One of the biggest upcoming releases of 2020, Marvel’s Avengers, will finally give gamers the chance to jump into the iron-clad boots of Tony Stark, ripped purple shorts of the Hulk, or any of the other core heroes’ shoes for a brand-new adventure; and we’ve finally got some hands-on time with the beta for Marvel’s Avengers; but should you be excited to assemble when it launches this September?
Much like 2018’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers combines cinematic storytelling with a robust single-player campaign, and getting a taste of the story and missions, it’s clear that Crystal Dynamics (who did a fantastic job with the rebooted Tomb Raider series) is aiming for a big and ambitious tale in the Marvel universe; but one which treads new ground untouched by the big-screen adventures that we’ve become extremely familiar with over the past couple of years.
Without delving into too much with regards to story spoilers, we were able to take control of the core group of Avengers heroes in a breathtaking set-piece scenario involving the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco. Each character really does feel different, and you notice it when switching between them. While other games tout characters to have their own fighting style, which admittedly often ends up just feeling like a gimmicky tagline, the respective Avengers couldn’t feel different from one another. Switching from Black Widow, who is speedy and agile, to Hulk, whose big and weighty presence sends cars flying and enemies back-peddling, is an incredibly dynamic experience.
True to the source material, each character features their own hooks, movement speed, and special attacks, and in that regard, have relatively the same control layout, but different outcomes. For example, Hulk’s special move is a powerful ground-pound, but Iron Man’s is his uni-beam cannon on his chest. While this seems obvious, having such vastly different special abilities (not to mention the various gameplay differences between them) is incredibly enjoyable. If there’s anything Crystal Dynamics has got right, it’s the feeling of each hero.
And this feeling is emphasised thanks to the great presentation. As Hulk, the camera shakes and pivots with every Hulk-smash and leaping attack, while objects in the environment crumble and explode as you slam enemies through them. This environmental destruction is crucial in a superhero game and thankfully feels widely present in the bits we did see.
As for the fighting and gameplay sequences themselves, you move from small combat area to a traversal section, to a bigger combat area, back to a traversal section. Due to this, the game doesn’t feel as ‘big’ or grand as an open world superhero affair like Insomniac’s Spider-Man, but its more focused approach does well to cater levels and scenarios to each hero, rather than spreading itself too thin and biting off more than it can chew, which would’ve been an injustice to certain heroes.
Each combat section has a nostalgic old-school gaming feel to it: beat up a few bad guys, a metal door rolls up and more pop out, beat up a few more, and a new bunch of henchmen with a heavy-enemy emerges. It’s not a bad thing at all, though, as like the game itself, shows its inspiration from old-school brawlers like Fighting Force and Gekido.
However, it is 2020, so obviously there’s a new age spin on everything. XP and gear is earned when fighting, which will allow you to improve a variety of abilities of different skill trees, as well as equipping the various gear to boost certain attacks or defences. While looter-fans will love the Marvel-esque gear you find (Pym particles, and what-not), thankfully for more casual fans, the gear system isn’t overwhelming, and theres s handy ‘equip the best gear’ button for those who don’t want to tinker around too much and would rather be plasma-blasting baddies.
While the key focus of Marvel’s Avengers is the narrative and cinematic gameplay, the game also incorporates online multiplayer for some co-op action; but it all ties together and blends quite seamlessly. Multiplayer missions are picked up via the War Table on the Avengers helicarrier, which allows you to jump into battle scenarios with up to three other players. The missions themselves often involve having to destroy something or access an area, and they do incorporate some light teamwork at points, where you’ll need to split up or work together to flip switches or take out enemies in order to progress. These multiplayer missions are fun and its great to see the Avengers heroes working in tandem, along with getting a glimpse at some of the other environments yet to be seen in the campaign; but there’s clearly a lot more that isn’t being shown in the beta, so it’s hard to get a true grasp of what the multiplayer endgame will entail.
In its beta state, Marvel’s Avengers features fun combat, bombastic set-pieces, and some slower character moments which we’ve been dying to see from an Avengers game. The multiplayer component is a little straight-down-the-line at the moment, but we’re excited to see how it evolves when the full game launches.
Marvel’s Avengers hits Xbox One, PS4, and PC on 4 September 2020, with next-gen releases on Xbox Series X and PS5 in late 2020.