Playing the first few hours of Marvel’s Avengers‘ main campaign, I breathed a sigh of relief. The sense of fun Kamala Khan (aka Ms. Marvel) gave was immediately apparent, and I quickly got swept up in Crystal Dynamics’ take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, which hits PS4, Xbox One and PC on Friday. It may not be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it doesn’t feel as different as the game’s suggested it’d be.
That’s partially a result of the emotionally engaging introduction, which sees a young Kamala connecting with the Avengers one by one. Her first encounter with Captain America, just after she quotes an iconic line from the Civil War movie and comic arc, is particularly touching and hints at the developers’ deep love for the universe.
In the early stages of Marvel’s Avengers, you mostly play as Kamala, taking advantage of her superstretchy polymorphic abilities, as she navigates the rooftops of her native Jersey City and then a decommissioned helicarrier (which later becomes your base). These sequences feel straight out of one of the modern Tomb Raider games — also developed by Crystal Dynamics — with stretchy arms adding a superpowered twist to traversal. Some of the quick time events (QTEs) and obviously scripted moments feel mechanical, but it’s still fun to explore these areas.
After you encounter a down-on-his-luck Bruce Banner and go on the first team mission with the Hulk, the game’s-style squad elements become apparent. Over the next few missions, I fought a few too many AIM robots — there’s some variety in how you have to fight different units, but they’re visually repetitive. Given the colorful universe this game is inspired by, I’m hoping for a wider assortment of baddies as the story progresses.
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Some missions force you to play as a certain character (I’ve recruited Kamala, Hulk and Iron Man so far), but I found the game more satisfying when I focused on leveling up Kamala and learning her combos. It’s nice to get a taste of each, but I was generally happier when I could choose who I wanted to play as.
Seeing the helicarrier come back to life as you recruit characters creates a fun hub to wander around, but it also highlights the game’s weak live service elements; a bunch of faction vendors start offering gear for a limited time, and it’s a little overwhelming at first.
There are a bunch of different currencies to gather and perks to choose between, but I don’t feel compelled to do so. I’ve decided to just use the best gear I come across naturally rather than try to keep my characters maxed out at every turn — that might leave me feeling underpowered in later levels.
I also encountered a frustrating musical glitch that righted itself when I went into the next area, and a chest-opening button prompt remained on the screen until I went to the next one. Not disastrous, but my immersion was broken by the concern that I’d have to reset the game to get rid of them.
The adventure continues
Despite some reservations about the game’s mechanics, and a few technical issues, I’m excited to see where the narrative takes me. I don’t know how compelled I’ll feel to max out every character, but diving fully into the co-op multiplayer (you can team up with up to three friends) might change my mind. I can definitely see the potential thrill of blasting through enemies at high levels with a chosen hero, especially when Kate Bishop Hawkeye, Clint Barton Hawkeye and the are added down the line.
In its first few hours, Marvel’s Avengers seems like a solid adventure grounded by an extremely likable main character. Some of the game’s deeper mechanics and live service elements seem overly complicated, but it’s easy to gloss over them as you battle through the main story.
This review will be updated with more detailed impressions next week.