One thing is certain: The Avengers know how to party! To mark the opening of their new headquarters in San Francisco, there is a big party where fans can experience their superheroes up close. It feels like a fairground, packed full of video slots and comics about the Avengers.
We are right in the middle as a fangirl Kamala, who cannot help but wonder. But just looking is not an option, because we want to go to the VIP area, which gives Kamala a perfect view of the Avengers’ appearance. That is not a problem, and so a little later we stand on a balcony and marvel at the heroes on stage. But a sudden explosion destroys the exuberant mood.
Immediately Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Black Widow go into battle against the soldiers of Taskmaster. In the following minutes we play each hero in short passages and experience their abilities and powers in action. Despite our energetic efforts, the misfortune can no longer be averted: A new type of energy source, which should actually be of use to the Avengers, goes up and puts half the city in ruins. The heroes are blamed for this catastrophe and dissolve.
Five years later we slip into the skin of Kamala again. She doesn’t believe in the guilt of the heroes and is looking for evidence to back it up. In doing so, she discovers the organization AIM, which has acted as the protector of humanity since the disappearance of the Avengers. But behind the facade, the group is pursuing sinister machinations. Because she has no chance against the powerful company alone, Kamala decides to search for the scattered Avengers.
In contrast to Destiny and The Division, we don’t have to play the campaign. At any time, we are free to switch directly to the Avengers initiative and thus the endgame. But that doesn’t really make sense, since the five Avengers can only be unlocked in the campaign. In addition, the story serves as an introduction to the sequence and systems of the action role-playing game.
In the fight against monotony
So let’s stay with Kamala for now, who after the events in San Francisco also has superpowers: She can deform her body extremely and attack with big fists, for example. With combos of light and heavy attacks, we beat up the first drones and robots that AIM puts on us. Little by little we track down all Avengers, rebuild the Chimera airborne operations center, experience some quarrels and soon fight again as a conspiratorial team against the troops of AIM and their leader MODOK
The story alternates between smaller deployments in research facilities or bunkers and larger combat areas in the open air. Our trip leads, among other things, to the desert region of Utah, the US east coast or the Scandinavian highlands. As soon as we have unlocked a hero, we can play him too; only rarely is there a fixed figure for a mission. Likewise, almost all missions can be played in a team: We look for players online or fill up the places with CPU comrades who distribute them quite properly. There is a general level of difficulty, but we can change it before each mission if we wish.
While the play areas still offer some variety, this is not the case with the opponents. We fight the entire story against the same soldiers, robots, drones and mechs from AIM. There is not only visual, but also playful monotony, because the enemies are a threat only because of their number. The other tasks are also thin and repetitive: We defend an area or a few allies, destroy something or press a switch. The moments when the game picks up pass as quickly as they came.
Equally disappointing is that in addition to MODOK, only a meager two super villains from the Marvel Universe have a brief appearance. The neatly told, but completely predictable and therefore not even remotely exciting story would have really needed some well-known opponents. But instead of drawing from the enormous stock of comics, we are confronted with boring giant robots even in the rare boss fights. The ten hour long story leaves the impression that it has given away a lot of potential.
In addition to the relevant story missions, we can also do a number of side missions. Iconic missions revolve around the individual heroes and tell little additional stories. We can also accept orders from the Inhumans and SHIELD factions: completing them increases the respective group rank and brings us further rewards. But none of this changes the gameplay: We continue to fight against the same AIM troops in familiar areas.
Loot & Level
Only the heroes provide playful variety. Everyone has their own attacks and special powers that are better or worse for certain fighting styles. Kamala, Hulk and Black Widow go best into hand-to-hand combat, while Iron Man, Thor and Captain America deal with weapons systems, hammer and shield from a distance. Our active hero gains experience points in combat, which lead to regular level up and skill points. With the latter, we then unlock new combos, attacks and bonuses.
In addition, we equip the characters with equipment. These can be found in boxes scattered around the world or they can be captured by opponents. Each item has a color that indicates its value, similar to Destiny and The Division. Better extras not only give our character more strength or defense, but also special effects, such as bonus damage for certain attacks. Better extras have several bonuses and can be reinforced with resources that we get in combat or by dismantling old items.
Some pieces of armor also strengthen our hero skills, the superpowers of the Avengers, so to speak. They are divided into Support, Attack and Ultimate. Kamala can heal herself and the team, flatten opponents with her big hand and grow to a lush size. On the other hand, Iron Man relies on electric shock, Unibeam laser and the powerful Hulkbuster armor. These powers can also be improved as the game progresses. All abilities are very strong and look good in action, but take a while to recharge.
Leveling and looting is the greatest playful incentive for us. Every character has actions that make them noticeably stronger and more flexible. The skills are quite extensive and by the end of the campaign are not nearly exhausted. The bonuses of the equipment, which are tiny at the beginning, are also larger at the end of the campaign. That gives us hope to be able to create a really powerful hero to our liking in the endgame.
However, the interesting structure of the figures is offset by some technical problems. Many fights turn into wild brawls, in which an overview is absolutely in short supply. Because the enemies attack from all directions, a minimap is missing and the Avengers react somewhat sluggishly, a chaotic mix of beating, blocking, evading and running is created. It’s a little better with Iron Man and Thor because they can fly and are therefore able to escape the thick of the turmoil. But here, too, so many bullets whiz around our ears that hits from the side or behind can hardly be avoided.
All of this is accompanied by a shaky frame rate: Even in the performance mode on the PlayStation 4 Pro, it jerks very often, which makes it even more difficult to control the battles. Pop-ups and delayed loading textures are also common. This is all the more serious because Marvel’s Avengers really isn’t a graphic hit. From the heroes to the game worlds to the enemies, everything looks neat, but never really good. Many areas have a similar or identical structure and are hardly designed in detail. Even 4K resolution and HDR support don’t do anything.
But there are other technical construction sites. Sometimes our CPU colleagues don’t help us out when we go down in combat – this is followed by a restart at the last checkpoint. Some animations are not displayed correctly or are even skipped. Various cutscenes started late and with asynchronous picture and sound. Sometimes the selection cursor is missing when opening the menu. Towards the end of the campaign we hear an English dialogue, although the voice output is set to German. There are many such little things that subvert the gaming experience and, as a whole, annoy.
Finally, the Battle Pass and the market place should be mentioned. If we meet certain challenges of the “Defeat ten opponents” brand, we will gradually unlock individual rewards for each character, including new costumes and emotes. Optionally, we can also buy the individual levels and extras in euros. Only real money flows into the marketplace, which also offers costumes and other cosmetic items. None of this has a playful effect and can therefore be safely ignored.