The marketing around Marvel’s Avengers has been confusing. Is it a third-person adventure? A multiplayer mission game? After three hours with the game’s beta, I’m not sure.
Marvel’s Avengers begins as a straightforward story-driven narrative adventure. It opens on a celebratory San Francisco. The Avengers just opened a second regional tower, launching their new Terrigen crystal-powered headquarters, a ship known as the Chimera. (Terrigen crystals have uncharted evolutionary effects on the human body, so why they’d use them to power a ship is anyone’s guess.)
The whole event goes devastatingly awry when Taskmaster and his villainous pals attack San Fran and destroy the Golden Gate Bridge. As each Avenger, players are able to hop into the disaster and attempt to help out.
Hulk is a hard-hitting heavy, Black Widow is an agile fighter relying on stealth and evasion, Iron Man has a built-in flight system for multi-weapon combat, Captain America uses short-range punches and shield attacks, and Thor is able to command the lightning for explosive brawling attacks. Each hero has their own combat system and tactics, which help to elevate the game’s fighting system.
After a long struggle, the heroes are forced into defeat. San Francisco is in shambles. The Terrigen mist containers have exploded over San Francisco, with some new superhumans unable to control their abilities. The mission ends with Captain America seemingly dying in a massive explosion. Then, we’re treated to a time-jump, with the main action of the game unfolding five years after this tragedy.
Marvel’s Avengers: The Story
The main story plays out following this major disaster.
Captain America is dead. The Avengers have disbanded. The world has lost faith in its heroes and A.I.M. has taken over control of San Francisco with sinister motives.
When the world needs heroes to save it from corruption again, Avengers fangirl and the newly-turned Inhuman Kamala Khan sets out on an adventure to reunite the Avengers. All of this plays out like the third-person adventure game Avengers should be.
Kamala meets up with Bruce Banner, fighting their way together through the A.I.M. hordes to recover Tony Stark’s J.A.R.V.I.S. software and re-establish the now-decrepit Chimera base. It should set up a tale of redemption as you undertake a quest to reunite the Avengers and bring peace to San Francisco. But once you’re on the Chimera, the Avengers beta takes a bit of a swan dive.
In the beta, the story vanishes the moment you’re on the Chimera. Gone are the personal character moments between Bruce and Kamala. Gone is the intriguing story premise. Instead, you’re placed in front of a mission-based menu and told to select one of several available missions.
These include Holographic Augmented Reality Machine (HARM) practice missions, ‘Hero’ missions that tie closer to the game’s story, boss-based missions, ‘War Zones’ and ‘Drop Zones’. These missions can be tackled in any order but some require higher character levels. Most of them are short 5-10 minute journeys where characters are ordered to travel to a single location and perform some kind of action (smash, grab, infiltrate etc.) Because you can take on missions in any order, there isn’t a lot of story holding them together and it’s for this reason the Avengers beta disappoints.
From a strong opening and intriguing character set-up, the Avengers beta squanders its narrative potential for by-the-numbers fetch quests. Most zones require a player to squad up with AI or other online players, squash waves of enemies and reach some kind of goal. There isn’t a lot separating the available missions outside of the characters you team up with or the landscapes you travel through.
What’s most disappointing about the beta’s quests is that the exploration and combat are pretty fun, regardless of the character. In fact, it’s easily one of the core strengths of the game.
Marvel’s Avengers: Combat
Combat in Marvel’s Avengers is a joy.
In the beta, you get the chance to play as every hero, from Black Widow to Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel. Hulk is the stand-out here because he has a heavy offence that means he can charge through enemy hoards and escape danger with a giant leap. It’s extremely satisfying smashing through robots and A.I.M. soldiers with reckless abandon.
Black Widow was also interesting to play as because she has a balance of striking and stealth that made planning attacks more complicated and reliant on quick-thinking tactics.
Each character has their own combat system perfect for their movesets and abilities. There’s a great deal of variety here and it’s likely you’ll have your own favourite if you jump into the game with friends.
As you play you’ll earn a variety of upgrades like armour and skill points to unlock more powerful moves and defensive abilities. In the beta, you’ll skill up fairly quickly and be able to unlock a bunch of devastating attacks but you’ll be firmly stuck in the grind if you’re looking at reaching the higher character levels.
Overall, combat is very slick but it is a shame it’s so bogged down by plain missions and a feeling there’s just something missing from the game.
Marvel’s Avengers: Microtransactions
One important note to make is Marvel’s Avengers has microtransactions. They include cosmetic accessories, power-ups and costumes. If you’re looking at playing as additional characters like Joe Fixit (as a Hulk skin), you’ll need to fork out real-life money for it.
One of the major struggles most people will have with Marvel’s Avengers is how easily it slides into the uncanny valley.
The game takes clear inspiration from the comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but lands somewhere between the familiar and the strange in the process of adaptation. Even in the opening chapters, Marvel’s Avengers makes frequent callbacks to the Marvel films. Bruce’s outfit strongly resembles Mark Ruffalo’s Avengers get-up. There’s a Hulk scene in a tight corridor that mirrors the film. Captain America’s outfit even features the same helmet from The First Avenger.
There’s regular reminders of the MCU, despite the game trying to pull away from these aesthetics and character designs at the same time. Marvel’s Avengers wants to be its own thing, but it’s so beholden to the past it’s hard not to see it as an homage.
That makes for a strange middle ground: You’re constantly reminded these aren’t the same Avengers you know and love even when they share a weird, overbearing resemblance.
In the end, the beta does little to carve out its own identity — even from similar games — and instead relies on the Marvel brand name. With such a rich history to draw from, the lack of innovation is disappointing.
Marvel’s Avengers features an intriguing premise that vibes with the current state of the world. Its opening chapters show off a flair and intrigue that should carry the game and its a genuine joy to play at times. Unfortunately, it’s backed up by fairly ordinary mission-based quests that don’t really do anything different or exciting.
I wanted to see more of the Avengers story rather than vignettes of fun combat and multiplayer gameplay that feels unnecessarily shoehorned in. Marvel’s Avengers is mechanically fun with great potential, but at the moment it feels far too ordinary to be remarkable.