Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics’ take on Marvel’s Avengers is finally here! After spending a few weeks deep diving into the story and multiplayer missions, this is our official review of the extremely fun, though somewhat flawed adaptation on one of Marvel’s biggest franchises, Marvel’s Avengers.
A Story Worthy of the Avengers Name
For over a decade, audiences were treated to Disney’s incredible story arc involving the Avengers, leading all the way up to the groundbreaking cinematic epic, Avengers: Endgame. So when Marvel and Disney made a deal with Square Enix, back in 2017, to create an Avengers video game there was a certain expectation for it to live up to the cinematic standards we’ve seen thus far. I’m happy to say that it absolutely has.
The story of Marvel’s Avengers begins with a monumental event that would eventually be known as A-Day. On that day, the Avengers were preparing to debut the unlimited, clean energy producing technology known as the Terrigen Reactor. When a supposed freak accident causes the Terrigen Reactor to explode, the remnants of the reactor create dire consequences. Captain America is no more and the residual effects of the terrigen wave create the Inhumans.
The true meat of the story takes place four years after A-Day when a young Avengers superfan-turned Inhuman, Kamala Khan (a.k.a. Ms. Marvel) stumbles upon new information about A-Day that proves that the events of A-Day were no freak accident. Rather, it appears it was a calculated move by the hands of the person who benefited most from the Avengers’ biggest failure, George Tarleton (a.k.a. M.O.D.O.K.) the inventor of the Terrigen Reactor and creator of the world security force, A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics). With A.I.M. putting the world under martial law and secretly kidnapping and experimenting on Inhumans, it’s up to Kamala to reunite the Avengers to expose Tarleton and free the world from the grasp of A.I.M.
What really made this story mode for me was its originality and uniqueness. Sure, we had seen the Avengers down on their luck in Avengers: Endgame, but that was an entirely different situation. Thanos had basically come in, eliminated half the universe, and left to become a farmer. In Marvel’s Avengers the video game, the Avengers were outsmarted and completely disbanded, reduced to nothing. It takes the spirit and faith of one young woman to get them to reunite and return to the fight.
Speaking of that young woman, Kamala Khan (Sandra Saad) is very much another reason why I enjoyed Marvel’s Avengers so much. This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I don’t normally like overly optimistic superfan characters in games and really in stories of any kind. I just think they’re just often forced and a bit too unrealistic. However, I never felt that was the case with Kamala. In the dark environment that was Marvel's Avengers’ story, Khan is a bright, shining light that brings hope to everyone on the Avengers and the players watching at home.
Furthermore, as a Muslim woman, she represents an underrepresented and often misjudged culture. I’ve played a LOT of games in my three decades of life on this planet and I really can’t think of any meaningful Muslim characters in any game. Her inclusion in Marvel’s Avengers teaches a bit about Muslim culture, while highlighting her funny, enjoyable personality. Plus, she’s an absolute badass! All in all, Kamala Khan was the best part of Marvel’s Avengers and will go down as one of video games’ most special, iconic characters.
While Kamala shines the brightest, the rest of the characters and voice actors featured in Marvel’s Avengers do a fantastic job of adapting their on-screen/in-comic book counterparts. The Avengers cast includes Troy Baker as Bruce Banner, Nolan North as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Laura Bailey as Black Widow, Travis Willingham as Thor, and Jeff Schine as Captain America. This all-star cast does an incredible job of emulating what we love about these characters while putting their own unique fingerprint on them. After ten years of getting to know the on-screen versions of the Avengers, I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy their representation of these characters. Yet, in every single interaction and moment, I found myself engrossed in their performance and excited about what was yet to come.
What also helps make the story great is having a great villain. In Marvel’s Avengers, M.O.D.O.K. is that great villain, which is something I didn’t think I’d say when I first heard he was the big bad. As a Marvel comics, shows, movies fan I’ve known about the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing for years. M.O.D.O.K. was actually quite the formidable foe in his early years. However, his last few representations have made M.O.D.O.K. become more of a joke than anything else. This portrayal really changed the overall impression of the villain as we see Tarleton’s transformation into M.O.D.O.K., while he unites the world’s greatest enemies to help take down the Avengers, a feat not many have ever accomplished. I was pleasantly surprised by this.
Overall, the Marvel’s Avengers story is a linear tale with a few character-focused side quests to help deepen the story. It’s amazing in how it’s able to adapt well-known characters while leaving enough room to elevate lesser-known comic book characters to more esteemed heights. It’s just a very well-balanced, well-crafted story that should make Marvel fans proud.
Feel Like an Avenger With Powerful, Unique Mechanics
On just a gameplay standpoint, my favorite part of Marvel’s Avengers was how different and powerful each character felt. In no way shape or form was any character the same, which is exactly how it should be. Kamala was quick and employed powerful strikes, Iron Man could fly and shoot destructive beams, Black Widow used quick, successive strikes, Hulk absolutely pummeled opponents with a moveset reminiscent of a gorilla, and Captain America proved why he’s a super soldier with fluid, yet powerful attacks. All in all, once you figured out the best way to combine strikes, annihilating enemies became an extremely satisfying part of the game.
The story does a good job of introducing each character’s movesets by switching which Avenger you play as. This is especially true when an Avenger is introduced and when you embark on their own personal story. As those players, you get the opportunity to eliminate enemies with both close-range and long-range attacks. Plus, you can explore these surprisingly large environments to attain new loot, specific to that character. Each new piece of equipment and resources found can enhance strength, powers, and movesets to help you achieve the all-encompassing power of an Avenger.
Of all the characters I played with, I think my favorites had to be Kamala and Thor. Kamala just has a wonderfully smooth, strong move set. I never had any trouble taking down enemies. To that point, Thor just felt limitless. You truly feel like you are the God of Thunder by how powerful his strikes are and the limitless potential of sending down lightning bolts from the sky. My least favorites were unfortunately Iron Man and Hulk. They aren’t bad, but I felt as if they needed more oomph. Like, a Hulk strike should send an enemy flying. An Iron Man beam should have more force behind it. They were good, but they just felt a bit more held back compared to their Avengers counterparts.
Questionable Lack of Loot Customization & Unnecessary Amount of Bugs
While I really enjoyed being an Avenger, there were a lot of unexpected issues I had with the game. They stem primarily from missed opportunities and just a lot of bugs. In fact, there were so many bugs I encountered that it felt as if Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics released the game a bit earlier than they should have.
For example, there were several extremely weird moments where I would start a mission, my teammate would say something, and then the game would start to bug out. Suddenly, my NPC teammate’s words would start skipping over and over and over to the point that the game would crash the audio and then there would be this unpleasant ringing throughout the entire mission. So, if there was any story building going on, I wouldn’t hear it because of the incessant ringing.
The audio bugs don’t stop there either. There were a lot of times where NPCs would say the same lines over and over and over. It would be about ten times before the game would realize that the audio files were messing up and it would just crash the audio again.
Audio bugs weren’t the only issues I had. I had problems with special abilities not initiating when I pressed the button for them to do so. Instead, there were times where I’d click it and my character would do nothing and suddenly the ability was gone and back to recharging.
Bugs happen in video games. There is no perfect game that doesn’t have their fair share of them. In fact, most games are held together like a MacGyver invention, with two toothpicks and duct tape. However, the amount of bugs that I experienced in my Marvel’s Avengers playthrough was quite frustrating and concerning. That said, bugs get patched and games smooth out in time, but it’s just not fun to experience initially.
Another aspect that I didn’t really enjoy was the missed opportunity with loot. A huge part of Marvel’s Avengers is the looter aspect of it. It’s very similar to games like Destiny 2 in that you gather a lot of loot and gear as you play the game. This loot is supposed to make you more powerful, like I mentioned earlier. However, unlike Destiny 2, the loot in Marvel’s Avengers has no cosmetic impact. Rather, they reserve all cosmetics for previously designed costumes you can earn through missions, challenges, or in-game purchases.
What’s odd about this is that when you are applying new loot to your character, the character looks at their arm, leg, chest, what have you as if they see something. However, all they see is a holographic outline that will disappear the moment that piece of gear is selected. With other looter-type games, you customize how your character looks through shaders and gear. It would’ve been so much better if Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics had followed suit. In fact, one of their selling points throughout the marketing campaign was that your Avengers would be unique to you. Yet, the final product is far from that. Your Avenger is only unique to a particular, pre-made costume.
Extremely Fun, Ever-growing Multiplayer Gameplay
If there is one word that I could use to describe Marvel’s Avengers, it is fun. Yes, it’s got its fair share of issues, but the overall impression I was left with was this game is just so much fun to play. In essence, that’s what really matters. However, it isn’t limited to just the story.
Marvel’s Avengers also has a multiplayer aspect that allows players to unite with their friends as their leveled-up Avenger to take part in special missions, weekly events, and campaign missions. I believe that’s when the game truly shines. Getting to play with CPU Avengers is cool, but having your friends and other players around the world play as those Avengers is incomparable. It’s really the best part of playing the game.
That said, it’s best to pre-plan times with friends because matchmaking in Marvel’s Avengers can be quite the lengthy process. You’ll eventually find someone but I had wait times of longer than five minutes. That’s not great.
Also, missions can get quite repetitive in that it’s a lot of, go here, destroy that, find this, take down this base, etc. However, I’ve noticed an effort from Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics to innovate and shake things up with new missions and environments. As of this writing, it’s bare compared to other multiplayer games like this, but it is improving.
Overall, Marvel’s Avengers is an extremely fun title. It’s got a great story, featuring a tremendously talented cast. It’s got a lot of heart, excitement, and does the Marvel name proud. It’s a bit of a work-in-progress at some points and it released probably a month or so too early. That said, the game is one of those titles that is ever-improving. More content and heroes are being added and it’s becoming a more complete experience on the multiplayer side of things. If you’re a Marvel fan, it’s got a story that should satisfy that Marvel cinematic itch and gameplay that will make you feel every bit like an Avenger.