For so long, we wondered: “What type of game is Square Enix making?” Marvel’s Avengers is nothing like Insomniac’s Spider-Man or Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham trilogy, or even NetherRealm’s Injustice series. It’s a strange situation. Thankfully, this past weekend we got to beta test the Avengers game and discovered that it’s an entirely new experience.
Avengers is not the single-player adventure like the upcoming Spider-Man: Miles Morales. The game is a co-op looter beat ’em up. You drop in with friends and smash the hell out of A.I.M. robots. It’s very much in the same vein as Destiny and Anthem. In the beta, we played the opening A-Day tutorial (seen at E3 2019). The controls for most of the characters in the sequence were solid. Captain America fought similar to the Batman: Arkham games, Thor and Hulk felt overpowered (as they should vs. normal humans), Black Widow felt more akin to Spider-Man with her grapples, and Iron Man was an uncontrollable mess.
The A-Day segment is decent, but it doesn’t do the actual game justice. After the opening tutorial, we get skipped into a different mission (the story is kept secret. All we know is that Khamala and Bruce need to find Jarvis’ hard drive.), and so we play as Ms. Marvel and the Hulk. This mission is excellent because it lets both of these characters shine. Hulk has open space, so he can build speed and power with his jumps and smashes. Ms. Marvel works in more condensed areas, so when she embiggens, you feel the weight in her attacks.
The game is at its best when they put these characters in specific situations. Iron Man, for example, was horrible in the A-Day sequence, but after you play the H.A.R.M. room, he became a fan favorite. These character-specific missions are great, but it’s when you move to online where things begin to fall apart.
The online capability is the primary selling point of Marvel’s Avengers. You and your friends become the Avengers and work with SHIELD to stop A.I.M. The issue with this beta is that the power scaling and matchmaking are abysmal. When playing online, you select your mission and character, you then wait for three other players to join the match and fill out your squad. The issue is that these requirements are too specific for you ever to get a team.
I wanted to play a War Zone as Black Widow, so I selected a Zone and tried to play with other people, but I spent 20 minutes in the lobby while it tried to match me with other players. After waiting for nearly a half-hour, I finally got one guy to play Iron Man with me, but his skill level was seven points below the stage’s required standard. So we went in and got destroyed. Later on, I tried to play with a friend, but the servers kept on crashing. We never were able to play a match.
Another issue is that the framerate drops when the heavy fighters unleash super moves (Hulk, Thor, and Ms. Marvel). The game started lagging and got blurry. All of these technical difficulties are fixable, and will likely be addressed before the September launch date. However, the matching issue is something that can break the game. Yes, you can set up a time to play with friends, but if the gaming community can’t find each other, this game’s life cycle will be cut short significantly.
The game would work better if it allowed for character switching and drop-in/drop-out matches. Make the single-player something similar to Final Fantasy VII: Remake and multiplayer closer to the Ultimate Alliance games. That said, the gameplay is still fun but could be improved upon with some adjustments.
Marvel’s Avengers is an enjoyable time. The story mode seems interesting from everything we’ve seen, and the gameplay is fun when it works. Unfortunately, the game’s primary focus is a seemingly broken multiplayer experience. If you don’t have friends to play with, it can get lackluster and repetitive. Again, most of these complaints are from the beta and will likely be resolved by launch next month.