Marvel's Avengers Beta Impressions: A Stark Naked Endgame
When I walked out of Avengers: Endgame, I was in awe that Marvel Studios managed to successfully marry more than a decade's worth of films into one perfect conclusion. After several hours with the Marvel’s Avengers beta, however, I walked away deflated, drained, and ultimately, bored. Much as we felt in our final review of the game.
Marvel’s Avengers releases this September and is developed by Crystal Dynamics, the team behind the recent Tomb Raider trilogy. Avengers is half story-driven-action-adventure and half Destiny-inspired-looter-shooter. Neither matches up with the other, and the beta is indicative of a game that, like the Hulk, is continuously at war with itself.
It’s perhaps ironic that a large majority of the beta is spent playing as the Hulk and speaks metaphorical volumes for the internal struggles the game grapples with.
Starting the beta off is the Golden Gate Bridge mission that has been showcased in many of the game's trailers. This is the first time — outside of various events — that fans had the opportunity to play this mission, and it molds a worthy first impression.
It’s pure summer blockbuster fun and feels like a genuine set-piece from any of the Avengers movies. The bombastic nature in which it throws action in your face as constantly swap between different heroes is electrifying in pace and a fantastic show opener.
Thor maintains a God-of-War-style move set, and Mjolnir can be thrown like Kratos' mighty war axe. It’s not as fluid or snappy, but it gets the job done. Arial combat with Iron-Man is high-octane, explosive action, perfectly blending into the Hulk's destructive smashing, bashing, and crashing. Captain America and Black Widow have the same contrast that Batman and Catwoman have in the Arkham games. Overall, combat is fluid, engaging, and visually stimulating.
Ultimately, the opening level manages to highlight each character's strengths, while also being an incredibly loud and in your face rollercoaster ride.
Things momentarily slow down as the next story mission places players in the shoes of Bruce Banner and Kamala Khan, a regular citizen who has gained superpowers following events of the game’s opening. As they explore a jungle for a hidden base, the setup invokes feelings of Uncharted; it helps that the quips fly back and forth with some good-hearted banter.
It’s a promising start to something more substantial and nuanced, but Avengers quickly jumps back into what's clearly its primary focus: grindy, explosive action.
What turns out to be a lengthy mission has you control the Hulk as he bashes through hundreds of nameless enemies, each with quintessential health bars, levels, and loot. Later, though the perspective changes to the fast, agile, and powerful Kamala Khan, it's evident that Avengers is more focused on grind than anything else.
Ironically, the best moments in Marvel’s Avengers are the ones where the game slows down and ponders its characters' personalities. Such is the case when players are allowed to freely explore a room filled with Avengers memorabilia as Khan. She pauses, examines objects, and reflects on the situation she’s in. It’s a sweet, sincere moment and one that is predominantly stronger than any of the exhausting action the game throws at you.
It only helps that Troy Baker and Sandra Saad, Banner and Khan respectively, shine in these emotional moments.
Unfortunately, the beta falls apart from here. Following the jungle mission, players are brought to the War Table, which works as an elaborate menu and offers a host of multiplayer-focused missions. These have specific power levels, where finding better gear or purchasing new skills for your heroes is vital.
Though each mission fundamentally operates similarly, War Zones are obviously the main focus and act as semi-open areas. Here you will find a host of activities to do, but sadly, few if any hold any interest.
You’ll control control points, defeat strong (and stronger) enemies, and loot a lot of loot chests. Each piece of loot can be equipped to improve the stats of your character and bump up some numbers.
Outside of War Zones, there are augmented combat simulations that players can partake in. These work exactly like the rest of the game and pit players against waves of enemies in a generically rendered environment.
A repetitive gameplay loop simply overshadows everything that the multiplayer portion of Marvel’s Avengers tries to achieve.
Players are jumping into Marvel’s Avengers to live out their superhero fantasies, not to slowly open chests and swap out body parts. As an Avenger, players should feel powerful from the offset and build upon that sense of power with skill, not attachments that can be swapped out on the fly.
The conflict Marvel’s Avengers faces seemingly has no resolution. On the one hand, the game has an engaging narrative, with emotionally charged cutscenes and stunning setpieces. On the other hand, there’s a service-style multiplayer suite, which feels very reminiscent of titles such as Anthem.
Marvel’s Avengers has a lot to prove, and I feel the beta has further muddied the waters for fans. Will the single-player segment be long enough to warrant a purchase? How will level scaling work between single-player and multiplayer modes? And will players get bored before reaching the game's conclusion?
The beta for Marvel’s Avengers raises more questions than answers. Much like anyone other than Thor attempting to carry Mjolnir, it often feels, that in the end, Avenger's may not be worthy of its namesake. We'll have to wait and see.