Ranger Reviews #2: Marvel's Avengers

Disclaimer: This review is centered on the video game published by Square Enix, not the 2012 hit film of a similar name. I experienced it in the early access beta, as well as on day one— both on PS4, both on Normal difficulty. This will primarily be a glance at the title's Main Story aspect of the single-player campaign, as I have not delved much into the multiplayer component. Take that as you will. Because I am not a professional reviewer, I foolishly did not take count of how many hours it took to go through the single-player main story campaign. For the purposes of this review, I am going to use the terms 'campaign' and 'main story' interchangeably, but it should be noted that there is more to the title's single-player campaign than the main story— as there are various missions that can be played cooperatively (online) with up to four players, or on your own. Review: "Good isn't a thing you are, it's a thing you do." -Yusuf Khan, Marvel's Avengers. So, as it may or may not be known by you, the reader, I was definitely on the fence about picking this game up. Hunkering down on the decision to drop $60 and take it for a spin is something that I now have a bit of remorse for, but more on that in a moment. Overall, this is a pretty alright game. I encountered numerous technical glitches, the campaign was very short (at least by my single-player story standards), and the narrative seemed a bit rushed. As an Avengers enthusiast, and someone who was eager to see Kamala Khan's debut as a headlining character, I enjoyed this game. It's something I might recommend to anyone who feels similarly, or who maybe has a handful of friends who are already playing it. However, I would be hard-pressed to make an open-recommendation for this title, as I am less than satisfied with it. The Narrative: Now, I am no storytelling expert— I don't have the keen eye needed to observe and analyze and articulate precisely what needs to change to smoothen things out; however, I am someone who found the story a bit lacking. Whether it's because I've grown accustomed to some of the expansive and in-depth storytelling offered in recent years (Marvel's Spider-man, God of War, for example) or because maybe I just find more satisfaction in that realm of gaming, I left Marvel's Avengers feeling a bit hollow. And not exactly in a good way. This story follows Kamala Khan, a die-hard fangirl with a deep love for the Avengers, and a stark desire to reunite them, as well as to protect her fellow Inhumans from a treacherous and malicious organization. This, at its heart, is a very compelling premise for the title. Unfortunately, it doesn't always land as well as one might hope it would. Kamala Khan is presented as a charming and determined character with a heart of gold. While her aspiration to do good is occasionally undermined by her own self-doubt, she is always willing to do what must be done for those in need. I frequently found myself cheering her on and enjoying the wholesome moments between her and the Avengers; however, I often found myself cringing at some of the interactions between them. The dialogue was often cheesy, sometimes to an acceptable — even welcomed — level, but other times it just felt like I was taking secondhand psychic damage. There was definitely a line separating cringey and endearing, but it was stretched as far as Ms. Marvel's arms were throughout this game. I loved Kamala Khan and the Avengers— but I often found myself indifferent to many of the problems they faced. It was a strange sensation, acknowledging that they were doing the right thing, the necessary thing, and at the same time feeling utterly uninvested in whether they succeeded or failed. There was just a complete lack of the emotional urgency one might expect from a game revolving around the legendary superheroes. My second biggest issue with the narrative is how rushed it seemed. This could, in part, be because I swept through most story missions without investing in the optional deployments, but that really shouldn't have much bearing on the main story. I also felt pacing was a bit off here, as there were certain events that, I thought, transpired much too quickly, or close to one another. I definitely felt like the title's central antagonist (Dr. Tarleton/ M.O.D.O.K.) was a bit underwhelming, which is unfortunate because he had the potential to be an incredibly interesting character. None of this, I believe, falls on the voice cast that brought these characters to life. Their performances were very well-executed, and captivated me in the few plot moments that actually did manage to fully lure me in. Technical Details: This was actually a bit of a surprise for me. I happened to play the beta and didn't have much trouble with it besides the occasional menu freeze up; because it was the beta, I mostly ignored it— chalked it up as pre-release bugs. However, these isolated circumstances would not be the last of the "pre-release bugs" I encountered. I experienced a handful of bugs playing the publicly released version of this title; thankfully, only once did the game fully freeze and require a restart, but it was still an exceedingly irritating situation. I have not dealt with these kinds of bugs with any big-name releases in an extremely long time. The last time I played a game that gave me this much trouble was a modded version of Skyrim VR. So, there's that. Besides the one time full freeze, most glitches were rendering issues: a character model would be pixelated/low resolution compared to the rest, a character would be speaking but their faces would remain still, or scripted cutscenes would not play out as intended. One extremely frustrating bug I experienced, although it was just once, was that subtitles would appear for dialogue that was never actually heard. This wasn't an issue of my audio/headset, as I could still hear other ambient noise, but the lines themselves were not being presented. I'm not sure if this was an error, or made by design, but I completely missed the end cutscene/ debrief to the campaign because it wouldn't pause when I paused the game. I'd like to think it was just another glitch to throw onto the pile, and not a conscious choice— because that almost seems more frustrating. Of course, I don't have to mention drops in framerate and the menu music skipping upon each start, because that happened often enough to me that I'm sure it's a staple of the experience. As it must be noted, like with all bugs, it is possible that you play the game from start to finish and not encounter a single one— but likewise, you may discover even more than I did. Another detail that I found increasingly aggravating was the closed captioning forced onto the player when subtitles are active. I am not hearing impaired, but I enjoy turning on subtitles on every title I play; never have I had closed captioning thrown into the ring as a package deal. It was a consistently annoying experience because it would often reveal to me actions/events that hadn't happened yet (curse of being a fast reader?) and would just pull me away from what I was watching. I feel obligated to commend the graphics and design portion of this title. While there didn't seem to be an abundance of variety in the environments you explore throughout this game, the locations presented were very-well detailed and aesthetically pleasing. There is a divide in the online community regarding the character designs, but I have no such issue with it. I felt the character designs were all well made, and want to appreciate the difficulty the art team had to have gone through in finding the right balance between the Avengers the public already knows and the Avengers they wanted to give to us. Special/combo moves and effects were also exceptionally well done and jumped off the screen every time they came up. While the game looks incredibly good, this was, without a doubt, a title that had an extremely rushed production and a release that came a bit too early. Mechanics: I won't lie; the way this game plays was something I was seriously turned off to in the beginning/during beta. It's the standard press __ for light attack, __ for heavy attack, chain them together with special rechargeable attacks with a dodge and character ability thrown it. That wasn't a big issue— I've played and enjoyed games with that style of combat. What I did not care for was the lackluster feel to the button mashing that got me through every encounter. Make no mistake, though, there are combos and techniques you could unlock and implement in each encounter, but this system seemed flat to me. There was no real reward for unlocking new moves besides some of them being pretty looking; it's quite conceivable that you get through the main story without unlocking any skills— something I'm actually a bit torn over, as I enjoyed skill trees in similarly styled games. Gear is another thing that I feel was extremely meh in this title. Equipable items are presented throughout the game in both chests that can be found and rewards for completing specific tasks. They can also be found when checking in with gear vendors around an outpost's hub. However, there's no real need to actually browse acquired items— there's a button that, when held, automatically equips better gear (something the game chooses to constantly remind you about), and there is absolutely no aesthetic difference to the equipment you put on your character. I want to make it clear, though, that this can change depending on your playstyle: a player might decide to max out one stat over another and choose their gear accordingly. I did not care to do so. Another thing to note, I never bought a single item from a vendor (that the game didn't tell me to buy) and had zero interest in doing so. Plenty of gear was always available throughout maps/missions, and most of it seemed a bit irrelevant anyway. Again, this is something that aligns with personal preference. There are, tragically, microtransactions. Why? This game was already full-priced. I suppose it's a lessened evil due to the fact that the items the microtransactions cover are things that can already be earned without using real-world money. It's just something that does not do anything good for this title. Verdict: This was a game I had fun playing. It's not something I'd rave about, and not something that I'd entirely condemn. Combat encounters were incredibly repetitive, and, by the end, coming very close to stale. Boss fights were very unoriginal, but there was a certain appeal in watching them go down. The story wasn't as compelling as I'd hoped it would be, and a lot of key moments fell flat, but there was a lot of fun in going through it. However, a charming cast and a beautiful environment couldn't fully salvage the rushed mess that this title was, and the hefty price-tag that accompanied, what is really, an unfinished game. There is more to this title that I have yet to explore, but until I have actual friends of mine to experience it with, I am painfully disinterested. This game met my expectations— not the ones I had set for it when I first saw it years ago, but the expectations formed when playing the disastrous early-access beta. 4.5/10, for a game that I would've ignored if the Avengers weren't plastered on the cover.


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