Marvel’s Avengers Beta
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 04.09.2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
The Debut of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
Since Crystal Dynamics announced their Marvel’s Avengers project back in 2017, I have been excited at the prospect of running around as Iron Man and the Asgardian god of thunder, Thor. However, with the slow trickling of information and lukewarm trailers over the past year and a half, my excitement has turned into an anxiety that Crystal’s first foray into a live service type of game won’t live up to the expectations we place on the Avengers. After I spent around ten hours playing the PS4 Beta, I’ve been left wanting when it comes to Marvel’s golden property. All that’s left is the hope that they can prove themselves worthy.
By Thor’s Hammer, He Shall Be Avenged
The Beta for Marvel’s Avengers begins with the Golden Gate Bridge section that we’ve seen in plenty of trailers by now. The Avengers are Celebrating A-Day, showing off their new Helicarrier “The Chimera” before their celebration is cut short by an assault on the celebration by Taskmaster. A-Day is essentially split into four small tutorial sections highlighting each hero’s combat basics, while also giving you the only opportunity to play as Thor and Captain America in the entire Beta so far.
This introductory tutorial does well in highlighting the differences between each character in how they interact with enemies and their unique main abilities. The power of the Avengers and the chaos that is ensuing them is highlighted by the high production value and cinematic nature of the mission. The mission culminates in a boss fight against Taskmaster as Black Widow. This attack turns out to be nothing but a diversion allowing for the Chimera to be destroyed, killing Captain America, and thousands in the Bay.
Following the end of the mission, an animated sequence delves into the five-year time gap between the A-Day disaster and the second mission of the beta. There’s clearly been plenty of content cut for the full game as you’re suddenly thrown into the Pacific Northwest with Avenger’s Super-Fan turned Inhuman, Kamala Khan, and Bruce Banner. The two are searching for Tony Stark’s lost Virtual Intelligence assistant J.A.R.V.I.S.
The ragtag team must infiltrate themselves into a former S.H.I.E.L.D. base turned A.I.M. Facility to find him. This mission and the mission following it, really highlight the chemistry between Kamala and Bruce, as well as their quirks. Kamala being an absolute fan-girl of anything Avengers as she stumbles upon treasures and memorabilia of the past. And Bruce as he is haunted by the big man inside, as well as with the death and disbanding of the Avengers.
The So-So Knights of the War Table
After finishing the three main story missions the Beta automatically unlocks Black Widow and Iron Man as playable characters. As well as opening up the War Table to 13 various missions. These missions are where Marvel’s Avengers started to wean on my excitement. While the Story sucked me in with its narrative and characters, the War Table missions feel extremely disconnected and uneven when it comes to the amount of content and overall quality. There are five types of War Table missions available in the Beta: Drop Zones, Iconic Missions, H.A.R.M. Challenges, Villain Sectors, and Vaults (I should mention I never got a chance to play the Vault mission, as I didn’t realize it existed until after the Beta ended. Shameful. I know…).
The H.A.R.M. missions are, simply put, holographic battle arenas where you face off 10 waves of enemies of increasing difficulty and quantity. These don’t have much consequence other than giving you the ability to train with all of the individual heroes and gaining some gear for your Avengers in the process.
The Iconic Mission in the Beta focuses on The Hulk, where you must take out a gamma radiation lab run by A.I.M. You start by being dropped in a small clearing in a forest with the task to infiltrate the enemy base. There are a few minor side objectives that you can complete to gain armor pieces to boost your character’s power or resources that allow you to level up said armor. Once you infiltrate the base you must fight waves of enemies as you descend in the base, facing objectives that seem to be nothing short of fluff, ending in an encounter against a handful of powered-up enemies you’ve fought through the entire mission. This is the template for most of the missions that follow in the War Table, with the unique benefit of some semblance of character growth.
The Drop Zones are by far the worst mission type available in the Beta, and by the end of the 10 hours, the game started to sour. Drop Zones range from slightly open areas akin to the one you encounter in the Iconic mission. Some side missions strewn throughout the open areas are exact carbon copies of previous missions. The most egregious Drop Zone missions are ones where you have been dropped into the A.I.M. base from the get-go, fight some enemies down a single hallway, and complete a single objective. BAM. Mission Complete. All in less than 5 minutes. I struggle to understand why these missions are even in the game. They serve no other purpose than to add content for content’s sake. I hope that in the final game that these missions are not in abundance.
The Villain Sectors are missions that are the most similar to the Strike Missions in Destiny. You’re thrust into an active warzone somewhere in the world, fight through various hallways of enemies, completing similar objectives to those mentioned above, yet ending in an actual boss fight of some importance. This Villain Sector sees you face off against a large mechanical spider, where you must maneuver around the arena to exploit the mech’s weak points while avoiding its hard-hitting attacks.
Earth’s Not So Mightiest Heroes
After my experience playing Marvel’s Avengers, I’m left worried when it comes to what the final experience may become. The small glimpse into the story of the Avengers has the potential to be one of the best character-driven stories in a live service game that we’ve seen to date. I care about the characters that I have spent time with. I genuinely want to see where Crystal Dynamics is taking this brand new Avenger’s story. When it comes to gameplay and the general gameplay loop that is at the core of the Marvel’s Avengers experience, it’s something that I hope is worked on and improved on before the game comes out, or hopefully in the first few months of the release of the game.
The overly repetitive and borderline uselessness of some of the War Table missions will make for the time spent between story missions bland and uninspiring. While I see the appeal for players who only have time for a mission or two a day to have the ability to complete a mission in less than five minutes. The Drop Zones could simply be removed from the game, and there would be no effect on the overall product in the end.
When it comes to combat, each character seems to have their very own unique combat styles that differentiate themselves. I never felt drawn to any specific character or felt the need to choose one over the other. Each is competent in both melee and ranged combat in their own right. While their special abilities do offer some variety to the moment to moment combat, I never felt they pushed the needle in any direction. Crystal Dynamics touts that my Hulk will be mine, and the way I improve him over time will make my Hulk different from your Hulk. Yet, I never saw any evidence to prove that is the case. Their skill trees add new techniques and combos, but the overall experience of playing the character never differentiated itself from previous iterations.
Crystal Dynamics first showing of Avengers has answered a lot of my questions I’ve had over the past year. Unfortunately, instead of the excitement of the overall product, I’m excited about the single-player experience at the core without any care in the world for the live service aspect of the game. There is hope for the game. Over time, the game may evolve into something worth spending dozens of hours with friends as the Mighty Avengers. Bungie has already proved that is possible with what they have cultivated with Destiny. However, if the current state of the War Table stands, then I might just be left always wondering what a 30-hour single-player-only Avengers game would have looked like.
Marvel’s Avengers is available for pre-order at the following link: PlayStation Store