Pitched as a shared world, squad-based experience (with both multiplayer and single-player content) that revolves around character levelling, loot collecting and an ever-evolving world, Marvel’s Avengers received some early controversy after fans critiqued the character designs, graphics, and the sounds of some of it’s features. Even more recently Spider-Man being announced as an exclusive to PlayStation has been criticised as being ‘anti-consumer. And yet despite this early negativity, this game stands in an interesting spot between appeasing more involved gamers and bringing in fans of the MCU. And so the game has to tow the problematic line of being accessible to newcomers and less experienced players, while also delivering something to keep fans engaged (and make money from those microtransactions). In Marvel’s Avengers Beta First Impressions we’re taking a look at the Beta for the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers game, we discuss the various modes and characters the Beta debuts, along with whether the game will work for fans of multiplayer shared world experiences, or if it leans more into simply cashing in on the MCU’s success.
To showcase everything the game has to offer, Square Enix’s Beta delivers a robust look at the game, featuring the opening tutorial sequence, which also sets the stage for the game’s story, several other modes and gives players a chance to experience multiple characters.
The early trailers and promotional material established that the game revolved around a catastrophe in San Fransisco during ‘Avengers Day’, which resulted in the Avengers disbanding. The game then jumps forward five years and follows Kamala Khan, better known to comic book fans as Ms. Marvel, as she tries to reunite the team.
The Beta starts with the tragic A-Day and quickly introduces the player to the main Avengers, cycling through Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow. It’s a spectacle of an opening sequence and jumps from small gameplay sections to Uncharted-esque QTE’s, and then into cutscenes seamlessly. The opening scene introduces the shared mechanics (square/x is light attack, triangle/y is heavy, L2/LT is aim, and R2/RT is fire – which alternates between things like Thor’s hammer, Black Widow’s guns, Iron Man’s Repulsor’s or Cap America’s shield).
One critique I’d have of this section is that although it’s meant to be this way, as it’s jumping from one character to another in the midst of a frantic attack, is that it doesn’t do a great deal in distinguishing each character. If someone just played this section, they may come away thinking that every character boils down to a simple system of light or heavy attacks, ranged attacks and then building up to a more powerful ability (which isn’t totally untrue). But once you get further into the game, in the preceding campaign missions or the challenges arenas the differences and subtleties between the characters properly shine.
The opening sequence rounds out with an interesting boss fight against Taskmaster (with the player as Black Widow), which introduces some good dodge and parry encounters. It feels extremely varied in each stage of the fight, not unlike the Mister Freeze battle in Batman: Arkham City in a more enclosed area.
After that opening mission, the second jumps forward five years. The team has disbanded, Terrigen mist has given thousands of people present for ‘A-Day’ superpowers, Kamala Khan being one of them, Captain America hasn’t been seen since A-Day, Stark Industries was forcibly liquidated, Tony has gone into hiding, and AIM has taken Stark’s place (furthering their own sinister plans in the process). The mission alternates between Kamala and Hulk in a more open area trying to find Jarvis in an old Stark archive.
After this mission, the Beta opens into the War Table and Harm room challenges and shows off more of what the main game will likely be.
The War Table lets the player choose between a series of different missions. Some, or most, are simple AIM base raids with a loose plot of taking back some technology or stopping them developing something – these missions see the team take on waves of enemies, capture and hold control points or destroy sections of a larger machine. They are undoubtedly fun, and the variation in characters makes for some good replayability. Still, there is no denying despite slightly different maps, enemies and objectives; they are mostly variations on the same thing.
Other mission types, like the Hulk legacy mission, are more plot-heavy and can only be played as the Hulk, giving more of his backstory. The Hulk mission you get to play is particularly interesting as it has Bruce Banner leaving a message for Hulk, explaining why this mission needs to be done.
The other part of the Beta that unlocks after the initial missions is three phases of the Harm Room, where players can fine-tune their abilities and level their characters. Each mission in the Harm Room is a ten wave-based survival challenge against enemies increasing in amount and difficulty.
The Beta also gives a decent look at the games skill trees, and gear system. I think there will be two camps when it comes to the gear, particularly as the game is an online shared world experience that has an emphasis on gear and upgrades. The upgradeable gear and character cosmetics are completely separate elements for Marvel’s Avengers, so upgrading chest or leg armour doesn’t have any effect on the character’s appearance, which is instead controlled by a separate costume section.
Personally, I like this, as it is similar to Insomniac’s Spider-Man game where once you unlock a suit you can use the powers that come with that suit on a different one, allowing the player to look and play how they want. But I can also see the argument for people who want to collect new gear throughout the game and be able to wear it and show it off.
Overall It’s early days and the Beta isn’t without its flaws and missing elements, but in my mind, this game has the potential to become the modern version of the X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance games. I know we got Ultimate Alliance 3 as a switch exclusive in 2019, and it was a fun enough game. Still, it’s hard to deny it didn’t feel like a glorified mobile game, like Marvel’s Future Fight which functions almost the same way and doesn’t’ look too much worse graphically.
But Square Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers has a modern third-person approach to that same idea of a loose and very repayable story, going out on missions to upgrade your characters, lots of Marvel characters with different costumes, smash-able boxes, collecting comic books, and challenge rooms just like the Ultimate Alliance games.
Overall, Marvel’s Avengers has several hurdles to overcome regardless of how the final game ends up being. Many fans wish the game was a more traditional story-based game, something like the PlayStation exclusive Spider-Man, whereas as others would like to see it embrace it’s shared world looter mechanic more, similar to something like Destiny. Instead, it falls somewhere in between the two and could perhaps fail to gain fans in either camp.
Ultimately though the game will be a big hit at least sales-wise thanks to how popular Marvel is, with many more casual fans picking up the game just to play as Iron Man and Captain America, thanks to their popularity in the MCU. I would argue from what the Beta shows that the game itself is more of a unique take and less of a cash grab fro MCU fans than some may have expected, but whether the final product delivers on that potential, and has enough for both casual and more serious gamers is less clear. In the end, I’d recommend that when the Beta opens up to more consoles and players in the lead up to release it’s worth checking out for any fans interested in the game (especially as it’s free). If you’ve enjoyed our post on Marvel’s Avengers Beta First Impressions stay tuned for a full review once the game is out.