So the Avengers closed beta has finally dropped, and I got to play with a couple of hours. I was cautiously hyped about the title, because a) I’m a huge fan of Marvel comics and b) Marvel’s attempts at video games have been very rocky till now, excluding a couple of really great titles, including the recent Spiderman. Now when you create something as ambitious as housing all the major superheroes of the Avengers team in a co-op looter shooter, you are fighting an uphill battle. The co-op looter market is oversaturated right now, and the fanbase of any long-running franchise is hard to please crowd.
But after getting to play around with the 4 characters available in the beta, and playing through some of the missions, I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
The Avengers plays out like a hack and slash, shooter, or whatever mad superpowers your hero can use co-op loot fest. In the beta, I got to play with Iron Man, Black Widow, The Hulk, and Ms. Marvel. Each of these heroes played out differently in combat and had different traversal capabilities. There’s also a section early on in the game that allows you to play as Captain America and Thor, but you can’t choose to play as them in any of the later missions available in the beta.
There are tonnes of loot going around in this game, to the point in which can feel a bit overwhelming. Loot balancing is a huge factor in these types of games and I really hope Square listens to the community on balancing and other feedback. The amount of trash loot in this game is just way too much.
You can also equip unique costumes and nameplates for your characters from the in game marketplace. This uses another form of currency, and this is where the microtransactions part of the game steps in. Thankfully, there is nothing here that is going to impact gameplay and all of this is strictly cosmetic.
The story follows the events of “A-day”, a black day in the history of the Avengers, where they failed to save their city and Captain America gets (supposedly) killed. Following this failure, the citizens are infected with mysterious powers that give them superhuman capabilities. Most of the Avengers hang up their mantle, and S.H.I.E.L.D agents go into hiding. Meanwhile A.I.M. – Advanced Idea Mechanics decides to step in and save the city by curing the citizens. Of course, there’s more to meet the eye here and fans will know that George Tarleton is going to end up as the infamous MODOK.
I don’t expect the story to win any awards, and will probably just serve as a means to propel the gameplay. But as long as I get to see my favorite superheroes and villains duke it out, I’m cool with it.
Missions have a wide variety of objectives, from king of the hill style missions where you have to defend a location to straight-up combat missions where you just go and blast everything in sight. You can embark on these missions with up to 3 other people, or use AI companions. These companions do a good job of holding their own in a fight and use all their abilities and actually take down enemies, unlike some other games where companions are just useless damage sponges. The matchmaking was also quite well, and I matched up with other players without an issue.
I also ran into some cool collectibles like comics, so collectors are going to have a field day with this game.
The combat feels solid and meaty, and there’s a good variety of moves available for each hero, so it doesn’t get stale. The mechanics themselves are quite simple though, you have a light attack, a strong attack, a ranged attack, and 3 super abilities. You can also use a special type of buff by holding down your R2 trigger. What this does, differs from hero to hero. For example, Hulk can use Rage mode, while Ms Marvel augments her damage output.
I am really happy with how they managed to make each hero feel distinct. Playing as Thor lets you throw the Mjolnir and then recall it back from anywhere. Iron Man gets to fly and shoot beams, while the Hulk just plays like Hulk, you smash things around and generally feel like a tank. An early fight with the Abomination left me grinning with nostalgia, getting to see Hulk fight with arch enemy, getting to CONTROL Hulk while fighting his arch enemy, felt so great for a long term fan like me. And playing as these different heroes, almost makes it feel like you are playing a different game, with the different mechanics involved. Crystal Dynamics has done an excellent job here.
Traversal on the other hand is something I am kind of worried. I don’t know if it’s to balance things or for keeping the game optimized but some heroes don’t feel as fast and agile as they should. For example, Iron Man feels like he is barely using 10% of his jets and feels awfully sluggish to control in flight mode. With more heroes to come, such as Spider-Man(PlayStation Exclusive), it’s going to be important for them to feel fluid when traversing.
Because this is a beta, I’m not going to nitpick too much on the performance, but it generally ran very well except a minor hiccup or two when things got too hectic. I also crashed once, but that was about it. It looks pretty good too, the heroes are well detailed and the environments can get gorgeous. I’m looking forward to seeing how this game makes the jump to next-gen.
So, should you pre-order it? My honest opinion is if you are a fan of the Marvel franchise, yes. The gameplay actually feels solid and the heroes feel diverse as well as fun to play. Getting to play as so many of your superheroes is a dream come true for any fan. BUT it’s going to need a lot of effort on the developers part in order to satisfy people looking to play this game for the co-op or looter part.
They need to iron out some of the issues with the gameplay, especially the traversal and loot mechanics. It’s going to need a lot of balancing on the heroes, gear, missions, and keeping things overall fresh in order for this game to survive in the long term. All the ingredients required to make a hit are there, but it’s up to Crystal Dynamics to make sure they mix it all well.
Avengers is coming out on PS4, Xbox One and PC on September 4th. It will be a free upgrade for next generation consoles and is available for pre order on GamesTheShop for Rs 3999.