Marvel’s Avengers is massive. In fact, it is so massive a franchise that the name itself was enough to catapult a self-titled video game into the ranks of the most important games of the year. A week into its release, though, and I can’t quite sum up my exact feelings and reactions towards a game that could have been so, so much more in every way – as a game, as a graphical experience, as a story and as the Avengers experience as a whole. There are a few salvaging points that it wins along the way, and I don’t quite hate it as much as some of my colleagues do, but I did spend the past one week playing more GTA V and waiting for PES 2021 or FIFA 21 to come by – and playing Avengers kinda turned into feeling like a chore. That should somewhat tell you all you need to know about it.
Square Enix, the developers of Marvel’s Avengers, apparently wants gamers to start playing with the campaign mode, and I unknowingly did so anyway. The plot feels at home enough – you play as Kamala Khan, an Avengers superfan who is annoying enough to convince you that she is a superfan. The start of the game is actually a good amount of fun, and for the first 30-odd minutes, the game holds quite steady. A major fan event turns into chaos after a sudden explosion on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and what seems like a day saved by the Avengers turns into a day botched by them. Soon, they are the villains, good old Cap’ is gone, and everything is in disarray. Who do you think should step up? Kamala Khan, of course.
Through the course of the game, Khan is revealed to now possess ‘inhuman’ superpowers, which many others also ended up with as a result of the catastrophic events of that day that sent Earth’s mightiest heroes into hiding, five years ago. She, however, still believes in them, and spends her time trying to put together an underground resistance a la 1984’s The Brotherhood. The premise is set up as Orwellian – Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) are the evil ones that have taken over in what appears to be a vile authoritarian regime, and use an army of robots to round up whoever they find with inhuman DNA to steal their powers and strengthen their own. However, it hardly ever feels dark or despairing, and there are too many loopholes that leave you thinking how these apparently inefficient bunch of bots could subdue The Hulk. It is a disservice to Hulk himself.
Personally, I find Khan and her character arc to be fine – it is what the game is meant to be, of course. There are moments, too, when you enjoy yourself for a bit as she journeys into becoming Ms Marvel. However, in most moments, Avengers the game felt like it tried to copy the do-good feel-good vibe of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but also tried to stay away and got rather confused in the end. The marquee moments of when the heroes start coming back into the game are somewhat interesting, but the predictability of the arc, combined with how seemingly easy it is to get things done (including stopping Tony Stark and Bruce Banner from fighting) feel a bit disappointing.
Even gameplay wise, some of the things feel amateurish. For instance, when you need to stealthily sneak out of a tight spot and you realise that AIM’s forces have hovering robots with searchlights on them, you wonder which strategic corner or manoeuvre would you need to pull off to clear the mission. Surprisingly, these robots are comically inefficient, and fail to spot you even with you not really hiding. It is these things that make Avengers feel like very bleh. Like I said before, I don’t hate the storyline per se, but I do believe that it could have made for a far, far more engaging and interesting overall outline. Here, it almost feels like the creators assumed that the Avengers franchise name is enough to pull it through, and you would be happy enough with just the brand, too.
The overall gameplay also tends towards being confusing. There are times when you really put Black Widow’s stealth prowess to good use, but the very next moment the entire stealth tactic is thrown out of the window, and she gets into a brawl. In the end, the overall campaign feels like a game that gives you a few moments to pull a few punches alongside your favourite heroes, and watch most of the remaining uninspired storyline through cutscenes. The predictability and generic nature of the storyline could have still been overlooked had the gameplay and the combat been intense, but it all feels like a basic, generic experience without any really impressive or standout moment.
Beyond the campaign storyline, there is also the infinite mission-based gameplay where you execute individual missions and keep unlocking various abilities for your heroes. It is here that everything gets too repetitive, and the skill trees are way too intricate for you to hold your patience and unlock everything to the fullest. While I can still understand that, and epic games like Batman’s Arkham Knight also have that, it is not something that I see myself continuing to play the game for. While Square Enix wants players to keep playing the game with the rolling Avengers Initiative, at the end of the day, it falls considerably short of being a game that I would keep playing it in the long term.
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