Last weekend I was knee deep in the upcoming Crystal Dynamics title The Avengers. My time with it was rather strange, and the deeper I dived into the title, the stranger I felt. The Avengers attempts to jump over many hurdles, and in some ways it succeeds. In others, it falls flat on its face. Despite this being a current gen game, it can possibly become the first inter-generational hit. Can we determine if The Avengers is worth our time and money based purely on the beta? Is that question even valid? It absolutely is.
Once again, I am fully aware that The Avengers is in beta form right now, which I understand and grasp the concept of. There’s not a lot of room for major overhauls to the systems that we are currently experiencing. Online and server issues are perhaps the major focal points to this beta, and of course there is a hint of marketing behind it all. Game testing and quality assurance is usually handled in-house (hence why they are credited and we are not). What we are experiencing with this game is as close to the final product that we could possibly get without experiencing a full on launch.
With the game coming out in as little as four weeks, I have to question if this beta is a direct response to the mediocre interest upon its teaser trailer back in 2017. Since then, every reveal has seemed lackluster, boring, and uninteresting. It’s a title that we knew we would have to play for ourselves as secret material shown behind backstage sent whispers into the community. Crystal Dynamics has worked hard to deliver an experience after coming off the euphoric high of the Infinity War movies, closing a story line that was over ten years in the making. Crystal Dynamics has a large plate on their hands, and it needs a lot to make sure it’s filled with just the right succulents to please the masses.
The opening mission introduced to you this ensemble cast of characters that we are all familiar with. As we traverse the Golden Gate Bridge, we take control of the likes of Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Captain America. We swap between each character like an Applebee’s sample platter. It’s a little helping of everything, and displays the style of each character and how they bring their abilities to the table. I found this to be absolutely fine, but like a sample platter, there tends to be something there that I don’t like or want more of. Just like how Dave hogs all the mozzarella sticks, I wanted to experience more with some of these characters. For instance, Iron Man’s segment of the opening scene isn’t very exciting but when you get to finally play as him later on, he feels far more enjoyable.
I found combat to be rather shallow and clunky. Some attacks like Thor’s hammer throw seemed to lack weight or feel impactful. The idea felt reminiscent of the Leviathan Axe from 2018’s God of War, but more floaty and really strange to control. Other attack systems like holding triangle to execute heavy abilities instead of tapping broke a level of combat synergy. This left me wide open, and while granted this is a risk/reward system built into the combat, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe the Hulk should be able to take more hits before the attack was interrupted by a single laser shot or robot punch. There are also quick time events scattered all over the game, and at this point in our gaming world, I figured we would be over this crutch.
Besides the typical light attack, heavy attack, heavier attack, jump, and dodge buttons, there is a series of ranged attacks where the style of the attack is tied to specific characters. I mentioned Thor’s hammer throw earlier, Black Widow uses guns, Hulk picks up the ground and throws it at enemies; it all fits with each character and that is actually one of the better parts of this game. The combat might be slow and sluggish, but at least there is a sense of identity with each character. There are also a series of cooldown abilities also tied to each character. These abilities varied, some were buffs that increase attack power, others were offensive abilities, and there was also an ultimate that would devastate the foes around you. There are other abilities such as the Hulk’s rage mode that is tied to holding down the R2/Right Trigger button.
Perhaps my biggest gripe with the game is how I feel like there is a massive deluge of identity crisis. At parts it seems to want to present this well made single player campaign, and that is where the game shines brightly. I’ll play as The Hulk in the second introductory mission, and halfway through I am playing as Ms. Marvel and each one feels great and unique. Some parts might feel a little dull, but this type of perspective swapping creates this immersive story line. We want to experience more of it.
We are then introduced to moments of the game that have an open world feel, where emphasis is clearly focused on multiplayer aspects. This is where the game starts to crack under the pressure. In the third beta mission, I chose to play as the Hulk, but I had Ms. Marvel with me; and together we explored an open, snow covered landscape. It was packed to the brim with various robot enemies and soldiers that could withstand a punch from perhaps the strongest character in the Marvel universe. The level that promoted open traversal dwindled down to protecting an area of the map from being overtaken by enemies. It wasn’t very fun and lacked the uniqueness that other areas of the game featured. It felt bland, and I wanted more from it.
Despite some areas of the game feeling monotonous, I was still able to extract what I felt was good about this game. I am a fan of looter style games, and this is one of those games that scratches the itch albeit with a catch. The loot doesn’t make much sense, not in a progression way, but in a narrative sense. In some ways it’s kind of silly, as I am pretty sure at one point I was changing what kind of serum that was injected into the Hulk’s spine just so he can gain resistance to frost damage. Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel’s gear consisted of changing an aspect of her outfit which I can only imagine being less painful than adjusting your entire rib cage.
The Avengers does incredibly well with creating various nods in the nooks and crannies of the environment. When walking around the helicarrier, you knew it has been a derelict base for quite some time and now you are moving back in like a New York City college graduate. You can see remnants of gear left around, and nods to other heroes. Even some surfaces felt really crisp and well detailed. In the loading screens you can see the small scratches in Captain America’s shield as well as mechanisms within doors that swing around when you approach. You can see how the game will eventually progress from the dingy basement filled with old memorabilia into the grand base it was before the team disbanded. For example, accessing the H.A.R.M. room once you finish the necessary beta missions brings more life to the otherwise desolate ship.
Most importantly, The Avengers doesn’t feel like a cheap knockoff of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Similar to Marvel’s Spider-man on PlayStation 4, it leans more towards the feeling of living through a comic book as opposed to the more grandiose style of the movies. It feels authentic, genuine, and filled with heart. Witnessing Ms. Marvel wandering around the helicarrier in wonderment helps establish this sense of admiration for the game. It’s moments like this that makes you feel enthralled by this universe.
As much as I cannot stop thinking about The Avengers, there is something that must be addressed. As a part of the closed beta, we got a look into what the micro-transactions would look like. They seem to be a typical skin and emote style that we are used to with titles such as Destiny and even Fortnite. As much as I dislike micro-transactions (who really likes them in the first place), I cannot make too much of a comment on their implementation within the game. They are cosmetic and do not contain any other powers or abilities. But their appearance just seems like a deep foreshadowing into the money based economy we have normalized in modern gaming. As always, things change, and who knows what we can see down the line.
Some technical issues plagued the beta as well. Hopefully these can be (and most likely will be) fixed before the launch of the game. These issues included framerate inconsistencies and most importantly, networking. Myself and several others could not connect online nor could we jump into missions using matchmaking. When looking for others, matchmaking would fail, kicking me back to the home screen. This repeated several times over before I gave up and decided to stick to single player option. I can see these issues being fixed prior to the launch so I don’t see this being a major issue as we still have more testing occurring in the next several weeks.
I must shed light on the blue and red spandex clad elephant in the room. The sensitive subject of exclusive characters is one that is currently sending ripples through social media. A lot of people are upset at this, just like they have been with Destiny and Call of Duty. No matter your view or console preference, we can all agree that this is not the optimal situation for gamers everywhere. Exclusive content isn’t always a great thing, but at the same time this is a business practice that can only be easily dissuaded by money. As long as people have money and a predilection to a certain brand without sympathy for others, it’s going to be a continuing practice going into this new generation. Unfortunately, the “want” to play something usually overtakes the political nature of what is presented. As much as people complain about the exclusivity of Spider-Man, it’s going to happen no matter what. It is a shame, but this is the reality of this industry, and we must plan accordingly. If you do not wish to support this game because of this business practice, it is purely your prerogative.
I know I wrote close to four pages for just a beta, and it may be more akin to a full review of a final product. But as I said before, this is so close to the final product that it deems itself to be an accurate representation. After all, if it wasn’t a marketing ploy and was made squarely for testing, then why give us the opening act at all? Why not just start with the open map and allow us to tread this playground that Crystal Dynamics has created?
I think The Avengers will be a fine game. It still has my interest as it has captured the admiration of many others. It has a huge marketing campaign that is currently underway via Verizon services and other partners. This game is going to have a huge turnout, and it has the strong possibility of being incredibly popular over time. As more characters become available down the line, I can only grow more excited. Will the roster be as populated as Marvel Ultimate Alliance? Who knows, as long as I can eventually play as Moon Knight, I’ll be happy.
Seriously, Crystal Dynamics. Put Moon Knight in the game. We all want it, even if no one has any idea who he is.