Movie franchise games haven’t been a thing for a while. And with good reason: they’d typically be rife with filler content, just following the movie’s storyline at the expense of what may otherwise have been a unique storyline and compelling narrative.
So what happens when a game is made about not just any movie, but the most successful franchise in recent memory? The Marvel Cinematic Universe has racked up over $22.5 billion in box office sales, beating out Harry Potter and Star Wars combined.
As you might expect, the four Avengers films top the all-time highest grossing superhero films, while three of the four are in the top ten highest grossing films of all time, with Avengers: Endgame sitting pretty at number one. (Avengers: Age of Ultron is actually sitting at number 11 on that list).
In the careful hands of Crystal Dynamics, who has most recently worked on the Tomb Raider franchise reboot (one that was excellent, by the way), Marvel’s Avengers is the movie franchise tie-in game that has shown an incredible amount of promise since its tease a number of years ago.
Not following a story alongside any of the films, Marvel’s Avengers is a multi-character brawler of sorts, mildly reminiscent of Insomniac’s Spider-Man, but readily missing much of its charm.
Avengers is a roughly 12-14 campaign that sees you take control of the five heroes we’ve come to know and love from the films, plus one Kamala Khan, also known as Ms. Marvel.
It is very clear that this is a Crystal Dynamics game, in the best way possible. Running across the Golden Gate Bridge as Black Widow while it collapses around you is entirely reminiscent of Lara Croft’s attempts to flee crumbling ruins and evade enemies. Running through the snow and mountains is definitely something we’ve seen before, and while that’s not a bad thing, there are entire moments when the game feels like a skinned version of Tomb Raider. Heck, there are even wedge-yourself-between-the-crack-in-the-wall moments to serve as loading zones, and we all know where we’ve seen it before.
While there are entire sections like the aforementioned one that are thrilling to play, there are others that have no right to be as dull and repetitive as they are. Iron Man, arguably the most iconic character with the most potential (flying through a massive open world, anyone?) is largely stuck modestly flying a few dozen feet above the ground and lobbing missiles at enemies. The one exception to this is Iron Man’s opening sequence, which only serves to make us wish that the rest of the game was just as riveting.
Perhaps the most enjoyable character to play is one we’ve yet to see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Kamala Khan. Her impressive ingenuity and playfulness in the campaign brings a fresh light to what is otherwise a grim spectacle of a story.
Speaking of story, it’s not exactly a unique one for a superhero: during the opening celebrations of their new headquarters in San Francisco, the Avengers are attacked, destroying their new Helicarrier, along with most of the city. It’s an okay way to start the game, but it lacks any real creativity. We’ve been seeing the whole “attack-during-a-big-celebration” since Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of Spider-Man.
Visually, the game actually looks pretty great. The framerate didn’t have a single hiccup on the PC we played it on (more about that in a bit), though console gamers may see a slight dip in performance, especially if you’re not running the game on the Xbox Series X|S or PlayStation 5. (The game is not yet optimized for the new systems but will run smoother and load quicker nonetheless).
There are times when there is a lot going on. Dozens of enemies on screen, particle effects abound, and there is no shortage of beautiful lighting and shadows. While the game may have been negatively received from its initial reveal at E3 2019, it has been massively improved and looks much more polished than before.
It should be noted that we played Marvel’s Avengers on an Asus Predator Triton 500 provided by Intel for the purposes of the review. If you’re not familiar, this machine has an nVidia RTX 2080 SUPER, six-core Intel i7, capable of Turbo Boosting to 5GHz, and 32GB of DDR4 memory. Yes, that makes this a ray-tracing capable machine, and it drove Avengers without issue. We’re not sure that there’s much at all that you could throw at this machine that it wouldn’t be able to handle, actually.
But while the game looks fantastic, there’s the little (big) issue of loot. Marvel’s Avengers is a game whereby you follow a bit of a stale pattern of grinding, levelling up, and grabbing loot to progress more quickly. While some character upgrades, most notably Iron Man, makes them a completely overpowered beast by the end of it, we barely got through the first layer of a character’s upgrade tree before the game concluded. It feels a bit tacked on, with little actual purpose other than attempting to extend the shelf life of the game beyond what would have otherwise been a solid dozen hours.
Marvel’s Avengers has a lot to enjoy, but the way most of it is implemented just leaves us desiring more, or perhaps different. The story is serviceable, and the characters are memorable, but the former of which we’ve seen before, and the latter of which may just be because we’ve spent so much time watching them on the big screen over the past 12 years.
Crystal Dynamics did an incredible job rebooting the Tomb Raider franchise with fresh ideas and a new take on what had become a bit of a stale franchise. Taking the Marvel Cinematic Universe at perhaps its highest point was always going to be a losing battle, and the teams at Crystal and Eidos Montreal did little to disprove that.
- Excellent intro to Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel)
- Great opening sequence for Iron Man
- Visually improved over unveil
- Stale gameplay
- Unoriginal story
- Can't compete with the films