Marvel's Avengers Beta Preview — Destiny Arrives All the Same
The Marvel's Avengers beta features quite a lot of content for you to get your hands on, but none of it has sold me on the game's final product just yet.
I’ve been pretty critical of Marvel’s Avengers since Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix fully unveiled the game last year at E3. Part of why I’ve been so disappointed in the game thus far is because I’ve been reading Marvel comics since I was a little kid. My expectations for projects that are set in this universe have always been quite lofty, and that’s true now more than ever before in a post-MCU and Marvel’s Spider-Man world.
After over a year of watching Marvel’s Avengers from afar, however, I have now finally played the game itself. Square Enix recently gave us early access to the upcoming beta for the game that is set to go live initially on PS4 later this week. Now that I have played Avengers though for myself, am I less pessimistic about it than I was before? Well, sort of. But also, not really.
Likely my biggest complaint with what I’ve played of Marvel’s Avengers remains that each character still looks and feels too similar to one another. The beta primarily lets you play as Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, and Ms. Marvel, each of whom has their own unique abilities and animations to offer up. That said, the core mechanics of each character are still far too homogenized. Basic combat inputs for every hero are all the same with each also having three abilities at their disposal to go along with a ranged attack of some sort. Because combat has to remain so similar in structure across all playable characters, it never seems to reach the same level of depth and engagement that can be found in other action games.
The more that I played Avengers, the more that I really began wishing each character had additional small tweaks to set them apart from the rest of the team. One example of this, for instance, could see Hulk, who is arguably the strongest member of the Avengers, being able to deal far more damage to enemies than he does. Instead, his damage output is nearly identical to someone like Kamala Khan, while having far less range with his attacks. While there are some character-specific qualities, such as being able to fly as Thor and Iron Man, the changes when swapping between different playable heroes never felt vast enough.
One area of Marvel’s Avengers that I know many people have been looking forward to involves the game’s wholly original story that is set in a different iteration of the Marvel universe. Even if you’re not hot on how Square Enix opted to go in a games-as-a-service model for Avengers, you might be holding out hope that the initial campaign itself will be great. For me, though, I actually found the single-player aspect of the Avengers beta to be its weakest part.
Essentially, the lone campaign level that you play as sees you swapping between both Hulk and Kamala Khan within a fairly confined and linear environment. By comparison, many of the other War Zone missions in the game are pretty open-ended which makes this level feel far too cramped. Being funneled down bland corridors to fight off masses of AIM robots was just never very fun. This mission concludes with a boss fight against Hulk’s nemesis Abomination, but even this bout felt pretty bland, too. I’m hoping that this campaign mission that the beta lets you try out just happens to be one of the weaker levels in its story, but I can’t say it wowed me by any means.
Speaking of the games-as-a-service model that Avengers is styled after, there are a lot of aspects of the experience that I’m still a bit questionable on. For starters, and while I’m not certain just yet, the beta seems to indicate that each character will have its own separate battle pass, which is kind of strange. I’m also not really sure how the in-game currency for Avengers, which will allow you to buy variant costumes and such, will be doled out. The aforementioned battle pass seems to give you some of this currency every now and then, but otherwise, I’m not too sure how monetization is going to work here.
I also have to say that the gear system, which is the primary means by which you upgrade each character’s power level in the game (similar to Destiny) really looks to have no reason to be in Avengers other than being a general carrot on the stick to keep the player engaged. The gear that you acquire within Avengers seems pretty pointless, especially since it doesn’t even make cosmetic alterations to each character. Basically, the only reason it seems to have even been tacked-on is to keep you returning to the game over and over and making sure you keep replaying missions to then acquire more gear which will make your power level go up. At least in a counterpart like Destiny, the act of acquiring new gear or guns brings with it visual or gameplay changes. That doesn’t really seem to be present with Avengers.
The best thing I can likely say about Marvel’s Avengers based on my own time with it is that it’s pretty darn fun to play with friends. Being able to use each heroes’ abilities in tandem with one another to take down massive hordes of enemies is satisfying and makes for a good time. However, I’m not sure if the game itself is drastically better in multiplayer because Avengers itself functions much more effectively as a co-op experience, or if that enjoyment was derived simply from the fact that nearly any game is more enjoyable to play with close friends. That said, the game itself absolutely seems to have been designed with multiplayer in mind first and it seems like this will be where the experience shines the most.
There’s also a whole lot of content to check out in this Avengers beta as well, which is pretty nice. Honestly, if you’re still a bit on the fence with this game as a whole, I’d encourage you to check out one of the upcoming beta phases over the course of the next few weeks. Between the game’s opening tutorial, a single-player mission, access to the HARM room, and a variety of War Zones to run through, you could spend a fair amount of time playing this beta to see where you land for yourself.
Strangely enough, even though I still don’t sound too hot on Marvel’s Avengers as a whole, this trial I played does have me looking more forward to its release. Part of that is simply because I’m morbidly curious to see how the game’s final product actually pans out. At the same time, though, I do see myself playing this game with friends over the coming months and I’m always down to clown around with my buddies in any video game.
Marvel’s Avengers isn’t terrible by any means based on what I’ve played so far, but it also isn’t blowing me away by any means. To partially borrow a quote from the late Dennis Green, Avengers is what we thought it was. Whether or not that style of game is more up your alley or not is for you to decide. As for me, I’ll continue to hope that the launch iteration of the title ends up being more enticing than what I’ve played at this point.
Marvel’s Avengers is set to launch next month on September 4 for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia, with next-gen iterations on PS5 and Xbox Series X coming later this year. As for the beta itself, those who pre-order on PS4 will be able to gain access from August 7 until the 9th. The following weekend, Xbox One and PC players will then be able to hop in before the beta then goes open to everyone between August 21 through the 23rd.