Marvel’s Avengers was pegged as a Destiny-like loot game ahead of its release, a notion supported by all the pre-release marketing, but that sells the game criminally short.
Don’t get me wrong, there is that whole Games As A Service aspect to Avengers and when you hit the ‘endgame’ here, you’ll jump into the many missions available to you to grind out levels and loot to improve your character. Before that though, there’s a great campaign that deserved a lot more focus than their marketing gave it.
As Kamala Khan – Ms. Marvel if we’re using our made-up names, a character I was aware of but not familiar with going into the game, players will help pull the Avengers back together and you’ll play as Black Widow, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man during the game’s 15-ish hour story mode as she tracks them down and recruits them back into the team.
Khan, played perfectly by Sandra Saad, is a delight as she transforms from squealing fangirl who is awestruck by the Avengers into a hero in her own right. The transformation is handled better than other ‘ordinary person to hero’ evolutions, if only because there’s no ‘flip the switch’ moment where she goes from normal to perfection.
Khan doubts herself through most of the game. She makes mistakes, and she gains experience and understanding. She never totally loses her fangirl adoration of the Avengers roster, but it becomes tempered by understanding they’re regular people who make mistakes, disagree, and even fight. I won’t spoil the ups and downs of the plot, but for comic fans it’s worth playing and probably justifies the price of admission on its own.
Get done with the story, though – or jump in early if you don’t mind some late-game spoilers, and the rest of the game expands into the endgame form via the Avengers Initiative. Jump into any of the dozen-plus missions available – with more added regularly and changes made to the modifiers on existing missions to keep them fresh – and take on enemies to gather loot and accessories to increase your character’s power.
Playing with up to three friends or allowing the AI to fill those roles, gamers can choose to be Black Widow, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, or Ms. Marvel with the caveat that there can be only one of each hero in the game. The combat is quick and frantic, with a mix of melee and ranged combat that’s a ton of fun for both button mashers and combo artists. There’s a full selection of stuns, knockbacks, shield breakers, launchers, air juggles, and other beat-em-up staples that players can take advantage of but mashing on the buttons can work for the lower challenge levels.
Each character comes with a ‘battle pass’ to fill by completing daily and weekly challenges, unlocking new emotes, takedowns, outfits, and the game’s currency. All six of the starter characters receive their battle pass for free, allowing gamers to pile up currency in advance of the addition of new characters as downloadable content (DLC).
All DLC for the game will be free – new regions, new adventures, new enemies, and even new characters. The new characters will have a battle pass associated with them, costing 1,000 of the game’s currency to unlock. Completing the battle pass returns that 1,000 plus another 400 more, so there should be no need to spend money on future battle pass additions. The game also has skins to purchase, but I haven’t seen one that tempted me to spend any of the currency I’ve gathered – if they hope to finance future development with outfit sales, they need to do a better job on that front.
Marvel’s Avengers is a must-buy for comic fans, and has a real shot at being one of the most complete beat-em-ups released this year – even if nobody thought that’s what kind of game it was going to be. The endgame needs some fleshing out, but it’s more than enough to keep you busy until it’s been rounded into shape. The game is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. PS4 and Xbox One versions offer free upgrades to the next-gen, though it’s not yet known if game progress will carry over.