REVIEW : Marvel’s Avengers (PS4)
Marvel’s Avengers is the Hulk of video games. The rage-filled Avenger and his scientist alter-ego are the same character and yet completely distinct from one another, and Avengers is likewise split among two, seldom opposed, characters. One is a single-player story campaign that can be sensitive and deep, tuned to bring you into the shoes of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, while also spending time with them as people. The other is a multiplayer-focused live play full of huge levels where you hit all manner of opponents, without any concerns as to why. Both sides work in their way, but they never quite mesh, leaving Marvel’s Avengers a somewhat confused, chaotic game–but a fun one, despite all its inner turmoil.
Like the Hulk’s mild-mannered counterpart, Bruce Banner, the single-player story battle of Marvel’s Avengers makes a powerful first impression with its more rational approach. It’s set in its own alternate Marvel Comics universe where the superheroes that make up the Avengers Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, the Hulk, and Thor are important and beloved. You start the play as Kamala Khan, a young girl who’s a big fan of the superheroes when she attends an Avengers party called A-Day in San Francisco. Soon, Kamala will convert a superhero in her own right, following a terrorist attack and a tragedy that makes the Avengers disband and spreads superpowers throughout a division of the population.
The core of Marvel’s Avengers is an action-oriented, with you playing a variety of styles that pass beat downs to Marvel creeps such as Abomination, Taskmaster, and MODOK, as well as their various robotic and mortal creatures. You’re treated to a host of moves, which combine light and heavy melee strikes, ranged attacks, hero-specific special abilities that have cooldown timers, and extra skills triggered by using Intrinsic Energy, a resource that usually builds up over time and enables you to initiate boosts for damage or defence. Fight in Marvel’s Avengers is about stringing together combinations and skills based on the opponents you’re facing, with distinct threats requiring that you kick them into the air to juggle them, shatter their shields with powerful attacks, or dodge and parry their incoming blows to defeat them.
The power of Marvel’s Avengers is that while every actor is stamped out of the same template–melee strikes, a ranged option, unique abilities, and Inherent Energy–they all operate very uniquely from one another. Iron Man is more of a ranged sharpshooter than a melee brawler, for example, and is easily laid low if the fight gets too hot around him. Hulk, meantime, gains his Intrinsic Energy from dealing and taking damage, so you’re encouraged to wade right into battle and destroy as much as possible. Kamala gets a damage advantage from using her Inherent Power and opens extra skills that excel at hitting back and controlling a herd of foes, while Black Widow is a juggler who concentrates on dishing out destruction and is most excellent at moving smoothly around the battlefield to put down particular threats.
The Avengers are all distinct enough from each other that playing each of them can feel like jumping into a different game, and it’s this variety that assists keep Marvel’s Avengers exciting as you get into its multiplayer-focused live game portion.
Playing with other humans particularly, it’s achievable to find synergies among the characters’ skills and their strengths and weaknesses. Iron Man and Black Widow are excellent at tangling up a tough opponent while Ms. Marvel and Hulk clear the forces that fill in around them, for example. Working collectively in a fight makes for some cool moments, and even with a team of AI characters, the bigger, tougher fights of Marvel’s Avengers get pretty exciting as you smartly extend your superpowers or get support from one of the other characters.
The endgame does a fabulous job of drip feeding you additional activities as well, with each new level opening a newer, more difficult one to go with a bunch of character specific hurdles to wrap up. The late-game Hive levels are essentially just five or six smaller missions piled together and yet make for some very robust and varied battles and activities, particularly at high pressures. Fighting with individual teammates particularly can be a very good time. Whether you’re on voice chat with mates or just picking up random teammates through the game’s matchmaking, it seems good to find possibilities to help each other and work collectively to defeat tough foes you’d struggle to face alone. But the AI is generous enough, on the whole, that you can play Avengers by yourself and stay involved.