the action in a matter of seconds. With Smart Delivery on the Xbox Series X, you’re automatically upgraded to the current generation version with no effort should you already be in possession of a physical disc or digital copy. This is also the case on PlayStation 5, but the process is nowhere near as elegant.
Sadly, there’s still the elephant in the room in that while it isn’t marketed as the definitive version, Marvel’s Avengers on the PlayStation 5 is by far the best way to play if you can. Though there’s plenty to do on Xbox, PC, and Stadia, PlayStation 5 users get the benefit of fast load times and the console exclusive character Spider-Man. At the very least though, Spider-Man’s addition doesn’t add an operation that moves the ongoing Marvel’s Avengers narrative in the same way that Taking A.I.M and Future Imperfect did. So if you’re invested in the ongoing war between The Avengers and A.I.M, you’re not missing out on much if you’re not in the PlayStation ecosystem. A wart on the PlayStation 5 experience is an ongoing bug in Future Imperfect wherein enemies you need to defeat won’t appear and lock you out of progression during an early mission. This is something that was experience mere weeks before writing this piece. We can’t speak about other platforms, but research indicates this is unique to PS5 and it’s somewhat shocking that it hasn’t been fixed. There are creative solutions to get around the glitch, but it simply shouldn’t be there.
For a time, Marvel’s Avengers flirted with selling pay-to-win boosters before smartly turning them off, and largely the microtransactions within it are for cosmetics items like costumes. Lately, the developers behind Marvel’s Avengers have been crushing it in that department with killer skins taken from both the comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One such example is Captain America’s strike suit from Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier which was just added to the in-game store within the last week or so. They can be pricey though, costing upwards to $15 for premium suits like the above mentioned, but when it means getting new characters like Jane Foster as the Mighty Thor and the Winter Soldier before the end of the year for free, it’s a reasonable trade off.
Within the past few months, Square Enix sold both Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-Montréal to the Embracer Group, and even though there’s still new content planned for the next couple of months, the future of Marvel’s Avengers is foggy. There are perhaps behind-the-scenes factors that led to Marvel’s Avengers rough start, but after plenty of hard work from the developers in the trenches, it’s finally beginning to live up to its potential thanks to smart fixes applied to its base systems and worthwhile additions to multiplayer component. As of this writing, Marvel’s Avengers is available on Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation’s Premium subscription tier, meaning that there’s very little barrier to entry to at least try this game out. Whether you play through the single-player story and bounce or choose to engage in its post game skirmishes with friends, please consider giving Marvel’s Avengers a second look.
Marvel’s Avengers is available now on the PlayStation and Xbox family of consoles, Google Stadia and PC.